His Red Sox shirt unfurled and unbuttoned wide now, his ball cap ditched for celebratory goggles fixed atop his head, David Ortiz stood triumphant with flag in hand, smack in the middle of Fenway Park’s verdant lawn.
The big man with the bigger smile waved it with gusto and panache. Boston had won the 2013 American League championship. It said so, right there on his big blue flag, Ortiz slicing it through the autumn air in the first minutes of Sunday morning with mighty, invincible swipes.
Bring on the Cardinals, he seemed to say, bring them on now, bring on whatever demons, serpents, contenders, or pretenders. In gesture, it was as if the big man waving his big blue flag were restating his claim anew, “This is our [expletive] city!’’
The outsized Ortiz, No. 34 XL in your World Series program. Designated hitter extraordinaire. Flag waver supreme. Legend. And liver of life out loud.
“I really haven’t been around a lot of superstars,’’ said prized Red Sox starter Jon Lester, no bit player himself. “But guys that have been around the league, and played for some different teams, they all say he’s the best superstar they’ve ever been around.
“Personality-wise, the way he carries himself, the way he goes about his business, he’s a true professional. From Day One that I’ve been here, he’s never changed — good, bad, or indifferent.
“You can’t ask for anything more as a teammate than having David Ortiz in that locker room with you.’’
He is now the Back Bay’s senior statesman, our Ben Franklin in red hose. Ortiz, 37 years old, arrived at the Fens at a time when the year 1918 still framed the discussion of all Red Sox failures, and he has stayed put through the lofty times of the 2004 and 2007 World Series triumphs and the great chicken-and-beer tomfoolery of 2011.
Neither of the august likes of Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski ever shared in world championships, leaving Ortiz, if not the most glorified player in club history, easily one of its most cherished, if sometimes churlish.
The much-loved David Americo Ortiz. The hyphenated adjective has been attached to him throughout his career, the adoration only amplified in his decade-plus tenure in Boston. Now with well over $100 million in career earnings, and in the middle of a two-year, $26 million deal he signed in November 2012, he swaggers into a clubhouse with a smile and joke.
He is a one-man merengue full of noisy happiness and delight, ready to drill his next victim with a four-letter line drive to the funny bone.
“We played in the big leagues together for five seasons,’’ mused Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who once shared a Minnesota Twins clubhouse with Ortiz. “He’s the funniest guy in the world. I love him to death. I’d do anything for him.’’
But lest he be considered for hardball beatification, Ortiz in his time in a Sox uniform also has lived through some uncomfortable moments, although none particularly serious or damaging.
His name showed up a few years ago on a list of players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, but there never was a formal charge or suspension, and Ortiz’s dustup with the media settled fairly quickly.
This July, he struck out in Baltimore and turned his rage on a phone in the visitors’ dugout, smashing it to smithereens with his bat.
In August 2011, he stormed into then-manager Terry Francona’s pregame press conference and blurted out, “We need to have a talk, you and me.’’ Ortiz was enraged that official scorer Chaz Scoggins had amended his scorebook, clipping an RBI from Ortiz. Such snits have been part of the game forever, but rarely so public.
Also in 2011, as a free agent following the epic collapse of September that year, Ortiz suggested the unthinkable — that he might follow the trail of former Red Sox stars Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens to sign with the Yankees.
“That’s something I gotta think about,’’ Ortiz told ESPN at the time. “I’ve been here on the Red Sox a long time.’’
He soon had a new deal with the Sox, no doubt helped by the less-than-subtle pinstriped threat.
The World Series begins Wednesday night at Fenway, Red Sox vs. Cardinals, and Ortiz will be slotted in his familiar cleanup spot in Boston’s robust batting order. Among the game’s most feared hitters for most of his time here in Boston, Ortiz originally was known as “Big O’’ with the Twins, who ultimately cut him free for fear that salary arbitration in the 2002-03 offseason would peg his price far above their budget-constrained payroll.Continued...