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New York fans aren't tough on Manny Ramirez

There isn't too much booing in his first trip to the East Coast since suspension ended.

July 08, 2009|Ben Bolch

NEW YORK — Manny Ramirez, you're not in San Diego anymore.

Or are you?

The Dodgers' left fielder sparked some boos Tuesday night during an abbreviated appearance, but he mostly generated indifference from a Citi Field crowd that displayed something resembling SoCal cool.

The heckling was especially mild among those seated behind Ramirez in left field during the 4 1/2 innings he played before being ejected for scattering his bat, helmet and arm guard on the field after a called third strike.

"I've been in some hostile environments," Daniel Nussen, a Santa Monica-born Dodgers fan who now lives in Manhattan, said from his seat in left field. "This is just like another Mets game."

Not that there weren't a few barbs pointed Ramirez's way during his first East Coast appearance since a 50-game suspension for being caught with a prescription for a female fertility drug.

One fan held a sign reading, "Manny, welcome back from maternity leave."

When Ramirez took a called third strike in the first inning and turned to argue with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck, another fan yelled, "Sit down, juicer!"

Then there were the asterisks.

Four hundred fans arrived at their seats in left field to find sheets of paper bearing *99* on them in large black letters.

They were conceptualized by two New Jersey men hoping to send a message.

"We kind of got the idea from the Barry Bonds thing with the asterisk," said Sal Musto, 20, of Middletown, N.J., referring to the former San Francisco Giants slugger who was suspected of using steroids. "The cheating has to stop."

The campaign generated little momentum. Only a smattering of fans held up the signs as Ramirez took his spot in the outfield in the bottom of the first inning -- and one later proudly hoisted his sign as a tribute to Ramirez after his two-run, broken-bat single in the second.

"They would have been better off to throw a syringe on the field because everyone would have gotten it," said Adam Rucker, a Los Angeles native who now lives in the Bronx.

Ramirez generated mostly playful banter among fans in the left-field seats. When he came up for his second at-bat, a few fans in Dodgers jerseys yelled, "Man-ny! Man-ny!"

A Mets fan countered with chants of "Cheat-er! Cheat-er!"

Ramirez, who had two hits and drove in three runs during the Dodgers' 8-0 victory, said he was so focused during his at-bats that he couldn't hear anything the crowd of 39,636 uttered.

"I was just trying to see the ball," he said.

Dodgers fans didn't turn out in force the way they had over the weekend at Petco Park in San Diego, where they drowned out the jeers of the home fans. But there were still pockets of fans clad in Dodger blue, many wearing Ramirez jerseys and some with fake dreadlocks descending from their caps.

Franklin Espinal of New York unfurled a Dominican Republic flag at the top of a railing above the left-field fence and yelled encouragement to Ramirez in Spanish between innings, prompting Ramirez to flip a ball in his direction.

"I get that support everywhere I go," Ramirez said. "The fans have been great to me, especially in L.A. . . . People really like me."

Some wish that weren't the case. Sitting a few rows behind Ramirez in a $60 left-field seat, Mets fan Kyle Blankenship of Long Island described the fans' reaction to the left fielder as "low-key, very boring. . . . It's almost a welcome-back attitude, which is nauseating. He's not a positive force in baseball and yet people are welcoming him."

Did Ramirez, who grew up on West 168th Street in New York's Washington Heights, expect anything different?

"No, I'm home," he said. "Every time I come home it's all good."

--

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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