Retiring Ortiz To Go Down As One of The Greatest Red Sox Ever

David OrtizDavid Ortiz wasn’t even supposed to start for the Red Sox. It’s easy to forget, but Ortiz was only a footnote when the Red Sox signed him in January of 2003. The hefty slugger was a backup to Jeremy Giambi (remember him?), and had been castoff by the Minnesota Twins after parts of six seasons that saw Ortiz never really amount to his promise.

He amounted to that promise here in a way we never could have dreamed of. When David Ortiz retires at the end of next season, he will go down as one of the greatest Red Sox players of all-time.

In the winter of 2002, Ortiz was in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball, trying to get another shot with a big league organization. “I was absolutely devastated,” Ortiz said. It was like my world was ending. I was a 27-year-old platoon player.” As Ortiz tells it, he was sitting in a restaurant in Santo Domingo when Pedro Martinez walked in. After hearing why Ortiz was there, Pedro called Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to recommend Ortiz.

Something tells me Theo is happy he took that call.

Over a decade later, Ortiz joins Martinez as one of the greatest four players to ever don a Red Sox uniform. He is third all-time on the team’s home run list, behind Carl Yastrzemski (who he will pass next year) and Ted Williams, the greatest hitter to ever live.

That’s not bad company.

Ortiz’s number 34 will most certainly join Pedro, Yaz, and Teddy Ballgame’s on the right field façade, and I believe there’s a good chance he will join them in Cooperstown. Some writers may hold Ortiz’s name on the 2003 steroid list against him, but by the time he will be up for consideration in 2022 other players suspected of steroid use may very well be in the Hall, too. Ortiz does not seem to carry the stigma with him that Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens do. That will help him when he goes before the voters.

But the Hall of Fame conversation is a discussion for another day. Today, we can reflect on what Ortiz has meant to this team and this city. Williams is the greatest player in team history, Yaz is the most beloved, and Pedro was the most electrifying, but Ortiz is the most impactful. His greatest legacy is as a champion, and that can’t be understated for a city and a fanbase that craved nothing more than that for eight decades. He seemingly willed the Sox to three World Series championships.

His list of big hits is as tall as the Green Monster. Can we really pick which one was his biggest? Was it his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS?

Or his 14th inning game-winning single in Game 5 the very next night?

Or the grand slam to bring the Red Sox storming back in Game 2 against the Tigers in the ALCS?

Or maybe it was the entire 2013 World Series as a whole (he hit .688, .688!), or the crucial double against the As in Game 4 in 2003 to send the series back to Oakland, and we shouldn’t forget his three run homer that sparked the dramatic comeback against the Rays in Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS.

David Ortiz is a winner, a hitter that seemingly never fails to come up in the big moments. He’s the type of player the Red Sox never seemed to have for so long. The Yankees always seemed to have that guy, everyone else always seemed to have that guy. But the Sox got that guy…when nobody else wanted him.

It will be hard to imagine them without Big Papi, one of the greatest Red Sox of all-time.

Matt McCarthy is the sports anchor for the Cape Cod Morning News on 107.5 WFCC, and a news anchor/reporter for 99.9 The Q, Cape Country 104, and Ocean 104.7. He can also be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

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