Manny Ramirez was rounding the bases yesterday after another one of his monstrous shots over the Monster Seats (saved from Lansdowne Street by the Sports Authority banner) when the Red Sox' crack PR staff made the announcement . . .
"That's Ramirez's 361st career home run, tying him with Joe DiMaggio for 59th place on the all-time list."
There it was. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. All this time I'd been wondering whom it was that Manny reminded me of and in a nanosecond it became crystal clear.
Manny and Joe D. The Great DiMaggio and the Great Ramirez. Practically separated at birth.
How could the comparison have eluded me for so long? Why did it take the bookend 361st home run to bring these two together in baseball lore? There are so many similarities.
Both hit 361 homers in the big leagues.
Both had parents who were born in a foreign land.
America sang, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" Red Sox management has been known to say, "Where the [bleep] is Manny?"
Both were US citizens when they hit homer No. 361.
Both were able to play the game without displaying the slightest bit of emotion.
Both wanted to play for the Yankees.
Joe D was known for puttin' on the Ritz. Manny hangs out at the Ritz with Enrique Wilson.
Both went into this season with lifetime batting averages of .325.
Both became cult heroes in their home parks, despite not getting cozy with the media.
Both played through injuries; Joe D had a bone spur in his heel. Manny fought off pharyngitis.
Both won American League batting titles.
Both were the subject of songs by Paul Simon. Joe D was immortalized in "Mrs. Robinson." Manny is believed to have been the inspiration behind "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard."
Joe D sold Mr. Coffee. Manny eats coffee ice cream.
Ernest Hemingway wrote about both. Papa used "The Great DiMaggio" as a central figure in "The Old Man and the Sea." In early versions of the book, the character "Santiago" is actually named "Ramirez."
Both were the strong, silent type.
Both batted and threw righthanded.
Both wore their uniform baggy-style.
Both are shy and would never brag. Both appeared in motion pictures: Joe D was in "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round." Manny is currently starring in "Still, We Believe."
Both played in World Series at an early age; Joe D in each of his first four seasons; Manny in two of his first five seasons.
Both had dads who didn't make a lot of money. Joe D's dad was a fisherman and Manny's was a livery cab driver.
Both were almost part of mega-trades. The liquored-up owners of the Sox and Yanks contemplated trading Joe D for Ted. Without any substance abuse, the Sox and Rangers were ready to swap Manny for A-Rod.
Both did some of their best hitting at Yankee Stadium.
Both kept offseason homes in Florida.
Both led the league in RBIs with 155 or more in a season.
Both were Hall of Fame ballplayers.
Both had really cool hair.
Both were mysterious superstars. Biographers were never able to get a handle on either.
Both accepted the calls of umpires without complaining.
Both were style-masters.
Joltin' Joe was grace under pressure. Manny knows no pressure. According to Simon, a nation turned its lonely eyes to Joe D. Red Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to Manny.