David Ortiz’s 10 Best Red Sox Moments
On January 22, 2003, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein signed an oversized and underachieving first baseman from the Minnesota Twins to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. The acquisition, which barely registered on the Boston sports radar screen at the time, wound up changing the course of Red Sox history.
Over the last 13 seasons, David Ortiz has hit 462 home runs in a Red Sox uniform—second only to Ted Williams. He’s been a catalyst for three World Series runs and served as the city’s unofficial spokesman in the wake of the Marathon bombings. And now, he will reportedly retire at the end of the 2016 season.
Ortiz, who will turn 40 Wednesday, has appeared to ponder his baseball mortality for some time. In September, when Ortiz was asked on the night of his 500th career home run how long he would keep playing, he responded with an evasive, “I don’t know.”
Though he slumped through the first half of 2015, Ortiz finished with his ninth 30-home run, 100-RBI campaign. He still has one more vesting option remaining on his contract after this season, but apparently feels now is the time to hang it up.
Throughout his time in Boston, Ortiz has produced countless indelible memories for Red Sox fans. He’ll have opportunities to generate more in 2016, but for now, let’s look back at some of the best moments from one of the most improbable runs of greatness in Boston sports history.
“This Is Our F—king City”
Before the first Red Sox home game after the Marathon bombings, Ortiz took the mic and encapsulated the feelings of the entire city. Somehow, a man who was born in the Dominican Republic and didn’t live in Boston until he was 27 knew exactly what to say.
Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS
Ortiz’s first walk-off home run in a Red Sox uniform came on September, 23, 2003. Thirteen months later, three innings after Dave Roberts stole second and Bill Mueller singled him home, Ortiz hit a home run against the Yankees that kept the Sox alive in the chase for their first championship in 86 years.
Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS
One night later, fresh off the 12-inning duel, Ortiz stepped up to the plate with a man in scoring position in the bottom of the 14th frame and sent the ALCS back to New York. The Red Sox won the following two games to advance to the World Series, where they swept the Cardinals.
Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS
Ortiz’s heroics in the 2004 postseason actually started prior to the ALCS. His walk-off home run in the Game 3 of the previous series against the Angels sent the Red Sox on to face the vaunted Yankees. Ortiz has hit 17 home runs in his playoff career.
Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS
Nearly a decade after 2004, Ortiz was still carrying the Red Sox on his back in October. He belted a game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS against the Tigers, which the Red Sox ultimately won to even up the series. (This capped off one of the most memorable days in recent Boston sports history, as Tom Brady threw a game-winning touchdown pass for the Patriots in the last minute of their game against the Saints earlier that afternoon.)
The World Series Pep Talk
Ortiz’s leadership extends into the dugout as well. Perhaps one of the most defining moments of his career came in the middle of Game 4 of the 2013 World Series, when he delivered a pep talk that sparked a Red Sox comeback. The Sox didn’t lose again in the series and Ortiz wound up winning MVP honors with a .688 batting average in six games.
500th Career Home Run
Ortiz became the 27th member of the 500 home runs club on September 12 when he launched a blast to deep right field against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. (It should’ve happened at Fenway for poetic purposes, but the Baseball Gods can’t give Ortiz everything.)
Red Sox Single-Season Home Run Leader
Though Ortiz still trails Williams for the all-time franchise home run lead, he broke the Red Sox’s single-season record with his 51st home run of the 2006 campaign in late September that year.
As an added bonus, it came against the Twins, who Ortiz has crushed to the tune of a .323 batting average with 20 home runs in 67 career games against them.
The Bat Flips
In addition to being among the most clutch hitters in baseball history, Ortiz is perhaps one of the game’s greatest showmen as well. His habit of flamboyantly flipping his bat after hitting a big home run has brought those inside Fenway Park to their feet on countless occasions and also irked many opponents, such as the Tampa Bay Rays.
In October 2013, former Rays lefty—and maybe future Red Sox ace—David Price criticized Ortiz for admiring the second home run he hit against him in Game 2 of the ALDS. The following May, Price plunked Ortiz in their first meeting since the incident, which propelled Ortiz to declare war on the Rays.
Two months later, Ortiz launched a mammoth home run against Tampa Bay hurler Chris Archer and unleashed a bat flip for the ages. Suffice to say, Archer wasn’t pleased.
First Home Run with the Red Sox
Before all of the bat flips and postseason heroics, there was April 27, 2003. That was the first home run Ortiz belted in a Red Sox uniform, and fittingly, it gave the Sox the lead in the top of the 14th inning against the Angels.
But unfortunately, that home run wasn’t enough for Ortiz to crack the starting lineup. He didn’t start playing on an everyday basis until that June. It took the Red Sox a few months to figure out what they had.