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Perhaps no one had a greater sense of the moment than David Ortiz.
That’s arguably the biggest reason why he’s set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Ortiz was elected in his first year on the ballot and will be the lone modern-era inductee for the 2022 class.
Here are the 10 greatest moments of Ortiz’s career as he’s set to be inducted into the Hall on Sunday.
His first home run with the Red Sox: The man known for his power actually didn’t hit his first home run with his new team until late April of the 2003 season. It did come in the clutch, though.
Ortiz, who was hitting just .188 at that point of the season, pinch-hit for Jeremy Giambi in the 14th inning of a tied game against the Angels. He drove a pitch that was low and away to opposite field for a two-run shot, helping the Red Sox get a key road win over the Angels as Ortiz took a step forward to securing the full-time designated hitter spot.
(Also, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were on hand for the game in Anaheim. Nearly 20 years later, some things stay the same).
His first walk-off hit with the Red Sox: Ortiz’s first walk-off hit with the Red Sox came against…the Yankees. In a series in late July, Ortiz found magic again as a pinch-hitter, driving Armando Benitez off the Green Monster to give the Red Sox the win.
‘Famous as F**k’: When Ortiz demolished a three-run home run against the Rangers in June 2013, he admired it before taking a slow jog around the bases. Once he did his signature jump into the pile at home plate, Ortiz’s teammates ripped his jersey off him, revealing a shirt that he wore under it that read “Famous as F**k.”
“Wally, it’s not what you think!”:
Like many star athletes in the 2000s, Ortiz took a crack at doing one of ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter” commercials. In this commercial, Ortiz was in a meeting room with Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett. Ortiz helped Posada break in his Yankees cap, even putting it on at one point.
Wally happened to walk by when Ortiz put it on, causing the Red Sox mascot to stand in shock for a few moments. Ortiz had to tell Wally “It’s not what you think!” before the mascot walked away in disbelief.
Ortiz, who was 40 at the time, had as strong of a final season in 2016 as he could’ve hoped for. His dominance was on full display on one afternoon in May of that season.
In the ninth inning, Ortiz hit a rare triple to tie the game, 5-5. Two innings later, he crushed a ball into the triangle to give the Red Sox a walk-off win, the final of his career.
Ortiz’s first walk-off homer with the Red Sox didn’t come until September of 2003. In extra innings, the Red Sox found themselves needing to get a win against the Orioles as they were in a race for the wild card spot with the Mariners.
Ortiz delivered, demolishing a pitch from Kurt Ainsworth over the Green Monster for the Red Sox’ 93rd win of the season.
Ortiz struggled at the plate in his first playoff series in Boston. Down 3-2 in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS, with the Athletics needing just one more win to move on, Ortiz was hitless in the series.
Keith Foulke, a soon-to-be teammate of Ortiz, gave the slugger a pitch right over the plate that he would regret. Ortiz drove it to right, falling just a few feet shy of a homer. But it was deep enough to score both runners on base, giving the Red Sox the lead and eventually the win in Game 4 before they won Game 5 to move on to the ALCS.
Ortiz set the tone for the Red Sox early in the 2004 World Series. In his first at-bat, he took Cardinals starter Woody Williams deep, crushing his pitch around Pesky’s Pole in right to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
The Red Sox somehow forced a Game 7 against the Yankees, winning three straight to get to that point. They got into a good spot right away, too. But Johnny Damon was thrown out at the plate on a Manny Ramirez single. On the very next pitch though, Ortiz blasted a two-run homer to right to give Boston an early 2-0 lead. The Red Sox never looked back, winning that game 10-3 to complete the greatest comeback in baseball history.
There might not be a more exciting play in sports than a play to win a series. Ortiz’s heroics did that in the 2004 ALDS against the Angels.
Already up 2-0 in the series, Boston just needed one more win to get back to the ALCS and avenge its loss to New York a year prior. After getting out to a 6-1 start in Game 3, the Red Sox gave up five straight runs and were held scoreless in the final four innings before extras.
Angels star closer Francisco Rodriguez was pulled from the game right as Ortiz came up for lefty Jarrod Washburn. Ortiz took the first and only pitch Washburn threw over the Monster, sending the Red Sox to the ALCS.
The Cardinals had a tough time getting Ortiz out at the plate in the 2013 World Series. He hit .688 and had a .760 on-base percentage to go along with two homers in the series.
Just like he did in the ALCS that year, Ortiz flipped the script in the World Series. After a walk-off loss in Game 3 that put them in a 2-1 hole, Ortiz knew he had to rally the troops. Down 1-0 in the fifth inning of Game 4, Ortiz hit a leadoff double. Once he reached second base, he turned toward the Red Sox’ dugout and yelled “Let’s go! Vamos!”
Ortiz scored later in the inning to tie the game up. In the sixth, Ortiz got his teammates to huddle around him and gave some impassioned words. Whatever he said must have worked. Johnny Gomes hit a three-run homer later in the inning, which gave Boston the lead and eventually the win in Game 4. The Red Sox also took Game 5 in St. Louis before cruising to an easy Game 6 win to win Ortiz’s third World Series.
The Red Sox looked dead in the water through most of the first two games of the 2013 ALCS. They were getting shut out until the ninth inning of Game 1. In Game 2, they scored just one run through the first seven innings.
But they were able to string together a few hits in the bottom of the eighth. Those hits happened to come right before Ortiz was due up. The Tigers called on Joaquin Benoit. His first pitch of the game changed the series.
Ortiz hit a fly ball to right toward the Red Sox’ bullpen. Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter charged to the wall, leaping over the fence to try and catch. Hunter’s near-herculean effort wasn’t enough, and Ortiz added another clutch hit to his résumé.
The hit also flipped the series. Boston won Game 2 and won three of the next four games of the series to advance to their third World Series with Ortiz.
There was maybe no athlete better to give a message to the Boston crowd in the wake of the Marathon bombings than Ortiz. The legendary Red Sox player actually began the 2013 season on a rehab assignment, with the Red Sox’ first game at Fenway since the attack happened being his first game of the year.
After a ceremony remembering those who were killed or injured that also thanked those who helped in the situation concluded, Ortiz stepped up to the mic.
“Alright Boston. This jersey that we’re wearing today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston. We wanna thank you Mayor [Tom] Menino, Governor [Deval] Patrick, the whole police department for the great job they did the past week.
“This is our f***ing city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong! Thank you!”
The Red Sox had to start somewhere in their ALCS comeback against the Yankees. Down one run in the ninth inning of Game 4, Dave Roberts stole second and scored on a Bill Mueller single. The game remained scoreless into the 12th, when Ortiz belted a two-run homer to right to give the Red Sox another day.
But that wasn’t the only time Ortiz needed to step up in extra-innings. A thrilling Game 5 led to even more extra-innings. To get there, Ortiz hit a homer off Tom Gordon to cut the Yankees’ lead to one in the eighth. After Boston tied the game later in the inning, both teams were held scoreless into the 14th.
Ortiz came up with runners at first and second, but with two outs against Esteban Loaiza. Ortiz fouled off six pitches in the at-bat, with a couple looking like they could have ended the game if they landed fair. But Ortiz straightened his swing out to drop a bloop single that scored Johnny Damon from second to send the series back to New York.
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