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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

David Ortiz’s legacy solidified with his induction into the Hall

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Bianca Oppedisano
Caricature of Red Sox Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff

In their more than a century’s worth of history, countless great players have passed through the annals of the Boston Red Sox. Ted Williams, arguably the greatest pure hitter to ever live. Carl Yastrzemski, one of the greatest left fielders of all-time. Dominant starting pitchers like Cy Young, Smoky Joe Wood, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. But none of those men featured as prominently, in as many big, crucial moments, as David Américo Ortiz Arias, better known by his nickname, “Big Papi.” On Jan. 25, 2022, Ortiz’s name was etched in baseball history forever when he was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, with 77.9 percent of the vote. Ortiz earned the unique distinction of being one of only a few players who made it into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. It was a fitting end to an incredible career that featured over 500 home runs, three world championships, and far too many clutch hits to possibly list. But, for Ortiz and the Red Sox, it almost didn’t happen in the first place.
It’s hard to believe now, but, at one point, David Ortiz’s big-league career looked like it was just about finished. After a handful of years with the Minnesota Twins, with varying degrees of production, he was released by the Twins following the 2002 season as the team did not view him as the best choice for their everyday first baseman. Ortiz’s fortunes, however, would change after a chance encounter with Boston Red Sox ace pitcher Pedro Martinez at a restaurant in the Dominican Republic. Martinez then lobbied Boston’s front office to sign Ortiz, and General Manager Theo Epstein signed Ortiz to a one-year deal.
Eventually becoming the Red Sox’s designated hitter, Ortiz delivered for his new team in a big way. He had a batting average of .288, with 31 home runs, 101 runs batted in, and a .961 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The Red Sox advanced to the American League Championship Series that year, taking on their hated rivals the New York Yankees, who they would lose to in seven games. In 2004, Ortiz would cement himself as one of the game’s premier sluggers, clubbing 41 home runs and driving in 139. Ortiz would send the Sox back to the ALCS on the strength of a walk-off home run in Game 3 of the Division Series against Anaheim, setting up a rematch with the Yankees.
In the 2004 ALCS, Ortiz had one of the greatest postseason performances of all time, delivering the walk-off hits in Games Four and Five of the series, as the Red Sox would go on to become the first team in baseball history to come back from an 0–3 deficit to win a series. Ortiz earned ALCS MVP for his accolades. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series, their first since 1918.
In the following years, Ortiz would continue to perform at an exceptional level, breaking the Red Sox’s single-season home run record in 2006, and playing an integral part to another World Championship in 2007. However, beginning in 2008, Ortiz began to deal with a series of nagging injuries which reduced his playing time, as well as allegations of steroid use, which he denied. In 2013, Ortiz had another memorable season, as he delivered a rousing speech after the Boston Marathon bombings and delivered the now famous “This is our [expletive] city!” line. The Red Sox again made it to the World Series in 2013, and Ortiz delivered another all-time great performance, holding a whopping batting average of .688 with two home runs and six RBIs in six games, as the Red Sox won yet another title.
Ortiz announced he would retire following the 2016 season. And his 2016 season might have been the greatest send-off for any player, ever. At the age of 40, Ortiz hit .315, and led the majors with 48 doubles, a .620 slugging percentage, and a 1.021 OPS. He also led the American League with 127 RBIs.
Ortiz was more than just a great player. He was a generational talent, whose big heart, big personality and flair for the dramatic captured the hearts of Red Sox Nation. No one was as clutch, as reliable or as beloved. Quite simply, there will never be another Big Papi.

About the Contributors
Jack Sherman, Sports Writer
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator