By James Payne – 1851 Staff
In 1997, David Ortiz made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the Minnesota Twins where he would spend five seasons. But he really made a name for himself right here in Boston where he has 14 unforgettable seasons. On October 2, 2016, David Ortiz will play his final regular season MLB game with the Red Sox.
Ortiz signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 2003 season and after a slow start, he began to rise to ‘Big Papi’ status. Along with many of his teammates, the 2004 season stands out most in his career. He hit 41 home runs and drove in 139 runs leading him to finish 4th in the American League MVP vote. He added five more home runs in the playoffs, including two walk-offs which were instrumental to leading the Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years.
Ortiz’s numbers improved over the next couple of seasons giving him a four-year contract extension in 2006. Like most cases in professional sports, a player’s performance declines after signing a new, big money deal. That was not the case with Ortiz. He put up enough numbers in 2007 to lead the Sox to another World Series championship before injuring his wrist in 2008 which led to a slight decline the next couple of seasons.
2013 was a bit of a reincarnation for Ortiz as he began to look young again. Driven by the Boston Marathon bombings at the beginning of the 2013 season, Ortiz made it a mission to bring home yet another World Series crown for “our f***ing city.”
Ortiz will be best remembered for his game-tying grand slam in the 8th inning of Game two of the American League Championship Series against Detroit that sent Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter tumbling over the right field wall into the Red Sox bullpen. He went on to bat .688 with two home runs and six RBIs in the World Series and won World Series Most Valuable Player honors.
In a season that includes a farewell tour, Big Papi is having one of his greatest seasons to date even with all eyes on him. He’s performing better than recent athletes with similar endings to their career (i.e. Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant). While it has been hard to accept for the majority of fans and Boston media, Ortiz has remained consistent on this being his final season.
He has garnered so much attention this year, NESN even did a promotion where fans could receive text message alerts every time the big man stepped up to plate. You’ve got to be a big deal when people are willing to pay to be notified when you’re going to swing a bat.
When Ortiz has played his final game in opposing stadiums, those ball clubs have honored him by giving him a gift. Some of these gifts include a bottle of wine with a personalized label from Oakland, a surfboard from San Diego, and the remains of a Baltimore dugout phone that he once destroyed with a bat after being called out. He privately received his gift from Tampa Bay on September 25 in the wake of Miami Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death.
When Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter retired, the Red Sox paid tribute to them. In the final week of the season with the New York Yankees fighting for a wild card spot, it will be interesting to see if and/or how the Yankees pay homage to a longtime arch enemy.
Ortiz has put up MVP caliber numbers in his final season while driving the Red Sox to a postseason berth as he looks for his 4th World Series title. With his name etched in history, holding many team records and incredible achievements including ranking 17th on the all time home run list, there are no questions about his legacy, elite Hall of Fame status, or position as one of if not the most clutch hitter of all time.
To win a 4th World Series in 14 seasons for a team and city that went 86 years without one, would be something truly special. Papi is as unique as they come and you better believe every eye in Boston will be watching number 34 and the Sox in October.