Manny Ramirez set to begin rehabilitation assignment Wednesday

Manny Ramirez took batting practice with his teammates for the first time this month Tuesday and was expected to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment Wednesday night in San Bernardino with Class A Inland Empire.

Although no timetable has been established, Ramirez was expected to play at least three minor league games and if everything goes well, he could be back with the Dodgers by the weekend.

But it remained uncertain when All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal would be ready to play again. Furcal, hitting .316 in 76 games, has missed the last 14 because of a low back strain.

His comeback was placed on hold Tuesday when he showed up at Dodger Stadium with some soreness. Furcal was expected to be examined by a back specialist Tuesday night and the team was uncertain when he might be able to resume baseball activities.

Ramirez, hitting a team-high .317, has made three trips to the disabled list with right-leg problems this year, missing 55 games. His current stay on the DL began July 17 after he strained a deep muscle in his calf.

And although Ramirez did 75 minutes of running and agility drills before taking batting practice, Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ director of medical services, said he wanted to see how Ramirez’s calf stands up to the strain of a game.

“Every ballplayer will tell you that it’s different in a game,” Conte said. “The intensity is just a little bit more. There’s always another gear, there’s always that 90-plus that you need in a game situation when someone’s trying to throw you out at third base and you have to kind of pick it up a little bit.”

Recalling ‘The Shot’

The death of Bobby Thomson, famous for his dramatic home run that gave the National League pennant to the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, was cause for reflection for two people who were at the Polo Grounds that day — Don Newcombe and Vin Scully.

Newcombe, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher in the game, was lifted in favor of Ralph Branca, who served up the “shot heard ‘round the world” to Thomson.

Newcombe, now a special advisor to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, recalled before Tuesday’s game at Dodger Stadium that Branca had “patted me on the back when I left the mound and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, big fella, I’ll take care of everything.’”

Newcombe then walked to a Dodgers clubhouse filled with reporters and photographers anticipating a Dodgers pennant, and started taking a shower. “All of a sudden there was a stampede across from our clubhouse over the walkway to the Giants’ clubhouse,” Newcombe said. “I said to the clubhouse man, ‘What happened? He said, ‘Just what you think happened.’ ”

Newcombe said he later found Branca with “his head down between his legs, crying. I made up my mind that day I was never going to let baseball do that to me, make me cry.”

Scully, then a junior member of the Dodgers’ announcing team, said, “Bobby was the hero. But the fellow who came out of that incident 10 feet tall was Ralph Branca. Ralph, to me, really carried the cross exceptionally well.”

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