After the 2016 Boston Red Sox clinched their playoff berth by winning the American League East last week, the Sox brass made sure that we honored one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history in his final regular season series at Fenway Park. Designated-hitter David Ortiz, who announced that 2016 would be his final season last November, finished his career on Sunday with 541 career home runs, good for 17th in Major League Baseball history. He also goes down as one of the greatest clutch hitters of all-time, and he still has another postseason to play and have yet another clutch hit or two.
And to think that it almost did not work out for Ortiz in Boston. Long before he became the “Big Papi” we know today, Ortiz was a young first baseman for the Minnesota Twins that was not resigned after the 2002 season. The Red Sox signed Ortiz to a non-guaranteed, $1.25 million contract for the 2003 season. Ortiz did make the Sox out of training camp, but was splitting time with Jeremy Giambi and Shea Hillenbrand. Once Hillenbrand was traded and Giambi was injured and never seen again, Ortiz became the full-time DH and flourished. In 2003, Ortiz hit just four home runs through the first three months, and slammed 27 taters in the final three months as the full-time slugger. From then on, Ortiz became “Big Papi.”
Ortiz will finish his career in Boston with 483 career home runs in a Red Sox uniform, second to only Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams in Sox history. He also starts the 2016 playoff run with the seventh-most postseason home runs in MLB history with 17 homers. Many of Ortiz’s hits and home runs were memorable, historic, and brought the City of Boston together. Here are just seven of our favorite moments of David Ortiz’s career with Red Sox.
7. Game 4 of the 2003 ALDS: Ortiz’s first playoff hit was a huge one. Down 4-3 to the Oakland A’s in the bottom of the eighth, Ortiz doubled off then-Oakland closer Keith Foulke to score two runs and give Boston a 5-4 lead. After being down in the series 2-0, the Game 4 win forced a Game 5 in Oakland where the Sox would prevail 4-3.
6. Game 4 of the 2013 World Series: With the Sox down two games to one to the St. Louis Cardinals, Ortiz led the charge in Game 4 with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate and in the dugout with a passionate speech before the Sox took a 3-1 lead in the game that they would not relinquish.
5. Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS: Ortiz came up in the 10th-inning of Game 3 against the Anaheim Angels and launched his first postseason walk off hit over Fenway’s Green Monster. Ortiz’s third career postseason home run sent the Sox to their second straight ALCS against the New York Yankees.
4. Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS: The Red Sox were seemingly dead in the water early in the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. After a 1-0 loss in Game 1 where the Sox mustered just one hit, they were down 5-1 entering the eighth inning of Game 2. Ortiz strolled to the plate with the basses loaded and two outs, and slammed a game-tying grand slam off Tiger closer Joaquin Benoit. The Sox would win Game 2 in the ninth inning and go on to defeat Detroit in six games.
3. April 20, 2013: Boston’s Saturday afternoon games against the Kansas City Royals was the team’s first in Boston since the tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon earlier that week. After the heroes from Marathon Monday through that Friday were honored and remembered, Ortiz came out to say a few words to the fans at Fenway and allover New England. Just five words (*NSFW) that Ortiz said would motivate the team throughout the 2013 season, all the way to the team’s third world series championship in the last decade.
2. Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS: Ortiz had not one, but two moments in Game 5 against the Yankees. Down 4-2 in the eighth, Ortiz led off the inning with a solo homer off Tom Gordan, and set up the Sox tying the game up later that inning off Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. The next six innings of Game 5 were the most stressful six innings of baseball I have ever witnessed. Until the 14th inning when Ortiz came up with two-on and two-out, and delivered his second walk off hit in as many days.
1. Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS: While it was not his first postseason walk-off home run in Boston, it was the most important one. Ortiz’s 12th inning home run against Paul Quantrill and the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS still give me goosebumps to watch on YouTube. The Game 4 win gave New England a slight bit of hope after being down 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS to their arch rivals, and was the catalyst to the greatest postseason comeback in baseball history.
Post written by Alex MacDonald