BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez, returning to Fenway Park on Wednesday for the first time since 2010 when he was with the Chicago White Sox, sought out Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick and apologized for the 2008 incident in Houston in which he flung the much older McCormick to the clubhouse floor in a dispute over tickets for that night's game.
"I went and spoke to Jack," Ramirez said. "I apologized to Jack. I told him, 'Jack, I want you to forgive me because it was my fault. I behaved bad here with everybody. I want you to forgive me.'"
Ramirez said McCormick, who was 64 at the time of the incident, accepted his apology, saying, "Manny, thank you, I was waiting for that."
McCormick said this was the first time Ramirez had apologized to him in person. At the time, Ramirez issued a public apology, but he had never spoken to McCormick about the incident until Wednesday afternoon.
Ramirez, whose career in Boston came to an acrimonious end in 2008 when he essentially forced a trade-deadline deal to the Dodgers by refusing to play in a couple of games (the Sox contemplated suspending him before dealing him), was accorded a hero's welcome during ceremonies honoring the 2004 World Series champions, a group who dubbed themselves the "Idiots."
Ramirez, who was named the World Series MVP after the Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, was introduced last -- following stars such as Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and an emotional Curt Schilling, who was accompanied by his son Gehrig in what was believed to be his first public appearance since revealing in late March that he had cancer and subsequently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
Ramirez, sporting a high-fade mohawk and emerging from the same door in Fenway's Green Monster through which he had famously disappeared one game to use the bathroom, entered to cheers of "Manny, Manny." He threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which became a comedy sketch when Damon intercepted the pitch in midflight, much like left fielder Ramirez once lunged and cut off a throw from center fielder Damon in 2004, leading to an inside-the-park home run by David Newhan.
Meeting with reporters before the ceremony, the 41-year-old Ramirez, who was recently hired by the Cubs as a player-coach assigned to work with some of the team's top prospects, said he was told by the Cubs that he would play only a couple of times a week.
"I'm not going to take any at-bats from the prospects," he said. "I know my role there."
Asked to describe how the opportunity with the Cubs came to pass, he said: "I was in my house, I was there with my kids. My agent called me and said, 'Hey, I got a job for you.' And so we prayed for it first, then accepted the job."
Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, who announced the hiring of Ramirez, took considerable criticism in Chicago for giving Ramirez a position as a mentor, given a history that includes two suspensions for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In Boston, Ramirez and Epstein had a contentious history, dating back to Epstein's first year as Sox general manager in 2003, when Epstein placed Ramirez on unconditional waivers after the season, meaning any team in baseball could have had him for the $20,000 waiver price.
Instead, Ramirez remained and helped the Sox win a World Series the following year and again in 2007.
"I wasn't really surprised," Ramirez said when asked about Epstein giving him another chance, despite his history. "I knew God put it on his heart, so then he called me to give me the job. I wasn't surprised."
Ramirez framed many of his remarks in religious language, referencing a transformation that began, he said, after he was arrested on a domestic battery charge in September 2011 for an incident with his wife, Juliana, who told police Ramirez had struck her in the face. Ramirez spent a couple of days in jail and upon his release was ordered to stay away from his wife. In March 2012, the charge was dropped, prosecutors said, because his wife refused to cooperate.
"When I went to jail with that problem with my wife, they didn't let me see my kids for two or three months," he said, "and one day I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror and I said I needed a change. I started going to Bible studies, I saw it was good. God helped me to change my life. ... Now I realize I behaved bad in Boston."
Asked what he would say to those who might be skeptical about his religious conversion, Ramirez said:
"A lot of people are going to say what they're going to say, but I only worry what God said and how I'm going to walk and how I'm going to talk and how I'm going to treat my wife. Because you could tell me, 'Oh, Manny did this, did that,' but maybe you, outside, maybe you drink, maybe you use drugs, and that's the same. That's the way I look at it."