Three titles. Eight playoff appearances. The unending love of a city.
David Ortiz accumulated all of these throughout fourteen years playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Many know him as the greatest designated hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, the man known lovingly by the city of Boston as Big Papi played his final game on October 10th, in front of a sellout home crowd. After two losses to the Cleveland Indians on the road, Red Sox fans who had been lucky enough to secure a ticket to the game began to file into Fenway Park as batting practice began at around four p.m. Some took the green line on the MBTA until they reached the Fenway stop. Some arrived from the south, parking near the stadium and walking up on Van Ness Street. And others walked from the north, crossing over the newly minted David Ortiz Bridge. They walked with a heavy heart, however, as they knew this could be the last time the bridge’s namesake suited up for the Red Sox.
LHS sophomore Jack Lowrey arrived at the game around 5 PM. “The atmosphere was very crazy,” he said, “and it only got crazier as the game continued.”
The air at Fenway was undeniably tense and only became more tense as the game went on. In the sixth inning, with the Red Sox down 4 to 1, Big Papi stepped up to the plate and unleashed a final bit of October magic, scoring longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia. His next at bat, with the Sox down one in the eighth inning, was a story Red Sox fans had seen many times before. He had delivered clutch at bats with his back against the ropes in the past- 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013. Fenway held its breath, ready to scream, as Papi awaited Cody Allen’s pitches.
This time, the Indians didn’t even open the storybook.
Allen walked Ortiz on four pitches in what turned out to be Big Papi’s final at-bat. As Marco Hernandez walked onto the field to replace Ortiz on the basepaths, Fenway stood up. The man Red Sox president John Henry once described as “the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history,” got one final curtain call, after he, for seemingly the first time in his career, failed to come up clutch. As he walked off the field, the air at Fenway suddenly became incredibly tense. The Sox, for once, had to turn to somebody other than Big Papi to deliver a hit just so the career of this legend could continue another day.
Hanley Ramirez flew out to end the inning the very next at-bat.
Following the game, some fans left right after the final out. But other Sox fans stayed after, even while the Indians celebrated in front of them. The sounds of celebration coming from the field, however, was quickly drowned out by the chants of “Pa-pi! Pa-pi!” coming from the crowd. This crowd needed David Ortiz one more time. And for the final time, he delivered.
As Cleveland ran into their clubhouse to celebrate, cameras suddenly started to gather around the home dugout. As more and more cameramen and women ran over, they began to move to the middle of the field. And in the middle of all of these cameras was David Ortiz. Surrounded by a gaggle of reporters and cameras, he walked to the middle of the field to the pitcher’s mound, as a wave of cheers hit Fenway.
It wasn’t just the fans at Fenway cheering for Ortiz. Other people took their time to thank Big Papi for his career. Seattle Mariners all-star outfielder Nelson Cruz posted a picture on Instagram with Ortiz, saying “Thank you for being an excellent example for me and the younger guys… Hopefully more of us follow in your footsteps.” Detroit Tigers all-star pitcher Justin Verlander also posted a photo, saying “Congratulations on such an amazing career! You will be missed by all but I will mostly miss our exchanges where it mattered most… between the chalk lines #thankspapi.”
Here at LHS, senior Tommy Beauchemin said “Although Big Papi’s retirement distracted the team from winning a bit, it was a nice way to go out.” Sophomore Mitchell Winsor said “Without a doubt, David Ortiz’s retirement impacted me more than any other star’s retirement.” Note that other sports legends Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and former Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett have all also retired within the year. Even noted Yankees fan McGovern Brown said “Even though I don’t like him, their hitting will not be nearly as good without him,” although he did not want to say much on the topic. Regardless, David Ortiz was a player who changed the history of the game and will be missed by all.
This story was written in October of 2016, shortly following David Ortiz’s retirement from the game of baseball. It was the first story I wrote that made it to print.