The announcement that David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox will retire after the 2016 begins the reminiscing of his career and its place within baseball history. The numbers associated with Ortiz are impressive, and there is plenty of time to debate his hall of fame candidacy. His statistics place him in Cooperstown, but the allegations of his using Performance Enhancing Drugs could raise some doubts in the minds of Baseball Writers. The Baseball Writers will do what they believe is appropriate, let them debate whether Ortiz is enshrined in Cooperstown.
Few athletes have meant as much to a city as David Ortiz has to Boston. He is happy and playful, but he always stands up for himself and his teammates. Ortiz played a critical role in helping the Red Sox to win three World Series championships during his tenure. He will always be a beloved figure in Boston for helping to break the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. Winning the World Series again in 2007 and 2013 only solidified his place in Boston sports lore.
On-field success has showcased Ortiz’s talents, but it is what he did for the city of Boston itself that he should be most remembered for once he retires. Following the Boston Marathon Bombing, the entire city of Boston went into lockdown. Even after the death of one and capture of the other bomber, the fear of the unknown still hung in the air. Would there be another attack? Was it safe to go out to big public events? Many legitimate concerns proliferated among Bostonians.
On June 11, 2008, David Ortiz became an American Citizen. He chose to become part of the fabric of the United States. America is a land of immigrants, only the Native Americans have not at some point immigrated to what has become the United States. Immigrants from all over the world play an important role in shaping America. On April 20, 2013, Ortiz, an American Citizen who came to America to play baseball, gave the city of Boston the pep talk it needed to feel good again and not allow a few people dictate how they live. Standing along the first base line, with a giant American flag draped over the Green Monster, David Ortiz told the Fenway crowd and the rest of Boston:
“Alright Boston. This jersey that we wear today it doesn’t say Red Sox it says Boston. We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week. This is our fucking city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”
You may not like the language Ortiz used when speaking to the crowd, but it encapsulated everything the people of Boston had felt since the bombing. Boston needed to hear from one of their own that everything was going to be ok. This is exactly what David Ortiz gave to the people of Boston when they needed it the most.
The debate about David Ortiz’s place in baseball history and should he be enshrined in Cooperstown is up to the Baseball Writers. What I think of first when I hear the name David Ortiz is a man who used his place on the Boston Red Sox to tell his fellow Bostonians and Americans that it is ok to be scared, but that no one is going to change who we are. David Ortiz gave the city of Boston exactly what it needed, when they needed it, and for this, he will always hold a special place in their hearts.