Boston Red Sox legend, All-Star, Silver Slugger and World Series champion David Ortiz is going to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 24th. Ortiz’s induction as a first-ballot inductee is the perfect exclamation mark on what was a storybook career. While it did not start out on such a positive note, Ortiz’s arrival in Boston in 2003 began the transformation of his career and of Red Sox fans in general.
Most fans wearing a crimson “B” on their hat in the early 2000s were a sad and angry bunch. The team hadn’t won a World Series title in over 80 years. There was even talk that a curse was keeping the local nine from reaching that elusive championship. Things seemed bleak.
Ortiz’s signing with the Red Sox was not met with a reaction indicative of what his future performance would bring. After being signed and traded by the Seattle Mariners, his career with the Minnesota Twins was nothing to get excited over, and the Twins had released him following the 2002 season. Ortiz even joined Boston’s lineup as more of a matchup-based piece vs. the heart of the order slugger he’d become for the next 14 seasons.
By now, the story is pretty well known. Ortiz was part of the 2003 team that became an offensive juggernaut who unfortunately fell to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. While that season had given the fans some great memories, a familiar end led way to more dejection.
From there, Ortiz transformed into something more. Something the Red Sox and their fans needed to get over the hump. The origin story of how unemployed designated hitter David Ortiz became Hall of Famer Big Papi is the stuff of comic book fiction. That’s because David Ortiz became Boston’s superhero.
Defeating the Villain
Ortiz’s superpowers were first on display as part of the infamous Red Sox comeback in the 2004 ALCS. After the miserable Game 7 loss in 2003 to the dreaded New York Yankees, Sox fans didn’t think it could get any worse. Then the team immediately dropped the first three games of the 2004 version. A 3-0 lead had never been overcome in baseball history. To repeat, in MLB history, IT HAD NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.
In Game 4 at Fenway Park, Ortiz put on his cape and got the Sox to live another day.
In Game 5, he did it again.
Ortiz would need a break in Game 6, as he went 0-4. But the team did their job, and another Game 7 was set for these bitter rivals. In the top of the first inning, Ortiz hit a two-run homer and the Red Sox did not surrender the lead. Any “curse” talk would end shortly after this.
Feats of Strength
Most superheroes are not all-powerful (don’t let Superman fool you), and Ortiz’s main ability was to simply murder baseballs. Across his career he hit 541 home runs, 483 came with Boston which is good enough for second in team history (behind Ted Williams’ 521).
Ortiz’s biggest power surge came in 2006 when he hit 54 home runs. This is still a Red Sox record and a testament to Ortiz’s brute strength. He also hit a total of 136 homers from 2005-2007, and you can see them here:
Simply put, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were a powerful one-two combo for the Red Sox during those years.
Realizing His Importance
Along with being a hero, it’s also important to recognize when you are one. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was a tragedy that affected the entire city. The Red Sox game the following weekend was a time for people to come together and heal. Ortiz recognized his role in this and delivered one of the most memorable speeches in the city’s history.
It’s difficult to understate how important this moment was to the city of Boston. Ortiz was always going to be a beloved Red Sox. Big Papi may have been born in the Dominican Republic, but this made him a beloved Bostonian.
Rising to the Moment
Ortiz was an impressive player in almost every game. He had a .956 career OPS as the Red Sox designated hitter for nearly 2,000 games and over 10,000 plate appearances. He was also part of three championship teams (2004, 2007, 2013) and it was during those World Series where his abilities shone brightest.
Across 14 World Series games, Ortiz had a slash line of .445/.576/.795 for a 1.372 OPS. What was even more incredible was Ortiz’s last run in the 2013 World Series vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Ortiz hit a BLISTERING .688 in six games. Here’s a recap:
- Game 1: 2-3
- Game 2: 2-3, 1 BB
- Game 3: 1-2, 2 BB
- Game 4: 3-3, 1 BB
- Game 5: 3-4,
- Game 6: 0-1, 4 BB
That’s 11 hits and eight walks in 25 plate appearances. He got on base 76% of the time in the series. It was graphic, and you can relive all his hits from the 2013 postseason:
The Baseball Hall of Fame is filled with immensely talented baseball players, including some other Red Sox greats like Ortiz’s teammate Pedro Martinez. It has plaques of all-time home run hitters. It has plaques of players who brought championships to their team. It has plaques of players who meant a lot to their city.
At his Hall of Fame induction, David Ortiz will represent one of the few players who checks all of these boxes. When the baseball fans of Boston and all of New England were at their lowest moment, Ortiz arrived to lead the Sox into the promised land. He was Boston’s superhero, and his cape rightfully belongs in Cooperstown.