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Ramirez gives new meaning to 'power alley'

Randy Schwarberg of Everett was standing behind the Green Monster seats last night when Manny Ramirez connected with a pitch from a Tampa Bay rookie named Chad Gaudin.

``It went right over my head,'' he said. ``But it was way too high for me to jump for it.''

The ball cleared Lansdowne Street and landed in the narrow alley between the Cask 'n' Flagon and the parking garage with the rooftop lot. It was the 34th home run Ramirez has hit this season, and was one of three hits he had in last night's 8-2 romp over the Devil Rays. In his last 19 games, Ramirez is hitting .411 (30 for 73). This was his second consecutive three-hit night, improving his average to .326, just five points behind teammate Bill Mueller, the league's leading hitter.

Ramirez has hit balls farther, like the one he hit into the fifth deck of Toronto's SkyDome a couple of years ago that nearly landed in a hotel suite. But anyone who was here last night will be talking about this one deep into winter. Call it 420 feet on the fly, and you're probably on the conservative side.

``The little rats are scurrying over there in that warehouse across the street,'' Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. ``It is a warehouse, right?''

Said Julio Lugo, the Devil Rays shortstop: ``He's amazing. Any other hitter would have pulled that pitch foul. He drove it out of the park. Not just out of the seats. Out of the park.''

There were four vehicles parked in the alley, along the wall of the Cask 'n' Flagon. John Witt, who was on the street, said the ball landed just beyond a black Jeep, the vehicle parked closest to the Turnpike. He pointed to the spot where he saw it land.

``It rolled away, and we couldn't find it,'' Witt said. ``About 15 people came running down looking for it. Me and this other guy chased them away, and we went back to look for it.''

Witt finally found it, resting underneath a Honda Prelude parked behind the Cask, parallel to the Pike.

``That was about the second-longest home run I've seen out here in a year and a half,'' Witt said. ``Kevin Mench of the Rangers hit one that hit the back wall of the parking lot, but Manny's was a shot.''

Witt knows his home runs. The son of a free-lance photographer in Chicago who used to shoot Cubs games, Witt would park himself on Waveland Avenue, beyond the left-field wall in Wrigley Field.

``I got my first ball in 1977,'' he said. ``This was my 2,300th ball, counting batting practice, 120 since Aug. 20 of last year.''

Witt, 34, has been the clubhouse attendant for the Berkshire (Mass.) Bears, the independent team that Jimy Williams's son, Brady, played for the last of couple years. When the Bears' season ends, Witt parks himself on Lansdowne Street, just a few blocks away from where he lives with his mother.

``In 1998, I got Sammy Sosa's 61st home run, the one there wasn't a melee for,'' he said. ``I sold it that night for $7,500, to a collector. I got Dave Winfield's 450th, Bob Boone's 100th, Dante Bichette's first major league home run. I got the home run Ron Kittle hit that hit off the roof and went out of the old Comiskey Park, the last roof ball hit there.

``Winfield and Boone, I traded for bats and stuff. Kittle knew me through my dad. He said, `I ain't giving you anything.'

``I'm out here every day. This is what I do.''

Manny Liatsos, who is from Lynn but now lives in Boston, was sitting in the first row of the Monster seats with his buddy, Matthew Pianka of Brookline.

``We saw Manny's ball fly out of here - it was unbelievable,'' Liatsos said. ``We wondered if anyone got it.''

All game long, they said, Ramirez had bantered with the fans on The Wall.

``He's really nice,'' Liatsos said. ``He was teasing the fans, throwing a ball up here, but deliberately short-arming it a couple of times before he threw it up here. He acknowledged the crowd when he came back out after the home run.

``When the Devil Rays broke up Derek Lowe's no-hitter,'' Pianka said of Marlon Anderson's fifth-inning single to left that was fielded by Ramirez, ''we all cheered. Manny turned and waved. He thought we were cheering for him. Just Manny being Manny.''

Their curiosity brought them out to the street, where they found Witt. ``How much you want for the ball?'' they asked him.

``How much you wanna pay?'' Witt said.

Liatsos peeled off a hundred-dollar bill. Witt handed him the ball.

``Going to get in line for some Monster seats,'' he said. ``My mom works downtown. I buy them for her friends.''

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