Thank you, Big Papi
Boston’s most beloved son will always be Tom Brady, and rightfully so. He brought the Patriots back from being the laughing stock of the NFL to the most dominant team over any 15 year span the league has ever seen. He’s also the greatest quarterback of all time. Right behind Brady though, is David Ortiz. Just recently, Big Papi announced that 2016 would be his last season as a professional baseball player. Over the course of its life with professional sports, Boston has been a baseball town. Sure, maybe it’s a football town now, or a hockey town during the winter when the Bruins are winning, but overall, it’s a Red Sox town. And no player in their history has been loved quite like Ortiz.
After the horrific events of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon, Bostonians felt like they were under attack. The suspects were still on the run and the city was on lock-down. Hurt and saddened by the events that happened to their home, people returned to their beloved ballpark to watch their beloved team. Right before first pitch, David Ortiz walked out just in front of the pitcher’s mound and with the words Boston stitched across the chest on his jersey delivered the simply incredible line, “This is our f****** city.” No one knew he was going to say that, so it was not censored on TV. It was so perfect that two days after the game the FCC chairman said he was on board with it.
That season, the Red Sox were constructed with cast-offs and players considered “washed up.” Somehow they ended up winning the AL East and going to the playoffs. Fast forward to ALCS game 2 where the Sox were already down 1 game to 0 about to go down 0-2 trailing by 4 runs to the Tigers in the 8th inning with two outs. The bases were loaded for David Ortiz who deposited a line drive into the right field bullpen to tie the game. Torri Hunter flew over the wall right in front of a police officer who raised his arms up creating one of the most iconic shots in Boston sports history. The Sox ended up winning that series to set up a rematch of the 2004, 1967, and 1946 World Series against St. Louis. Papi carried the offense hitting a filthy .688. The next leading hitter hit .250 and only three other Red Sox hit over .200 for the series. Ortiz was walked four times in the clinching game and was named MVP and got to celebrate with his city that had been so hurt just 7 months before.
Big Papi is Boston’s favorite adopted son. He was not a top draft pick who turned into the pride of the city like Nomar or what Tyler Seguin was going to become. Ortiz was brought in as an emergency first baseman after the 2002 season and earned himself the DH job. He wasn’t expected to do anything making just 1.25 million in 2003. Then again, no one expected 2004 to happen either. It had been 86 years since the Red Sox had last won the World Series. The 86 years featured gut-wrenching losses. During game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Shea Stadium scoreboard said “Congratulations to the 1986 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox”. Then a ball trickled between a first baseman’s legs. The year prior to 04, Aaron Boone sent the Sox home after they blew a 3 run 8th inning lead in game 7 of the ALCS. Now, in 2004, the Sox were going to get swept out of the playoffs by their arch enemy from the Bronx. Ortiz had other ideas winning game 4 on a walk-off homerun then game 5 the next day with a single capping off two incredible Boston victories. Thanks to Papi, the Sox only trailed 3 games to 2 and the rest is history.
It’s hard to say if David Ortiz will get into the Hall of Fame. No pure DH has ever made it in, and he would be the first. His numbers certainly back his case. 503 homeruns is a HOF statistic. He bashed 37 long balls last season at the youthful age of 39. But, if you ask any Sox fan what they remember about Papi, they’ll say his 17 playoff homers. It’s really hard to think of any player who was more clutch in the playoffs for as many seasons as Ortiz was. He was just as great in 2013 as he was in 2004. He carried his team in must-win playoff games and he carried his city when they needed something to cheer about. If the Red Sox do not make the playoffs in 2016, Ortiz’s last playoff series included him hitting .688 and, of course, a World Series win.