As a rookie, Manny Ramírez used to go to Eddie Murray when they were teammates in Cleveland and ask the future Hall of Famer about pitch selection. Murray would tell him what he could expect at the plate, the pitcher would throw just what Murray predicted, and Ramírez would take all three pitches.
"He'd come back to the dugout and say, 'Eddie, I couldn't swing,' " said Murray, who was at Fenway Park last night. "It almost got to the point where I was going to stop telling him what was coming, because it was almost guaranteed that he was going to strike out. But then I realized that it was the at-bat after that he was punishing those guys."
Murray, who retired as a player in 1997 and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2004, was here to honor Ramírez, one 500-homer man presenting a plaque to another. Someone mentioned to Murray, in fact, that he hit his 500th in Baltimore's Camden Yards Sept. 6, 1996, in almost the same spot that Ramírez hit his 500th.
"No," Murray corrected, "he almost hit it in the same spot as mine. When I saw it, it started more toward center field. I said, 'OK, wait a minute, that's starting to fade.' I think he missed mine by about four seats."
Murray laughed, "That's his road swing. I never see that swing in Fenway."
Ramírez's rookie season with the Indians was 1994, which was Murray's first season with the Tribe. A third member of the 500-home run club, Jim Thome, also was on that team. Ramírez also played with such great hitters in Cleveland as Albert Belle, Robbie Alomar, Kenny Lofton, and Carlos Baerga. When the Indians went to the World Series in '95, Ramírez mostly hit seventh, as implausible as that sounds.
"He grabbed little bits from everybody," said Murray, noting that when he became a hitting coach, he encouraged his young players to do what Ramírez learned from Belle - go inside and set the pitching machine to sliders exclusively. Even if they didn't swing, Murray said, he wanted them to get used to recognizing the breaking ball.
Murray was asked about some of the classic Manny stories, like leaving $10,000 in cash in the glove compartment of a car he'd asked the clubhouse attendant to wash.
"It could be true," Murray said with a smile. "I can't put my stamp on it because I didn't see it, but it could have happened."
What about Ramírez's reputation for never reaching for his wallet when a dinner tab needed to be settled?
"That's why he has so much," Murray said. "He's good people, he really is. I like that he keeps the game simple.
"Manny, he's just Manny. Manny being Manny, that's a good term. We had one in Baltimore, Brady [ Anderson]. Just a little lefthanded, but he meant well.
"A guy who works that hard, you're glad to see something good happen. I don't see a bunch of arrogance about him. It's nice sometimes to see some humbleness. This guy goes out and works, drives 'em in, doesn't look for anything."
Ramírez began the night with 504 home runs, tying him with Murray for 23d on the all-time list. He passed Murray with his fifth-inning home run.
"Now he's going to knock down my RBI title," Murray said. "He already told me he's going to tie and pass me tonight."
On that one, Murray can rest easy for now. He ranks ninth on the RBI list with 1,917, most by a switch hitter in history. Ramírez's homer gave him 1,652 RBIs, tying him with Hall of Famer Tony Perez for 24th.