January 20, 1968: Ramon Manon
Born on this day 52 years ago in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ramon Manon like so many other Dominican children knew he had one way off his home island. By 18 years old, he had already signed his first professional contract and made his pro debut with the Yankees' Gulf Coast League team. In 11 games, four starts, Manon went 0-4 with a 5.14 ERA.
It seemed like his professional career was stuck in neutral as he spent the next three seasons Single-A split between the Prince William Yankees and Fort Lauderdale Yankees. Just when it seemed like he was destined to be a career minor leaguer, the Texas Rangers selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in December 4, 1989. He was in Rangers camp and it seemed like they were interested in seeing if they'd found a diamond in the rough.
Somehow, having never played even as high as Double-A, Manon, was with the Rangers early in the season and on April 19, 1990, he got into his first major-league game. In front of more than 11,000 fans at Arlington Stadium, the Rangers hosted the Milwaukee Brewers Chris Bosio going for the Brew Crew against Bobby Witt. By the seventh inning, the game had gotten out of hand with Milwaukee sitting on an 8-0 lead. With nothing to lose, manager Bobby Valentine signaled in for his young righty.
Manon trotted to the mound, preparing for the biggest appearance of his life at just 22 years old. For all he knew, this might be his only shot, so he wanted to make the most of it. He got Dave Parker to ground out before walking Greg Brock. Greg Vaughn then doubled to deep left field, putting runners on second and third with just one away. Manon intentionally walked Rob Deer to load the bases and set up a potential inning-ending double play. Unfortunately for the young hurler, he couldn't coax one.
Edgar Diaz did ground to shortstop, but it was hit too softly to turn two and Brock scored. Charlie O'Brien followed that up with a base hit, which knocked in Vaughn and made it 10-0 Brewers. Billy Bates grounded out to second base to end the inning, but the damage was done. Two runs had come in to score.
With no reason to pull Manon, Valentine left him in the game to get more reps in the eighth. Again, he got the leadoff man out as B.J. Surhoff flied out to open the frame. Darryl Hamilton walked before Dave Parker clubbed him home with a double. Terry Francona, the man who would eventually steer the Red Sox ship away from cursed past, pinch ran for Parker. Brock and Mike Felder each grounded out, Felder hitting it right back to Manon, and the inning was over. With his nonchalant flip to first base, Manon's MLB career, unbeknownst to him, was done.
In two innings of work, he had allowed three earned runs and the Rangers had seen enough. Painfully, the very next day, the Rangers returned Manon to the Yankees by releasing him from the 40-man roster. Since he was taken by Texas in the Rule 5 Draft and hadn't stayed on their roster the entire season, he went back to the Bronx Bombers. He did eventually earn a call up to Double-A with the Yankees that season, but got no higher than that.
In fact, he never got higher than Double-A for the rest of his career. He labored in the minor leagues for a handful of teams across the next three seasons, but never got his shot. He sat out 1994 and briefly came back in 1995 with the Independent League Minnesota Skeeters. In a way, it's pretty clear Manon was lucky to have ever pitched in a major-league game. Beyond his one MLB game, he played in just 45 games above Single-A. He can thank whoever in the Rangers organization saw something in him enough to give him a shot with the big-league club.
It's because of that person that he can still hold onto his big-league memory. Too many promising young players have come and gone in professional baseball without ever finding someone to believe in them that fully and give them the chance they worked their whole lives for.