The greatest designated hitter of all-time, Big Papi, has powered his way to the biggest stage of America’s National Pastime. Throughout all the clutch hits, the fierce shouting matches between other pitchers, the destruction of dugout telephones and the only person allowed to say the F-word on national television, David Ortiz is a loveable role model, a baseball icon and a Red Sox legend.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Seattle Mariners organization in 1992, Ortiz was listed as “David Arias” and played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Not much came in his tenure with Seattle and he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1996.
Ortiz was assigned to the Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. After a couple months, he was called up to Triple-A Salt Lake City and his major league debut finally came on Sept. 2, 1997 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
In his first opportunity to pinch hit, Ortiz hit a weak fly out, but the next day he got another chance. This time Big Papi smashed a double down the right field line, admiring Sammy Sosa of the Cubs as he chased it down.
Ortiz split playing time at first base and designated hitter for the next few seasons, until he suffered wrist injuries in 1998 and 2001, which diminished his offensive play.
In January 2002, Ortiz experienced tragedy as he lost his mother, at 46 years old, in a car crash. As a tribute to his mom, he looks up and points both of his index fingers to the sky whenever he hits a home run.
Ortiz’s best season with the Twins came in 2002, his last for the organization. He played in 125 games, hitting 20 home runs, driving in 75 runs and doubling 32 times. Minnesota was unable to trade him, so they released him, leaving him unemployed.
During the offseason, Ortiz was sitting in a bar in the Dominican Republic when Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez encouraged Ortiz that he could continue his career. He called Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein to convince him to sign Ortiz and three days later, Ortiz signed with Boston.
For the first couple months of the 2003 season, Ortiz played sparingly, coming off the bench to pinch hit or occasionally being inserted at designated hitter. His luck finally turned around when Boston Manager Grady Little benched Jeremy Giambi, where he was named as the full-time designated hitter for the rest of the season.
Ortiz helped the Red Sox advance to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) against the New York Yankees, where he hit two home runs and drove in six runs. They unfortunately came up short in Game 7, where Aaron Boone hit a walk-off home run against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Though the 2003 season ended on a sad note, the next season would be a different story. Baseball fans around the world would soon learn Ortiz’s new nickname as Big Papi thrust himself into the spotlight during the 2004 ALCS. The series was once again versus the Yankees and Papi single-handedly extended the seven-game series.
A dramatic, 2-run walk-off home run propelled the Red Sox to a thrilling victory and little did we know that Ortiz would do it again the next day, changing the course of history. This time in the 14th inning, he hit a walk-off RBI single to send the series back to New York. The Red Sox stunned the Yankees, winning Games 6 and 7 and advancing to the World Series.
They would finish off the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, giving Boston its first World Championship in 86 years. That would not have been possible with the clutch hitting of Big Papi.
He was recognized the following season, as Red Sox ownership presented him with a plaque stating, “the greatest clutch-hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox.” Ortiz would continue the trend, hitting 54 home runs in 2006, setting the record with the most homers in the history of the franchise.
In 2007, Ortiz led the Red Sox to another World Series title, its seventh, by sweeping the Colorado Rockies in four games.
A wrist injury in the 2008 season forced Ortiz to miss several weeks and the next season had a nightmare of a start. In the longest homerless streak of his career, Ortiz went 178 at-bats before going yard on May 22 against Brett Cecil of the Toronto Blue Jays. Later that year on Sept. 17, Big Papi hit his 270th career home run as a DH, passing Frank Thomas with the most in history.
In 2011, Ortiz charged the mound after Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kevin Gregg threw him a brushback pitch, which triggered a bench-clearing brawl. The next season he suffered an Achilles injury, putting his career in doubt once again.
On April 20, 2013 Ortiz gave a memorable speech at Fenway Park after the Boston Marathon bombings, stating “this is our f***ing city and no one is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
Later in the season at a game in Baltimore, Ortiz got into a shouting match with umpire Tim Timmons, where he got ejected and smashed the press box phone in the dugout. In Game 2 of the ALCS that year, he hit a game-tying grand slam off Joaquin Benoit of the Detroit Tigers.
Big Papi would lead the Red Sox to another World Series Championship against the St. Louis Cardinals, the first to be clinched at Fenway since 1918.
In 2014, Ortiz got into a heated altercation with future Red Sox and then-Rays pitcher David Price, who hit Papi with a pitch, leading to another brawl. The next year he hit his 500th career home run off Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Moore, becoming the 27th player in history to accomplish the feat.
On Nov. 18, on his 40th birthday, he announced that the 2016 season would be his last.
Having the best season that any 40-year-old has ever had in the game of baseball, Ortiz looks to shine in the last weeks of the season.
The Boston Red Sox have the talent to win in October and they will do everything in their power to ensure that Big Papi ends his career in astonishing fashion, hopefully with his fourth World Series ring.