By Robert Roselle III
By Robert Roselle III
The popping flashbulbs, the thousands of cheering fans with faux dreadlocks, the section of Dodger stadium named after him all gone after one test.
The impact of Manny Ramirez and his suspension cannot be measured in wins and losses.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had the best record in baseball before he was suspended and, as of May 20, still have the best record.
The impact of Ramirez’s suspension can be seen at the stadium in the eyes of Dodger Nation.
I’ve attended two games this season, one against the San Diego Padres on May 1 and one against the New York Mets on May 18 and the contrast between the two games was incredible.
The game against the Padres was interesting. Not so much the actual game, but the fan interaction.
It was a sight to behold.
There were 8-year-old kids wearing fake dreadlocks. The Dodgers renamed an entire section of seating in left field, “Mannywood.”
Every time he came up to bat, the atmosphere was like Christmas, like we were unwrapping the greatest gift we had ever received.
The flashbulbs never stopped popping. Even though Ramirez struck out twice that game, his impact on fans was obvious.
There was nothing he could do wrong.
“I only came to see Manny and no one else,” a fan said while holding his camera and snapping one of many Ramirez photos he took during the game.
When the Dodgers won on a game winning walk, the place erupted. “I Love L.A.” blasted out of the stereo and fans stuck around to celebrate the victory.
Then the suspension happened.
Ramirez would be suspended for 50 games after violating Major League Baseball’s policy on banned substances. He won’t be allowed to return to the team until July 3.
The drug that he was taking is called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. It is used by steroid users to boost the body’s natural production of testosterone.
Fans were hit hard by the news. “Mannywood” was taken off of the seating section in left field.
The Dodgers organization refunded money to anyone who had bought a ticket to sit in that section.
The game against the Mets was drastically different than the game I had previously attended.
Fans spent most of the time chatting amongst themselves instead of watching the game.
“Why couldn’t I get a refund for these seats,” an elderly fan said.
“What was Manny thinking?” a young fan yelled. “He knows damn well he shouldn’t have been even trying to take anything.”
The stadium was almost half-empty.
While 37,136 was the official attendance number, it looked like a lot less.
The game was tied heading into the ninth inning. That didn’t stop several fans from heading to the exits early.
“Time to go, at least I got some free food out of these tickets,” said a female fan in a group getting up to leave.
Ramirez’s suspension and its effect on the city of Los Angeles is more than baseball, which is why I saw two different home crowds at the same place.
Manny makes the game a party. When he’s gone, the life of the party is sucked out of the room like the soda out of a cup.
I stuck around until the end of the game. The Dodgers won the game in the 11th inning. They scored the game-winning run, just like the previous game. And just like the previous game, “I Love L.A.” came through the stadium speakers.
This time though, no one stuck around to celebrate.
Most of them already left to beat the traffic.