L.A. fans on time for Manny

In Los Angeles, a time-honored tradition is going the way of free autographs, single-admission doubleheaders and the ballpark organist.

Dodgers fans are actually showing up early and staying late. And it’s all Manny Ramirez‘s fault.

The former Boston Red Sox star has captured the city’s heart and has changed its habits as he leads the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Fans don’t want to miss a single Manny at-bat, so they’re making sure they get to Dodger Stadium for the bottom of the first inning, and they’re even willing to wait it out during the late innings in the hopes of one more trip to the plate for the newest L.A. sports hero.

"I think he’s galvanized baseball in this town in a way I never thought was possible," longtime Dodgers fan Jay Pleasant told the New York Post.

Ramirez, who wears No. 99, has thrown a charge into the Southern California sports scene a lot like another No. 99 did 20 years ago when Wayne Gretzky arrived from Edmonton and made hockey hip in Tinseltown.

Gretzky stayed in L.A. for eight years but never won a Stanley Cup. Ramirez, who batted .396 with 17 home runs after he joined the Dodgers at the end of July, is a free agent at the end of this season. If he leaves, it’s a pretty safe bet Dodgers fans will go back to showing up at the ballpark in the second inning and leaving after the sixth.

• WE’RE 96TH! WE’RE 96TH! — Congratulations, Las Vegas, you made the list of the top 100 sports towns in America.

Never mind there are no major league teams residing in Southern Nevada. But The Sporting News claims there’s enough going on here to make the grade.

"Las Vegas is a great sports city, a Mecca for many sports fans," said Bob Hille, TSN’s chief of correspondents, who coordinates the annual rankings. "Beyond UNLV, there’s a bowl game, minor league baseball and pro golf, so it’s quite the center of activity."

This year’s list features 400 cities and towns in North America. The winner? Boston, which has been in the top spot three times in the past five years.

• PETER PEEVED — WBC heavyweight champion Samuel Peter talks about being the king of Germany. He won’t win over the populace by dissing the country, which he did Monday at a news conference to promote Saturday’s title fight with Vitali Klitschko in Berlin.

The news conference, which was in Berlin, was conducted mostly in German. That apparently offended Peter and his promoter, Dino Duva. Peter, born in Nigeria, decided he would answer what few questions were asked in English by responding in Nigerian.

• THE LAST LAUGH — In the wake of O.J. Simpson‘s conviction last week, Tom Mahon of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote: "Did you hear O.J. Simpson was offered a plea deal? He could either play running back for the Eagles in goal-line situations or take life without parole. He took life."


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