On Oct. 10, 2016, David Ortiz played his last Major League Baseball game. For nearly two decades, Big Papi’s charismatic personality, on field success, and philanthropic work were a constant reminder that athletic success and class can work in tandem.
The greatest designated hitter (DH) of all time, Ortiz retires alongside Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Mickey Mantle as one of only four players in Major League history to eclipse 500 home runs and win three World Series. He racked up a World Series MVP, an ALCS MVP, 10 all star appearances, a career .286 batting average, and a .380 on base percentage. His numbers are staggering.
Ortiz redefined the role of the DH. Before him, baseball minds criticized the DH as nothing more than the product of American League backwardness—it undermined the strategic choice of deciding whether to pinch-hit for your pitcher and involved using a player with no defensive abilities. Ortiz helped to bring respectability to the position because––aside from his statistical dominance––Big Papi was clutch. More than any player of his generation, Ortiz changed games, series, and seasons with a single swing. Most notably, he brought an end to the curse of the Bambino.
For 86 seasons, the “Curse of the Bambino,” dating back to 1918 when the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, hung like a dark cloud over Boston. While they’d get close, from 1918 to 2004, the Red Sox never won a World Series. This drought was not due to a lack of talent on the team. Red Sox greats Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, and Carl Yastrzemski all attempted to bring an end to the curse, but were unsuccessful.
Then, in 2004, Ortiz helped bring glory back to Boston and, in doing so, solidified his image as one of the game’s greatest clutch performers. In the 10th inning of game three of the ALDS, he hit a walk-off homerun to win the series and sweep the Los Angeles Angels. Down 3-0 in games to the Yankees in the ALCS, Ortiz hit another walk-off homerun in the 12th inning of game four and a walk-off single in the 14th inning of game five. The Red Sox would go on to become the first MLB team in history to come back from a 3-0 game deficit to win a best of seven series 4-3. They went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series to win their first championship since 1918. During the run, Ortiz hit an astounding .409 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. It didn’t take long before Ortiz was back spraying champagne and hoisting the World Series trophy again in 2007 and 2013.
In his final season, Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBIs. He had the best final season of all time and will likely become the first ever true DH to be granted entrance to the Hall of Fame, as he played only 277 of his career 2200 games as a first baseman. Filling Ortiz’s larger than life shoes will be impossible because, quite frankly, there will only ever be one David Ortiz. Thanks for the memories, Big Papi—you will surely be missed.