On October 9, the Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the 2016 MLB playoffs after falling 4-3 to the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. After announcing last year that 2016 would be his final MLB season, this marked the final game in David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s illustrious career.
David Ortiz came to the Red Sox in a 2003 trade with the Minnesota Twins. That season, Boston made it all the way to the ALCS before falling to the archrival New York Yankees in seven games. As disappointing as the loss to Cleveland was last week, that was probably the darkest moment of Ortiz’s career. From 2004 onward, the lovable designated hitter enjoyed a marvelous career in the MLB. In 2004, he led the Sox to a World Series title, their first in 86 years. He was solely responsible for the epic comeback in the ALCS against the Yankees that year, smashing walk-off hits in Games 4 and 5 to keep Boston’s hopes alive. In 2006, Ortiz had one of the greatest seasons in franchise history with 54 home runs, 137 RBIs, 1.049 OPS, and 355 total bases. Ortiz put on another championship performance in 2007 as the Red Sox defeated the Colorado Rockies in the World Series that year. His second title in four years after his team had won zero in the prior 86 years was astounding on its own. He continued to destroy American League pitching in the years leading up to 2013. That season Ortiz captured his historic third World Series title, leading the Sox from worst to first and winning World Series MVP in
As a lifetime Red Sox fan, the retirement of Big Papi has impacted me deeply. Flashback to age eight. I am learning about the basics of the Boston Red Sox, my family’s team. I see this jolly, vivacious, home-run-hitting Dominican in a Red Sox uniform and I am naturally inclined to root for him. The championship in 2007 changed everything –I decided that I would invest all my energy and passion into this baseball team and this designated hitter. From then on, I have been a Red Sox diehard even though I am from Los Angeles. Through the years of mediocrity and disappointment (2008 and 2011 being the worst ones), Big Papi was there, consistently hitting 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs every season. Watching the 2013 championship run as a teenager was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed as a baseball fan. There is no better feeling in sports than your favorite team delivering on your love for them and winning a championship. I vividly remember Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS – paralyzed by the flu, I laid in my bed cheering harder than my throat could handle for this miraculous baseball event.
No brighter was Big Papi’s supernatural aura than in October 2004 and April 2013. We know about the former – when he broke the 86 year curse and ignited the jubilation of Boston. However, Big Papi’s importance to the city of Boston was equaled if not bested by his actions in April 2013. On April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring over 260. The Boston Bombing was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. In the wake of the attacks, Bostonians needed someone or something to believe in. Enter David Ortiz. Before the first home game after the attacks, Ortiz invigorated the Fenway crowd with this iconic line: “Nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” With help from Ortiz’s leadership, the city of Boston was able to recover from the attacks, and, of course, later that year, the Red Sox won the World Series for their Boston Strong fans.
David Ortiz will likely go down as the greatest designated hitter of all time. Positive testing or not (he was involved in a 2003 publication of players who were under PED investigation), he is still one of the most important players in MLB history and my personal favorite player of all time. Thank you, Big Papi for everything.