Big Night for Big Papi: Red Sox honor Hall of Famer Ortiz
BOSTON (AP) — With three giant World Series banners laid across the outfield grass, three championship trophies on a table and his Hall of Fame plaque hanging behind him, David Ortiz basked in the welcome of the Fenway fans on Tuesday, two days after he was inducted in Cooperstown.
Thanking those who helped him throughout his career — many of them seated in folding chairs along the first- and third-base lines — Ortiz took the field to chants of “Papi!” and told the crowd before the slumping Red Sox played the Cleveland Guardians: “The good luck charm just arrived.”
Ortiz took his spot near the pitcher’s mound where, nine years ago, he rallied the residents after the Boston Marathon bombing by proclaiming, “This is our (expletive) city!” Red Sox Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice joined him for this celebration, as did Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero — fellow Cooperstown inductees from the Dominican Republic.
“It’s amazing everything that happened this past week,” Ortiz said from a podium festooned with his No. 34. “Thank you very much, Boston. Here’s your son. I love you forever.”
Ex-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein took a seat on the first-base side, with former managers Terry Francona, who managed the 2004 and ’07 World Series championship teams, and John Farrell, who was in the dugout for the ’13 championship.
Teammates Tim Wakefield, Xander Bogaerts, Trot Nixon, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Cora came out for the honorary first pitch, and Jason Varitek was behind the plate to catch it. After the ceremony, Francona headed over to the visitor’s dugout to manage the Guardians, and Cora went back to the home dugout to take his place with the Red Sox.
“Just to be watching him, you know, be so proud of him, of what he’s accomplished,” Francona said before the game. “That’s a pretty cool thing.”
Ortiz stopped to take a selfie of himself with his Hall of Fame plaque, which called him a “Powerhouse left-handed slugger who was at his best in the clutch, with legendary postseason performances that took the Red Sox from championship drought to three World Series titles in 10-year stretch.” He also got a ride in the dugout laundry cart from the current players.
The scoreboard then went into a highlight reel that recapped Ortiz’s rise from an offseason afterthought to the most important player in Red Sox history, helping the sad-sack franchise end an 86-year title drought and win two more championships. In the 2013 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, he batted .688 and was the World Series MVP.
A 10-time All-Star who was the 58th first-ballot Hall of Famer, Ortiz batted .286 with 541 home runs and 1,768 RBIs in a 20-year career with the Red Sox and Twins. He also had a .289 average with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in nine postseasons.
The Red Sox wore their special edition blue and yellow jerseys on Tuesday that they also have worn on marathon day the past two seasons. Survivors of the attacks helped unfurl the ’13 World Series pennant; Jimmy Fund kids and patients from the David Ortiz Children’s Foundation held the ’07 banner and longtime season-ticket holders handled the ’04 one.
Cora, a player on the 2007 team, said Ortiz gave the clubhouse a jolt of energy — as usual — when he visited.
“This is the first time he’s going to walk into Fenway as a Hall of Famer,” Cora said before the game. “I’m very proud of him. I think we all are.”