BALTIMORE (AP)—Dreadlocks are in fashion in the exclusive 500-home run club, now that Manny Ramirez has added his name to the list of baseball’s most prolific sluggers.
Boston’s left fielder hit the first pitch into the bleacher seats in right-center. He stood and watched the flight of the ball, then took off around the bases in a slow trot, a broad smile on his face.
“I’m happy, you know, about everything I accomplished in life,” Ramirez said afterward. “Not everybody has the chance to go and get to 500. I’m just proud to do it.”
It took him long enough. After hitting No. 496 on April 19, he had only three homers in 34 games before Saturday.
“Every time you get to the hotel, (people say), ‘Hey, when you gonna hit it?’ I’m just happy everything’s done for now,” Ramirez said. “I can go be myself and have fun.”
Ramirez certainly had a delightful time rounding the bases. He slapped a high-five with first base coach Luis Alicea, tapped hands with third base coach DeMarlo Hale, then hugged on-deck hitter Mike Lowell as he crossed the plate. Many of his teammates greeted him as he reached the dugout, where Ramirez received more hugs and bounced up and down in an embrace with David Ortiz and Julio Lugo.
“They’re so proud to have me, a guy so loose, to play the game,” Ramirez said of his teammates. “I guess they really appreciate it.”
Boston manager Terry Francona said, “His teammates have been waiting for it and it was special to watch. … Seeing the home run was fun, but watching his teammates show their affection was great.”
Even his former teammates were proud. Kevin Millar, who played for Boston from 2003-05, said, “I’m happy for him. He’s got a uniqueness about him that makes him easy to like. He looks like a Brazilian Rainforest guy. You take away the hair and the baggy uniform, he’s just a guy that can hit.”
The solo shot gave Boston a 5-3 lead. It traveled an estimated 410 feet.
In the bottom of the seventh, as he ran his position in the outfield, Ramirez waved to thousands of Boston fans among the 48,281 at Camden Yards. Although it was a road game for the Red Sox, many seats were filled with Boston backers, and virtually everyone in the ballpark took delight in seeing history made.
“That’s why they call it the Red Sox Nation. They follow us everywhere. Everywhere we go, we get a big support,” Ramirez said. “I’m just happy it’s over with and I’m proud to do it here.”
The 500-home run club has only two dozen members, but Ramirez also joined an even smaller fraternity. He is only the seventh player in baseball history with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 walks, 475 doubles and a .300 batting average. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.
“It’s nice to be part of history,” Ramirez said.
Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia also homered for the Red Sox, and Jacoby Ellsbury stole three bases in a second straight game. Ellsbury also tripled in the seventh off Lance Cormier (0-2) and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Ortiz before Bradford entered to face Ramirez.
Bradford had allowed only two home runs since May 14, 2006.
“He doesn’t give up that many,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “You think you have the right situation, but…”
Bradford left the Baltimore clubhouse without talking to reporters.
Throughout the first two games of the series, Ramirez was swinging at the first pitch. He did it again against Bradford, with positive results.
“You could see he was aggressive up there,” Trembley said. “The worst thing we did was throw him a strike. It probably would have been better if threw the ball outside of the strike zone every time tonight because he seemed like he was in a hurry to get it over with.”
Mission accomplished, against a pitcher who doesn’t give up many home runs.
“His power is so strong to center and right field. You don’t see that against a guy like Chad Bradford,” Millar said. “That’s why it’s all the more amazing.”
In the ninth inning, Ortiz hurt his left hand while swinging at a pitch and left the game. X-rays were negative; the injury was diagnosed as a strained wrist.
One batter after Ortiz exited, Ramirez popped out to finish 1-for-5. But that one hit was a whopper.
“Great, man. Finally, it’s over with. It’s a good thing, man,” Ortiz said. “I told him, ‘You can finally go eat. No one’s going to ask you (about) 500 anymore.”’
The ball was retrieved by a Boston fan who claimed to have caught it on the fly. He handed the ball to Ramirez in the Red Sox clubhouse after the game.
“I don’t want to keep the ball. I want to see how much money I can get for the hospital I’m donating $1,000 for (every) home run,” Ramirez said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Pitching for the second time since his no-hitter on May 19 against Kansas City, Boston’s Jon Lester allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings. His run of four starts without yielding a home run ended when Brian Roberts connected in the fifth to give Baltimore a 3-2 lead.
Ellsbury took over the AL lead with 26 steals (in 28 tries). … Red Sox RF J.D. Drew entered in the ninth inning after missing Friday’s game with vertigo. … All four of Roberts’ homers have been solo shots. … Boston activated RHP Clay Buchholz from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had been on a rehabilitation assignment.