Dodgers fans still support Manny
Some admirers express surprise but remain loyal to slugger
LOS ANGELES -- Based on reactions around Dodger Stadium on Thursday night, it appears as though the fan base will be willing to forgive its beloved slugger Manny Ramirez, who was suspended for 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs.Dodgers fans nearly universally said that Ramirez will be greeted with cheers and not boos when he returns to Dodger Stadium for the first time since his suspension.
"It'll be louder than when they cheered for him in the playoffs last year," said Landon Heying, who owns True Blue Tattoo in Hollywood and was featured in the film "Bluetopia" about the Dodgers' 2008 season. "We have his back now more than ever and that's what he needs from us. And that's from everyone I've talked to."Heying certainly wasn't the only Dodgers fan who still supported Ramirez, as fans throughout the stadium still wore Ramirez jerseys, T-shirts and dreadlocks. And a salesperson at the Dodgers team store in left field said that only one fan in the former "Mannywood" section turned down a Ramirez shirt for a T-shirt that simply had "Dodgers" emblazoned on the front. "I'll still support him," said Dodgers fan Major Barraza, who wore a Ramirez jersey with No. 99 on the back. "I'm still wearing his jersey." But some fans still are waiting to form an opinion until the entire story is aired out with proof of exactly what Ramirez was taking. "It depends on how everything comes out," said Ruben Rodriguez, who wore a Ramirez T-shirt and sat in the "Mannywood" section that has since been discontinued. "Right now, all signs point to him taking steroids. So if everything turns out like he says it did, then yeah, because I'm a Dodgers fan. But if it's steroids, he's still a dirty player." Most Dodgers fans, however, decided to side with Ramirez even if there was some initial disappointment when hearing the news about the suspension. "I'm a little disappointed but have nothing but love for him," Heying said. "I don't mean I'm disappointed like I'm angry or mad at Manny. We love him still and always will. We'll never turn our back on him." Fans pointed out the fact that Ramirez put the Dodgers back on the map in Los Angeles and made the team relevant with the Lakers and their superstar Kobe Bryant stealing the spotlight until Ramirez's arrival. "It'll be the same," Brian Calderon said of the fans' reaction when Ramirez returns. "He's loved so much. He's bigger than Kobe." One common thread among fans was an element of shock about the news about Ramirez's use of a performance-enhancing drug. "I was surprised," Dodgers fan Junior Herrera said. "I never saw it coming. Everyone was texting me this morning. I didn't believe it at first." But much to Herrera's dismay and the dismay of Dodgers fans everywhere, the news was confirmed and Ramirez isn't scheduled to return to Dodger Stadium until July 16 against Houston because if he joins the Dodgers as scheduled on July 3, it will be for the first game of a nine-game road trip. Optimism, though, still was in the air as fans were confident that the Dodgers will still be on top of the National League West when Ramirez returns. "It's not just one person that will make or break this team," Heying said. "We have plenty of talented players. We know we're going to continue to win. Like the Yankees lost Alex Rodriguez and they went from an 'A' to like a 'D' at third base with a Minor Leaguer. We're not doing that. Juan Pierre is a great player."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.