FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Former World Series MVP Manny Ramirez, a colourful slugger who abruptly retired this year amid allegations of banned substance use, is now facing criminal prosecution on charges he hit his wife during an argument.
Ramirez, 39, could get up to a year in jail if convicted of misdemeanour domestic battery charges. He was released on US$2,500 bail Tuesday after spending the night in the Broward County Jail, with little to say to a knot of waiting reporters.
"No thanks," Ramirez said when asked for comment. "Let me see, where's my family?"
Ramirez hopped into a white Cadillac Escalade driven by his sister and was whisked away. A few minutes earlier, the Broward Sheriff's Office released a tape of the 911 call made by his wife, 32-year-old Juliana Ramirez, from their sprawling home in the Ft. Lauderdale suburb of Weston.
"My husband just hit me," Juliana Ramirez says calmly on the tape.
When the dispatcher asks where she was struck, Juliana replies, "My face and my head, in the bed. I have a bump on my head."
The dispatcher then asks if Juliana has a safe room to get away from her husband.
"He's not doing anything anymore because he knows I'm calling the police," she says. Later, Juliana told sheriff's deputies she called 911 because she was afraid the situation would escalate.
At a brief court appearance Tuesday, Ramirez was ordered to have no direct contact with his wife by County Judge John Hurley. A lawyer who attended the hearing on his behalf did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email request for comment.
After his release, Ramirez walked out of the jail alone and was confronted by reporters. He had told investigators only that he grabbed his wife by the shoulders during an argument and "shrugged" her, causing her to hit her head on the headboard of their bed. But he wouldn't discuss the incident Tuesday.
When a reporter said "You have to give us something," Ramirez replied: "Not my problem."
He spoke to another TV reporter in Spanish and put his arm around two of the female reporters. He was wearing a tight, muscle-showing T-shirt and dark, low-slung pants.
The Escalade's driver, who identified herself as his sister, spoke briefly.
"He's my brother; we love him no matter what. He's an amazing guy and we love him no matter what," she said before rolling up the window. She refused to give her name.
Ramirez retired in April from the Tampa Bay Rays after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second violation of Major League Baseball's drug policy, the 12-time all-star left the game.
Ramirez previously served a 50-game ban in 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Second-time offenders get double that penalty.
One of the game's great sluggers, Ramirez was named MVP of the World Series in 2004 and helped the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year title drought.
He was selected 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 1991 amateur draft out of New York City and rose quickly through the minor leagues with youthful exuberance and natural charisma.
He broke into the majors in 1993 and played his first full season the following year, when he finished second to the Royals' Bob Hamlin in voting for rookie of the year. Ramirez went on to establish himself as one of the game's most feared hitters, adopting a dreadlock hairdo that seemed to mirror his happy-go-lucky demeanour.
He signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in December 2000, helping the long-suffering franchise win the World Series a few years later, then doing it again in 2007.
The Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers in July 2008. He instantly became a fan favourite on the West Coast, with "Mannywood" signs popping up around town, as he led Los Angeles to the NL West title and a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs. The clutch performances earned Ramirez a $45-million, two-year contract.
All that goodwill fizzled the following May, when Ramirez tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, a banned female fertility drug often used to help mask steroid use.