I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable — like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on.Ol' Second Inning*'s rant is probably best read in the voice of Daffy Duck.
But what of the specific claim that Manny forgot which knee was bothering him? It might be worthy of a chuckle if it did not come after more than 10 years of insults and unwarranted nastiness from both the Boston and national media.
Yesterday I tried to find out where it had originated from.
It turns out that McCarver was repeating that exact same story more than two years ago!
On July 10, 2006, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospects wrote that Ramirez had been
taking a disproportionate amount of heat for missing the [All-Star Game], even getting openly questioned on yesterday's Fox telecast. Tim McCarver said the worst thing about his knee injury was "remembering which leg to limp with."(Carroll also reported Manny was "suffering from a small tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee", although the Red Sox denied that report a few days later.)
McCarver's comments were made on Saturday, July 8, 2006 -- during Fox's broadcast of the Red Sox's 9-6 win over the White Sox. That was two days before Bill Mahoney, who runs the parody site "Call Of The Green Monster" posted:
Media Confused About Which Knee Manny InjuredI'm assuming that Mahoney heard McCarver's comment and used it as a springboard for his Onionesque post.
As he walked around the clubhouse before yesterday's game against the Chicago White Sox, Manny Ramirez had a big ice pack wrapped around his right knee. However, astute reporters noted that Ramirez, as he limped around, was actually favoring his left knee. "Hey Manny," a reporter asked, "which knee is the sore one?" Ramirez froze for a moment. "It's my ... uh," he looked down, and noted the ice pack, "my right knee, man. Can't you see that?" Then why was he limping on his left knee? Ramirez, now favoring his right knee, walked haughtily out of the clubhouse. "This is why I never want to talk to you guys, man. Can't a guy just have a sore knee without all these questions about which knee it is?"
I should also note that more than a month later, on August 17, 2006, Boston sportswriters were confused about which of Alex Gonzalez's knees was bothering him. The Globe added that Terry Francona was "uncertain which knee is hurting the shortstop".
The first 2008 sighting of Manny's "which knee" story appears to be Gordon Edes's game story in the July 26 Globe of the Yankees' 1-0 win over the Red Sox:
He'd been sent to Massachusetts General Hospital during the game to have an MRI of both knees, the Sox evidently taking no chances that their slugger might have gotten confused about which one hurt.Two days later, on July 28, Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote:
Convinced he was lying about his right knee, they sent him for an MRI on both knees (in case Manny suddenly tried to claim it was the left knee).That same day, Bill Chuck wrote the following in his Billy-Ball online newsletter:
...[A]fter Manny's late scratch from the line-up, the Sox called Manny's bluff. They sent him to Mass General for not just an MRI on the knee he claimed was hurting, but on both knees just in case he forgot which one was bothering him ...This was quickly picked up by MSNBC's Mike "Hat Guy" Celizic:
On Friday, Manny decided his knee was sore, and he couldn't play in what would be a loss to the Yankees. On Saturday, the team ordered him to get MRI's on both knees. That, quipped Bill Chuck, the author of the Billy-Ball newsletter, was just in case Manny forgot which knee was sore.It's clear from Edes's "evidently", CHB's relegation of the remark to a parenthetical, and Celizec's labeling Chuck's comment a "quip" that there was no real source for this "story" -- it was simply a media guffaw/snide remark.
However, Peter Gammons repeated the story as fact three days later, in his July 31 ESPN column:
Ramirez tried to sit, citing his knee. ... If Ramirez hadn't forgotten which knee was bothering him, he would have been more convincing, but he got mixed up.Gammons offered no source for his statement and because the entire column is nothing more than a bitter rant against Ramirez, I cannot accept it as fact.
In the aftermath of Ramirez's trade to Los Angeles, the tidbit gained traction (though it was never sourced, not even to the popular "anonymous source with knowledge of the situation"):
Jon Heyman, Sports Illustrated, August 4, 2008:
One landmark moment came when Ramirez complained of knee pain but couldn't recall which knee was hurting him. Red Sox doctors had to take the unusual step of evaluating both the right and left knee in an MRI exam.Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports, August 8, 2008:
Last [the Red Sox] saw of Manny, he was stumping for a trade. He was crab-walking to first base. ... He was trying to remember which knee hurt.Tyler Kepner New York Times, October 5, 2008:
In the litany of Manny Ramirez controversies, it was not as egregious as reportedly forgetting which knee hurt when he visited a doctor this July. ...At least Kepner hedged his bets and said Manny "reportedly" forgot which of his knees hurt. ... (It was also mentioned as a joke at The Spoof on August 19, 2008.)
Art Martone, the sports editor of the Providence Journal, told me the story
sounds awfully familiar, but I couldn't find it anywhere in our archives. It may be an urban legend that's been repeated so often it's accepted as fact.I also sent emails to two Boston writers who have been reporting on the team since 2006, asking for any possible clarification of this story/rumor, but have not received any replies.
Based on what I have found so far -- the questionable accuracy of things said by Tim McCarver, the recurrence of McCarver's 2006 remark at the 2008 trade deadline, the frequent use of the remark as an apparent joke both by sportswriters and comedians -- I believe this story is a myth.
If I learn anything else, I'll post an update.
(*: "I used to call [Tim McCarver] 'Old Second Inning' due to his habit of having to take a dump in the john between the first and second inning of every game. He had the most reliable body clock in the world; we used to set our watches by him." Bill Lee, The Wrong Stuff, page 132)