David Ortiz is retired. This is obviously a sad moment, as it means no more David Ortiz in the lives of Red Sox fans. Well, no more new David Ortiz in the lives of Red Sox fans. He’s done so much over the years in Boston that we could spend weeks celebrating his greatest, most memorable, most Big Papian moments, and spoiler alert, that’s what we’re going to do.
These aren’t always going to be the biggest or most important hits of Ortiz’s career, though, you’ll certainly see your share of those, too. Some of these are just going to be the ones that best exemplify who Ortiz was and what he meant to the Red Sox.
Like, say, this moment from June 6, 2013, in a regular season game against the Rangers. The Red Sox were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway, in a game early enough in the year that worrying about Boston’s place in the standings was a little gauche (though, for the record, they were 1.5 games up on the Yankees for the AL East lead, so you’re allowed a modicum of gaucheness without judgment in that situation).
The Rangers allowed a leadoff double to Jonny Gomes after Andrew Bailey shut down Texas in the top of the ninth, and then it was Dustin Pedroia at the plate. Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, with lefty Michael Kirkman on the mound and Gomes in scoring position, declined to pitch to Pedroia, instead intentionally walking him to get to David Ortiz.
You might not have comprehended that plan the first time, and that’s okay, because it only sort of makes sense even all these years later. Ron Washington decided that facing David Ortiz was preferable to Dustin Pedroia in a moment where the fate of the game could be decided, just because his pitcher was left-handed.
Now, Dustin Pedroia is right-handed and very good at the plate, especially at Fenway, so some fear was justified. This is David Ortiz we’re talking about, though: while he was better against right-handed pitching, he also had 20 homers against lefties at the moment of this decision in his last 366 at-bats against lefties. Ortiz had grown his game and skill set as he aged — Washington was stuck in a distant past, and about to pay for it.
Ortiz made it 21 homers against lefties since 2011 with one swing, putting the first pitch from the southpaw into the Red Sox bullpen, giving them instant victory over the Rangers. That alone is memorable, but it’s not why this particular dinger stuck with me: Ortiz did hit a whole lot of homers, you know, 483 for the Red Sox alone.
No, what makes this stick out is Ortiz’s non-verbals surrounding the homer. It’s not in the video, but Ortiz’s face looked like that of someone who was going to make Ron Washington pay for daring to challenge him. Papi was always at his best with a chip on his shoulder — ask the Twins about that — and he put a brand new one on before stepping up to the plate to face Kirkman.
You can also see it in his post-homer trot to first, which is easily the greatest celebratory strut of Ortiz’s career. The swagger is just dripping off of this beautiful, beautiful trot:
No bat flip, and no celebration until Ortiz has finished intimidating the ball over the fence with the most intense stare he’s ever given. Just Ortiz taking his time admiring his handiwork — inevitable handiwork, in his mind and the minds of everyone except Ron Washington — before acknowledging a teammate and beginning a slow jog around the bases.
This was a 28-second trot home, and while that doesn’t seem long for David Ortiz of the 30-second trot, just know that the time started after the six seconds of letting Ron Washington knew he made a mistake.
Not only did the night feature this homer and swagged out trot, but this was also the year where the Red Sox ripped the jerseys off of players for walk-off hits. Underneath Ortiz’s jersey are words that should be on his Hall of Fame plaque when he’s inducted in 2021:
Fucking right, Papi.