Ramirez hits .412 for World Series

ST. LOUIS -- Manny Ramirez will cherish this moment forever,
same as every Red Sox fan from the bustle of downtown Boston to the
coastal mountains of Maine.

Ramirez and the Red Sox finished a four-game sweep of St. Louis
with a 3-0 victory Wednesday night, giving them their first
championship since 1918. Now the shy kid who grew up in the shadow
of Yankee Stadium owns a treasured spot in baseball lore -- he is
Boston's first World Series MVP.

"I never thought I'd get to be part of a World Series winner.
But it's fun, let me tell you," Ramirez said. "Before we went to
spring training, I told my wife ... I'm going to be the MVP of
something. And I did it."

He batted .412 (7-for-17) with a homer and four RBI against the
Cardinals, helping the Red Sox end 86 years of pain and futility.
That was the idea when then-general manager Dan Duquette signed
Ramirez to a $160 million, eight-year deal in December 2000.

One of the best all-around hitters in recent memory, Ramirez put
up prodigious power numbers during his first three seasons in
Boston. But his awful defense, deplorable baserunning and hefty
contract prompted the team to place him on waivers last offseason.

The front office then tried to trade him to Texas for AL MVP
Alex Rodriguez. The deal fell through, and Ramirez was back in left
field this season, flubbing fly balls and hitting homers over the
Green Monster at Fenway Park.

"I went through a lot of drama during the winter, but I keep my
mind positive," Ramirez said.

He won his first AL home run crown, connecting 43 times. He also
led the league in slugging percentage (.613) and finished with 130
RBI. But his absent-minded play kept skeptics wondering if he was
really the guy to finally carry Boston to glory in October.

A long lineage of great sluggers had tried and failed, from
Jimmie Foxx to Ted Williams to Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. But
it's Ramirez who became a champion, earning every penny of that
enormous contract. And now he has the MVP trophy every player
really wants.

"Anything is possible," Ramirez said. "We proved we could
win. We broke The Curse. I'm just so happy. I can't wait to go back
home and celebrate."

The MVP was the second big honor of the night for Ramirez.
Before the game, he and Barry Bonds received the 2004 Hank Aaron
Award, recognizing the outstanding offensive player in each league.
Ramirez also won with Cleveland in 1999, when he had 165 RBI.

Ramirez hit safely in all 14 postseason games for the Red Sox,
extending his streak to 17 postseason games overall, dating to last
year. His third-inning single Wednesday night helped set up Trot Nixon's two-run double that made it 3-0.

"It's unbelievable," Ramirez said. "I've got two things on my
mind that I want to accomplish before I'm done with this game.
First one is to get the ring and the second is to get to the Hall
of Fame. That's two things that nobody can take away from you."

Those are big dreams for a kid who spoke little English when he
came to New York from the Dominican Republic as a wiry teenager.

He moved to Washington Heights, a poor section of Manhattan
located just a few miles from the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.
But he soon became one of the best hitters in the history of New
York City high school baseball, running the neighborhood hills with
a tire strapped around his waist to build up strength in his legs.

Drafted 13th overall by the Indians in 1991, he tore through the
minors and reached the big leagues late in the '93 season. An
eight-time All-Star, the 32-year-old Ramirez already has 390 career

He was held without an RBI in the AL Championship Series, but
somehow Boston still came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the
Yankees. Ramirez and the Red Sox closed the postseason with eight
straight wins.

"He saved it for this series," Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols

Despite his many miscues in the field and on the bases, Ramirez
has always been popular among his teammates. Comfortable at last in
a crazy Boston clubhouse, he has opened up to reporters the last
couple of years, joking all the time and flashing his boyish smile.

He and Pedro Martinez made a pact to grow their hair long this
season, and they celebrated during Game 3 by rubbing floppy manes

"We go out to have fun and we don't think -- we eliminate
thinking," Ramirez said. "We have fun and pick each other up."

Ramirez picked up nearly everyone in New England this October.

Quite a dream to deliver.