That time Manny Ramírez sold a used BBQ grill on eBay

Manny Ramírez was quite possibly the greatest righthanded hitter I have ever seen in Major League Baseball. The guy was an outright savant in the batters’ box, and I grew up idolising him on the Boston Red Sox. Aside from offensive genius, though, Ramírez was renowned for doing the zaniest shit imaginable – and each cartoonlike stunt added to his eccentric allure.

On a daily basis, the notebooks of hardened Boston sportswriters were filled with goofy tales of Manny Being Manny – like the time he peed inside the Green Monster at Fenway Park midgame, or the time he demanded a trade to Pawtucket, then the Red Sox’ own Triple-A affiliate. However, perhaps the most absurd episode of Manny Being Manny saw the mercurial outfielder sell a used barbecue grill on eBay. The fact Ramírez had earned over $140 million to that point in his career only heightened the comedy. You could never predict what the guy would do next.

Manny Ramírez grill listed on eBay

The most famous baseball barbecue this side of Boog Powell was added to eBay at 1:11pm ET on Tuesday 20 March 2007 – mere hours before the Red Sox played Minnesota in a spring training game. Listed by a two-day old account named ‘mannyramírez1524,’ which boasted zero feedback, the Jenn-Air gas grill had a $3,000 starting bid and a $70 shipping fee. Photos of Manny posing with the silver barbecue, seemingly in a cluttered garage, added to the complete incongruence, while the product description should hang on a plaque in Cooperstown:

“I bought this AMAZING grill for about $4,000 and I used it once. But I never have the time to use it because I am always on the road. I would love to sell it and you will get an autographed ball signed by me. =] Enjoy it, Manny Ramírez.”

In fairness, the particular model of grill that wound up on eBay was discontinued by Jenn-Air, according to Tim Moynihan of CNET, so perhaps Ramírez felt he had a collectible antique of mounting worth. In reality, though, the model that replaced the Jenn-Air was available for around $800 online, brand new, suggesting Manny had been short-changed in his original purchase.

Manny Ramírez BBQ goes viral

The concept of a 12-time All-Star and World Series MVP selling anything on eBay – let alone a used grill – captivated a niche audience at the confluence of baseball and BBQ-related pop culture. Various media entities latched onto the story, which even earned a spot on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Teammates saw the story on clubhouse televisions at the Red Sox’ Fort Myers complex and teased Ramírez relentlessly. Then, they started bidding, driving up the price in some kind of bizarre kangaroo court auction.

By the time Boston beat Minnesota, 6-5, the highest bid for Manny’s grill was $6,200. Then, another bidder offered $5,111.11 – a cryptic nod to the symbolic posting fee Boston paid to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka, their Japanese superstar de jure. An hour after the exhibition game, bidding topped $20,000, propelled by giddy teammates and knowing insiders. A further flurry of bids took the asking price into seven-figures – a mockery of the entire situation.

In a flash, the story went viral, even gaining traction among international audiences. A piece in the Sydney Morning Herald – of all publications – quoted Manny as saying, “I’m a businessman, I need the money.” However, when asked about the grill by Boston Globe reporter Amalie Benjamin, Ramírez was characteristically vague, saying the barbecue belonged to his neighbour in Weston, Florida. Manny just promoted the grill to ramp up interest – and bids – for his friend. The fact Ramírez bought his crib for $2.97 million, presumably surrounded by affluent neighbours with little need for ecommerce side hustles, went unquestioned. Meanwhile, the plot thickened.

A further bout of bids mocked eBay entirely, and the Silicon Valley firm intervened when the asking price on Ramírez’ barbecue reached $99,999,999 – literally the maximum bounty the auction platform would allow. eBay administrators rang the number associated with the sellers’ account and attempted to clarify the entire debacle. When explanations were not forthcoming, eBay pulled the ad, saying it violated their policy against selling items on behalf of other people. Ultimately, Manny could not be verified as the grill owner, spoiling a whacky Simpsons episode brought to life.

“Obviously, it was receiving a high level of interest, as you would expect,” Nichola Sharpe, an eBay spokeswoman, told the Associated Press. “We actually tried to proactively contact the seller. We have requested additional verification. If it is not officially from Ramírez, it would disappoint his many fans.”

Did Manny Ramírez really sell a used barbecue on eBay?

Little was heard about Manny’s barbecue after that, and the furore seemed to fizzle out. The phenomenon was cited infrequently in satirical listicles, but few probed the basic portrayal as Ramírez wound down his career amid increased scandal. Nevertheless, in September 2010, Ian Friedman published a rather unheralded pamphlet entitled Manny Ramírez, in which the author claimed Manny’s teenaged niece wrote the eBay ad. Moreover, Friedman said the grill belonged to Manny’s wife, Juliana, rather than his Florida neighbour. A mystery seemed afoot.

A few months later, in February 2011, Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg released another Ramírez biography which substantiated Friedman’s findings. Entitled Becoming Manny, that project was authorised by Ramírez, making its barbecue-related revelations all the more intriguing. “As it turned out, the ad was posted by Manny’s spirited fifteen-year-old niece, Kathy, whom Juliana had enlisted to help sell the grill,” wrote the co-authors. “Kathy asked her uncle to pose next to it. She wrote and posted the ad to her account, and then was amazed at the fallout.”

For his part, Manny obviously had a thing for eBay. Incredibly, the barbecue incident was neither his first nor his last dalliance with online sales. For instance, in 2005, upon hitting his 400th career home run in Seattle against the Mariners, Ramírez was asked what he would do with the ball. “I don’t know,” he replied, according to the Joy of Sox blog. “Probably put it on eBay. I could see how much I could get. Probably $200.”

Ramírez then returned to eBay in November 2007 to sell a custom Chrysler car. “Manny also learned from all the fake bids on his grill earlier in the year,” wrote Moynihan for CNET. “According to Jerry Nasif, who is handling the auction for Ramírez, only bidders with 100% positive feedback will be considered for the sale…Nasif said he is expecting the car to go for around $50,000. The winner will also get a personal meeting with Ramírez, as well as autographed merchandise and four tickets to a Red Sox game.”

According to a piece by Noticias Con Farandula, Manny’s Chrysler eventually sold for $42,600. “The winning bidder, who was not identified to the media, also received an autographed Red Sox jersey, a baseball and a bat from Ramírez,” read the article. “He also got as many as four tickets to a game, plus a photo with the Red Sox outfielder.”

Chrysler aside, it is unclear whether Manny – or Juliana, or Kathy, or that anonymous Weston neighbour – ever sold the grill. Maybe it is still marooned in that Floridian garage, gathering dust while doubling as storage for random household tchotchke. But wherever Manny’s barbecue resides, and whoever owns it, I’m willing to start the bidding anew. I cannot afford $100 million just now, but I could probably muster $100. That thing would look great in my garden – an utterly random monument to my utterly random hero.

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