Ortiz launches No. 50; Twins blast Red Sox
The Fenway crowd rose to watch Ortiz's 50th home run of the season, which tied him with Jimmie Foxx for the team's single-season record. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Just a single raised fist, rounding first base, accompanied David Ortiz on his historic run. Just that fist, up for no more than a second, before he made his solitary way around second, around third, across home. Though, it seemed apparent, as the crowd of 36,484 stood up to witness home run No. 50 that would tie Jimmie Foxx, they would have loved to have been running the bases with him.
They stood, as the ball from the hand of Boof Bonser -- what a name for that footnote -- lifted off Ortiz's bat with two outs in the sixth inning, a home run that in its flight, in its landing in the center-field seats to the right of the yellow line, did more than equal a Red Sox record. It did exactly what it should have, breaking a 1-1 tie, though the Twins went on to an 8-2 victory.
Because that is who David Ortiz is. And that is what David Ortiz does.
``I guess the people in New England are going to remember me for a while," Ortiz said. ``It's a great feeling being there right next to a great player, a superstar just like Mr. Jimmie Foxx was. To go through history and see how many good players have been around this ball club and be right there with them is a wonderful feeling."
They stood, and his teammates stood. They clapped, and his teammates clapped. And, after getting congratulations from every player in the Red Sox dugout, out he climbed again to the cheers and the chants (``MVP! MVP!"). To acknowledge the rest of the standing ovation, to acknowledge ``Simply the best," the song blaring out of the Fenway PA system, to acknowledge that his beautiful, arcing shot, had done something that no one in a Red Sox uniform had done since 1938.
``As long as I've been here, I've been in that situation a lot, but tonight it felt like it was some extra voices coming out of the fans," said Ortiz, who exchanged autographed items for the ball with a fan in his mid-20s. ``It seemed like they really enjoyed what I did on the field today. Like I've said, I always tell my teammates that we have the best fans all the way around. It doesn't matter what is going on in the game. It doesn't matter if we're winning or losing. They enjoy whenever we do good on the field."
Ortiz became the 13th American League player to hit 50 home runs in a season, and the first since Alex Rodriguez (57 with the Rangers) and Jim Thome (52 with the Indians) did it in 2002.
It was a subdued celebration, old-fashioned and quaint, except for the number 50 flashing repeatedly on the video screens in center field. Just the enjoyment of a man who has grown to be loved, just an acknowledgement of greatness.
Because that is what David Ortiz has become.
It didn't matter that the bullpen collapsed, led by Craig Hansen and the three-run home run by Torii Hunter in the eighth inning. It didn't matter that the Red Sox were officially eliminated in the American League East race. It didn't even matter that, to the boos of the crowd, Dennys Reyes carefully walked Ortiz on four pitches in his final at-bat, in the eighth inning.
All that mattered was Ortiz.
As he ran around the bases, as he touched home plate, Ortiz said he thought about the people who had attended a pregame fund-raiser, a photo session that required a $100 donation for a patient at Children's Hospital. He thought about how they had given, and asked for one thing in return. That home run.
``To be able to witness it day in and day out is special," starting pitcher Curt Schilling said. ``You're talking about a franchise that has been around a long time and has had some of the greatest hitters that ever lived play here. Potentially he's on the cusp of doing something no one's ever done in this uniform. That's special."
Four years ago, Ortiz was at the lowest point of his career, unable to fit in with the Twins. He was released, sent off into the baseball netherworld, where he was determined to be good enough -- as per general manager Theo Epstein and his staff -- to platoon with Jeremy Giambi.
Four years later, Ortiz has become not so much a baseball player as a phenomenon. His eyes shine down from billboards across the city. His smile radiates across a clubhouse and a TV screen and a region. Ortiz has come, in so many ways, to symbolize baseball in Boston, his late-inning heroics and mammoth home runs the soundtrack to the summer.
Of course, the home run also made Schilling's night, in which he returned from the strained side muscle that had sidelined him for three weeks, no more than an opening act to the Big Papi show.
Though the plan included limiting him to just 80 pitches, it took 103 for Schilling to leave, with that 1-1 tie on the scoreboard and Manny Delcarmen coming in to relieve.
Schilling contained the Twins, though he certainly didn't have his best stuff. He allowed a run in the first inning, on a double by Joe Mauer, followed by a single by Michael Cuddyer to right. And though he walked no one -- allowing his one run on seven hits, while getting three strikeouts, all on splitters -- Schilling went to three balls on seven of the 22 hitters he faced, saying, ``mentally it was a little bit harder than it was physically."
But those were the details, a comeback in the last few meaningless games, the pieces that make up an ERA.
The night, in the end, will be remembered for one thing. It will be remembered for a majestic shot to center field, unmistakably headed high and deep and gone. It will be remembered for reaching hands, lifting toward the sky and the baseball.
It will be remembered for David Ortiz. For Jimmie Foxx. For 50.