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51!

Posted by Amalie Benjamin  September 21, 2006 07:30 PM

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The ovation, this time, was longer and louder.

And maybe even more heartfelt. Not long after the Red Sox had announced that home run ball No. 50 — retrieved from a fan Thursday night — was going to be auctioned off for charity by Ortiz, the slugger sent No. 51 out of the park on the first ball he saw from Johan Santana, breaking the Red Sox record formerly held by Jimmie Foxx.

With flashbulbs bursting all over the park, Ortiz circled the bases again, in a near repeat of Wednesday night’s show, finding his entire team waiting for him on the steps of the dugout. There was a long hug from manager Terry Francona, and a longer one from Johnny Pesky, as the theme from ‘‘The Natural’’ blared from the Fenway speakers.

He waved his helmet to the standing crowd. He basked in the cheers.

He acknowledged the fans. He, clearly, loved the moment.

And the moment loved him.

It was just the second time in the history of the ancient ballpark in which a 51st home run had been struck. Ortiz’s blast and, 50 years ago to the day, one off the bat of Mickey Mantle.

Ortiz took the pitch — the first hittable one he had seen since his last home run, off Boof Bonser in the sixth inning last night — and sent it not far from where No. 50 had landed in the first inning tonight. Just a few rows past the bullpen, just a touch to the right of his last, it landed in the outstretched arms of fans waiting for the loot. (This one, Ortiz had said, would be kept.)

And so Foxx, who hit his 50 home runs 68 years ago, would be erased from the record books. In his place would stand Ortiz, the man whose teammates lauded him last night not only for his home run hitting prowess, but for his personality, his caring, and the sense of fun he brings to the ballpark.

With each home run that sense of fun had increased, the knowledge that he would break this record, though that certainty was put on hold for a time when Ortiz was sent to the hospital for multiple visits to check out heart palpitations earlier in the season. But he returned on Sept. 5. And, with him, returned the home runs. Forty-eight came against Kansas City on Sept. 10. Forty-nine came in New York on Sunday. Fifty came last night.

Fifty-one came tonight. And, with it, the record.

Jimmie Foxx no longer stands shoulder to shoulder with David Ortiz. Ortiz, now, stands alone.

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