Image courtesy of ESPN
Even among the myriad sporting legends that have come from the great city of Boston, David Ortiz finds a way to distinguish himself. The Red Sox’s loss to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night may have marked the end of a historic career in Beantown for “Big Papi”, but the smile, passion, and heroics of the greatest Designated Hitter of all-time will never be forgotten.
86 Years, that’s how long it had been since the Boston Red Sox had last won a World Series. That’s how long it had been since the “Curse of the Bambino” had begun. Red Sox fans entered the 2004 playoffs with more hope than ever that the curse would finally be reversed, but after losing the first three games of the best-of-seven ALCS against the hated Yankees, all hope seemed to be lost. Many stars had made a name for themselves in the franchise’s storied history, but in the past 86 years, the Red Sox had been unable to find a playoff hero. Somehow, almost a century after the powerful left-handed bat of Babe Ruth had left for the Yankees, a new unsung hero was about to come up clutch and finally bring a title to back to Fenway Park. His name? David Ortiz.
Pedro Martinez had to convince the Red Sox front office to sign David Ortiz in the winter before the 2003 season. No longer wanted by the Minnesota Twins, he had been released into free agency and Pedro, as the team’s star player at the time, wanted to do what he could to help out his fellow Dominican. Thus, Ortiz, who had never hit over 20 home runs in a season and had been labelled as injury-prone, was signed as a backup DH by the Boston Red Sox. The transaction was initally questioned by many Red Sox fans, who had had their hopes set on the acquisitions of better-known stars like Jeremy Giambi, but the energy that “Big Papi” brought to the clubhouse made an immediate impact, and he was pretty good at baseball too.
In his first season in a Red Sox uniform, Ortiz worked his way from the bench to the heart of the order, leading the team to the 2003 ALCS where they would ultimately fall to the Yankees. It would not be until 2004, his second season in Boston, that David Ortiz would make his mark in the history books and win over the hearts of Red Sox fans forever.
Bottom of the 10th, Game 3, 2004 ALDS. Walk-off Home run.
Bottom of the 12th, Game 4, 2004 ALCS. Walk-off Home run.
Bottom of the 14th, Game 5, 2004 ALCS, Walk-off Single.
Bottom of the 8th, Game 2, 2013 ALCS, Game-tying Grand Slam.
The list could go on for a while.
David Ortiz came alive in the Postseason. David Ortiz thrived under intense pressure that would have caused a lesser athlete to choke. David Ortiz was the king of clutch. On top of all this, he excelled in the regular season, finishing in the top 5 in MVP voting five times. He lead the league in home runs once, and in RBIs three times. From breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 to winning the World Series with the “Band of Bearded Brothers” in 2013, David Ortiz remained the constant, loyal face of the franchise. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
While it hurts to see someone as influential and well-respected as Papi hang up his cleats, solace can be found through the dignified way in which he finally walked away from the game. He announced before the 2016 season even began that it would be his last and allowed every team, even the Yankees, to honor him before his last appearance at their fields. Amidst this ceremonious season, Ortiz’s excellence on the field never faltered, as he had one of the best seasons of his career, finishing in the MVP conversation and leading the league in RBIs. In many ways, Big Papi’s “Good-Bye Tour” is yet another manifestation of his incredible talent and cements his status as a true legend of the game of baseball. Despite ripping apart opposing pitchers, fans of every single team were able to come together and recognize the unique talent and passion that Ortiz brought to Major League Baseball. In fourteen years, Big Papi did so much for the city of Boston. He served as a role model for kids, hit balls farther than many fans had ever seen before, and taught us that baseball was made to be fun. But most importantly, David Ortiz finally brought a World Series Championship back to Beantown, and for that he will be loved and remembered forever.
*All statistics were gathered from Baseball-Reference.com