The Boston Red Sox announced last week that they would retire David Ortiz’s number 34 on June 23rd and after a ceremonious final season, now is an appropriate time to look back on his illustrious career.
Big Papi signed with the Sox in 2003 and his first big moment came that year when the Red Sox were playing the Angels. Ortiz was called into the game to pinch-hit in the top of the 14th inning when he smoked an opposite field, go-ahead bomb, for his first home run with the Red Sox.
David Ortiz was a postseason legend and this all began in the 2003 American League Divisional series. Boston was playing the Athletics and trailing in the series 2-1, and the game 4-3, Papi stepped to the plate with two on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ortiz hit a two-run, go-ahead double off the right field wall and Boston went to Oakland and won a decisive game five to overcome the 2-0 deficit.
The next year in the ALDS against the Angels, Papi did it again. Ortiz came to the plate in the 10th inning and smacked a home run over the Green Monster to complete the sweep and move on to the ALCS. In the AL Championship, the Red Sox were trailing the Yankees 3-1 in the series and on the verge of being eliminated, Papi came to the plate and crushed a walk-off home run to keep the Sox alive in the Series.
Ortiz’s heroics would continue in that series and in game 6, he hit a pop-up double to center field that allowed Johnny Damon to reach home plate and send the series to game 6. Boston won the next two games in the Yankees stadium thanks to a two-run shot in the first inning of game 7, by none other than David Ortiz, becoming the first and only team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit.
Papi’s club record for must home runs in a single-season still stands at 54, which he set during the 2006 season. Jimmie Foxx held the previous record with 50 home runs and fittingly enough, Ortiz’s record-breaking homer came against his former team, the Minnesota Twins.
Skipping all the way to 2013, Papi’s most memorable moment came at a time that the city needed him the most. On April 15th, 2013, the city was devastated by one of the nation’s worst terrorist attacks during the Boston Marathon. Ortiz decided to take matters into his own hands and deliver one of the most memorable and meaningful speeches the city has ever heard. “This is our f—— city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom” Papi exclaimed to the Fenway crowd. After some rough emotions ran through the minds of all Bostonians for a few days, Ortiz exemplified how every person in the city felt at the time.
Later that year, in game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Papi provided a home run that was more dramatic than anyone of his entire career. He hit a grand slam into the right-field bullpen that knotted the game at 5 runs apiece. The Sox would end up in the 2013 World Series and in game 4, Ortiz called a team meeting in the dugout after noticing his team playing tight. Johnny Gomes was seemingly motivated by the speech and ended up belting a three-run homer later that inning to tie the series at 2-2. Boston wouldn’t lose again and ended up handing in open of the most dominant World Series performances in league history.
On September 12th, 2015, Ortiz hit a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays that would be more significant than any other as he joined the 500 club. He solidified his amazing career by reaching an accolade that not many other players had been able to reach.
Ortiz’s final regular-season game came on October 2nd, 2016 and the organization celebrated in legendary fashion. It was announced then that Papi would have a street and a bridge in Boston named after him. In another emotional farewell speech, Ortiz got down on one knee to thank the Fenway faithful one last time.
David Ortiz is a three-time World Series champion (2004, 2007, & 2013), a 500 home run hitter, and one of the most clutch hitters to ever play the game but none of those things speak for what he meant to Boston. His figure in this city was and will always be admirable to everyone because of his love for us. Ortiz loved Boston like he was born here and because of the way that he treated the fans and the city, he will always be special to us and will go down with some elite company as one of the greatest athletes to come through the city of Boston.