Manny Ramirez had a reputation for being occasionally surly and certainly unpredictable. “Manny being Manny” became the house excuse for his various behaviors.
Jim Rice finally made it to the Hall of Fame, but Jim Ed also had his Red Sox moments in the Hall of Shame. Today represents one of them and certainly the bottom.
From a productive 1986 season in which Rice hit .324 with 20 home runs and 110 RBI came a quick downside. That may have been the result of vision issues, injuries, or the general deterioration of skills as happens when a player gets baseball-old.
Between 1987 and 1989, Rice hit 31 home runs and drove in 162. His average dipped to a dismal .234 in 1989. On July 21st, 1988 it finally happened. Twenty-six years ago today.
Red Sox manager Joe Morgan pinch hit for Rice. Spike Owens grabbed a bat to hit for one of the most fearsome sluggers in Red Sox history. The frustrated Rice confronted Morgan and proceeded to shove Morgan several times. That resulted in a suspension and his eventual release at the end of the 1989 season.
The Rice I care to remember is the one who gently carried a young boy to medical attention after the lad was hit by a Dave Stapleton foul ball. I remember Rice bolting from the dugout that day and how quickly he responded to a critical situation.
Rice could be surly, but not in the rarefied Manny style. When players get frustrated, things happen. That is something to always keep in mind when someone blows a fuse, especially if there is no real pattern to their behavior.