#GOATMadness throwback: Tom Brady, David Ortiz, and a great day in Boston sports

"Unicorns! Show ponies!"

Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter flips into the Fenway Park bullpen leaping in vain for David Ortiz's grand slam home run as Boston Police officer Steve Horgan celebrates.
Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter flips into the Fenway Park bullpen leaping in vain for David Ortiz's grand slam home run as Boston Police officer Steve Horgan celebrates. –Photo by Stan Grossfeld

In the spirit of March brackets, Boston.com launched its own: Voting to decide who is Boston’s greatest-ever athlete. The #GOATMadness bracket is narrowing down its 64-person field, so go vote.

Tom Brady and David Ortiz. Each is a local legend. Each is indelibly linked to some of the most dramatic moments in Boston sports history. And on Oct. 13, 2013, each delivered a clutch performance on one of New England’s most memorable doubleheaders.

With Brady and Ortiz facing off against each other in the round of 8 in Boston.com’s #GOATMadness bracket, it seemed like a good time to revisit a magical day when both players underscored why they belong in the conversation of Boston’s GOAT.

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It started with Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Facing the 5-0 Saints in a Week 6 marquee matchup, New England saw a 17-7 first half lead evaporate. Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense found their gear in the fourth quarter, taking a 27-23 lead with just over two minutes remaining. A rare Brady interception on the ensuing drive appeared to all but end the game.

Despite conservative play-calling from the Saints – which gave the Patriots the ball back one more time – appeared to not be enough. Brady and the offense started at their own 30-yard line, with no timeouts, and needing a touchdown.

And yet, even in a depleted offense that lacked Rob Gronkowski, New England marched down field. With 10 seconds remaining at the Saints’ 17-yard line, Brady delivered a signature throw to the corner of the end zone. Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins hauled it in for a touchdown, capping an improbable comeback win:

The play caused the first of two great New England radio calls in the day. Patriots color analyst Scott Zolak joyously exclaimed, “Unicorns! Show ponies! Where’s the beef?

Approximately 35 minutes after the Patriots completed their comeback win over the Saints, Game 2 of the American League Championship Series got underway at Fenway Park. The Red Sox faced the Detroit Tigers, who had taken Game 1 of the Series 1-0 behind masterful pitching.

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The Red Sox managed only one hit against the Tigers in the first game, and through seven innings of Game 2, had only added two more. Heading into the bottom of the 8th, Boston trailed 5-1, facing the grim prospect of trailing 0-2 in the series heading back to Detroit.

With one out, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks sent a line drive into left field for a base hit. This triggered the second Tigers pitching change of the inning, as Drew Smyly came in to face Jacoby Ellsbury. The centerfielder drew a walk, coaxing another pitching change (Al Albuquerque in for Smyly). Despite getting Shane Victorino to strike out, Albuquerque followed by giving up a base hit to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases with two outs.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland knew what was coming, so he made yet another pitching change. He sent for his closer, Joaquin Benoit.

And with two outs and the bases loaded, up stepped David Ortiz. He represented the potential tying run, and Ortiz – like the rest of New England – knew it.

“Now, they’ve got Ortiz, who’s never homered against Benoit,” announced Joe Buck on the television broadcast. As if on cue, Ortiz provided the second half of the day’s legendary moments. He belted Benoit’s first pitch over the bullpen fence for a game-tying, series-altering grand slam:

The Red Sox jumped to life. In the 9th inning, Boston’s Jarrod Saltalamachia scorched a walk-off base hit into left field, and the 6-5 comeback win was complete. The Red Sox would go on to win the ALCS, and the World Series.

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Boston Globe photographer Stan Grossfeld’s picture of Torii Hunter’s legs falling over the bullpen wall as Boston Policeman Steve Horgan celebrated in the background became instantly iconic.

And not unlike Brady’s moment, Ortiz’s clutch performance spawned a memorable radio call. WEEI play-by-play commentator Dave O’Brien’s spontaneous repetition of Ortiz’s name conveyed the sheer awe of what they had just seen.