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Let us now praise famous Manny

Living in enemy territory this summer made Joe Pernice a little weird in the head. His band, the Pernice Brothers, weren’t out on tour, and that meant he was free to sit in his NYC pad and watch every Red Sox game on satellite TV. And each time Manuel Aristides Ramirez, Number 24, the Sox’ three-spot slugger, the best right-handed hitter in baseball, would sidle up to the plate — adjusting his tar-smeared helmet over his Brillo-pad hair, gazing 60 feet and six inches in front of him with a look of placid certitude, ready to unleash that lethal swing with one swift, poetic motion — Pernice would do the strangest thing. "I just started dancing around my apartment, doing the robot, and singing this little chant to Manny. I used to do it every time he came up, like a freak."

Pernice, of course, is best known for the gorgeous alt-country and pop he’s recorded with the Scud Mountain Boys, Chappaquiddick Skyline, Big Tobacco, and the Pernice Brothers — swooningly melodic and melancholic, wrapped in crystalline guitar hooks and sung in Pernice’s inimitable, pellucid voice. "Moonshot Manny (Pega Luna)," his new homage to this year’s should-be American League MVP, is a little different. Marked by a loopy insouciance, the song revels in cheesy ’80s synth bloops, cooing call-and-response robot vocals, and a slinky, vaguely Latin feel. As an exultant bleacher bum chortles manic Spanish into a megaphone — "¡Pega luna, Manny! (Hit the moon, Manny) ... ¡Prepara para Papi! (Get ready for [David Ortiz]) ... ¡Brilla diamante! (Polish the diamond)" — Pernice speak-sings in quiet awe: "Every guy wants to be him and the ladies go crazy ... Manny, hit me home with a moonshot, baby!"

In short, the tune’s a goof — perfectly suited for this year’s team of self-described "idiots." So why Manny? "I really think that, as a hitter, the guy’s a genius. He’s really a genius hitter," says Pernice. Moreover, he’s struck by the surprisingly happy-go-lucky way Ramirez responded to being put on waivers in the off-season, then almost traded in the Alex Rodriguez debacle. "When the season kicked in, he seemed to become even more committed to Boston," Pernice says. "He started hustling harder. He seemed to be more animated. He’s the second-highest-paid player in baseball. He could’ve easily turned into a prima donna. But he just seemed like a regular guy, seemed not to take it personally." And, by the way, "A-Rod has nothing over Manny. Nothing. The guys on the Sox now always remind me of the dogfaces, the World War II–era Marines, that sort of thing. The Yankees are sort of a more glamorous bunch of guys. For my tastes, I’ll take the dogfaces."

A South Shore native, Pernice is condemned to lifelong Sox fandom. And, like the rest of us, he carries some deep psychic scars. "To me at least, last year’s loss to the Yankees for the pennant hurt more than the whole ’86 thing," he says (just hours before the Sox swept the Angels last Friday to set up the Sox-Yanks ALCS rematch that moves to Fenway Park this weekend). "Last year stung for me. I just seemed to wilt. That was pretty damn tough." Still, that trauma is assuaged by his favorite memory of the lyric little bandbox. "It was an incredible moment, just going to the Fenway for the first time. It wasn’t any particularly outrageous game, it was a double-header against the Brewers, and I remember George Scott hit a grand slam. I just couldn’t believe it. Just the word grand slam. To actually witness it was insane. A great baptism. Plus, I remember seeing a guy get beaten up in a fight in the bleachers. It was the first time I’d ever seen an adult bloodied about the face. Then I threw up because I ate too many hot dogs. True story."

"Moonshot Manny (Pega Luna)" can be downloaded for $1 from www.pernicebrothers.com/manny, with proceeds benefiting First Night Boston.

Issue Date: October 15 - 21, 2004
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