The nicknames of Red Sox legends remain in the Boston lexicon decades after their playing days are over. From Ted Williams (“The Kid”) to Carl Yastrzemski (“Yaz”) and even Roger Clemens (“Rocket”), the names stick in the team’s history.
A memorable addition was made to that list in the 21st century with the arrival of David Ortiz in Boston. Ortiz’s physical stature and knack for home runs (especially in clutch situations) made his nickname, “Big Papi,” seem particularly fitting.
An interesting footnote is exactly how Ortiz got “Big Papi” as a nickname. According to NESN television analyst Jerry Remy, it started with him.
“When Papi was here, I went up to him one day and said, ‘You’re a big guy, you mind if I call you Big Papi?'” Remy said during Wednesday night’s NESN broadcast. “He said, ‘No, I like that.’ So I started calling him Big Papi and all of a sudden everybody started calling him Big Papi.”
— NESN (@NESN) July 18, 2019
“Well, every once in a while I get a thought,” Remy joked. “It happens every 15 or 16 years.”
That Remy was the originator of the nickname was also the conclusion of Boston Globe Red Sox writer Peter Abraham in 2015. And Ortiz, while on The Late Show in 2017, offered a further detail: Where the “Papi” part of the nickname came from.
“I meet so many people every day, it’s hard for me to keep up with their names,” Ortiz explained to the show’s host, Stephen Colbert. “So I just ‘Papi’ people.”
Apparently, Red Sox players reciprocated Ortiz’s style.
“I heard the guys in the clubhouse calling him Papi,” Remy noted. “So I just said, ‘Do you mind if I call you Big Papi?’ And he said, ‘No, absolutely not.'”
And with that, a legendary nickname was born.