by Michael Jarosz
During the pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park on Sunday, October 2, the Boston Red Sox announced that they would be retiring David Ortiz’ number 34 at the start of next season. Ortiz was admittedly surprised by the kind gesture, already overwhelmed with emotion in his final regular season home game. Despite his team losing five of their last six games, Boston has clinched a division and honored their longtime DH for all his contributions.
Ortiz posted a .317 average with 38 homers and 127 RBIs in his final season. His home run total marks the best of any player retiring at the end of his season. Career-wise, Ortiz finished with 541 home runs, with his last coming as a decisive one in the weekend opener on Friday, when the Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3. The man known as Big Papi was heavily honored by his teammates and fans over the weekend, receiving several gifts and learning that his number would be retired.
Ortiz will forever be revered by Red Sox fans for his integral role in breaking The Curse. After 86 years without a World Series title, the Ortiz era featured 3 championships and a chance for another this year. After years toiling away as a role player on the Minnesota Twins, Ortiz was signed in 2003 by GM Theo Epstein in a franchise altering move. Ortiz broke out as a star in 2003, slugging 31 home runs. However, the 2004 playoff run cemented his place as a franchise legend. Big Papi hit a walkoff home run off the Angels’ Jarrod Washburn sending the team to the American League Championship series. In the historic 3-0 comeback versus the Yankees, twice Ortiz came through with walk off hits winning Games 4 and 5 for the Red Sox. His clutch play continued as he homered in Game 7 and played a major part in the sweep of Cardinals bringing a title to Boston.
Paired with his incredible clutch hitting, Ortiz also managed to play at a high level despite his advancing age. He was again the centerpiece for the Red Sox second championship in 2007. Impressively, 6 years later he led the Red Sox to a third title. His clutch hitting continued to amaze as his tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS versus the Tigers turned the series in the Sox favor. Once again the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals, and Ortiz was named MVP of the series batting an incredible .688 over the six games. To this day, Ortiz remains amongst the most featured hitters in baseball and still holds the cleanup spot in the Sox batting order.
With this being his final regular season game, the Red Sox sought to make the day a special one for Ortiz. He was brought to tears on a couple of different occasions, seeing past teammates in the 2004 World Series group and remembering his late mother during his speech to the crowd. The president of the Dominican Republic, the governor of Massachusetts, and the mayor of Boston were all present to pay their respects. The city of Boston named a bridge on Brookline Avenue after the slugger as well. All in all, the day was a fitting tribute for a man who had done so much for team and the city.
With his team ready to go to the postseason, David Ortiz is prepared to put his team on top one final time. The Cleveland Indians will be hosting Game One of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on Thursday, October 6 against the Red Sox.