Photo by Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports
By Rich Mancuso
David Ortiz has always heard the wrong cheers in the Bronx as a part of this New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry and there will always be allegations of “Big Papi” as one of those who got away with using performance enhancing drugs during the baseball steroid era. The rivalry was always intense with Ortiz a major factor at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium
So there was “Big Papi” in the Bronx Thursday night. It would be his last time as an active player at Yankee Stadium and he was all smiles after hitting 53-career home runs against his rival.
“They cheered because they know I’m leaving,” Ortiz said in the middle of the Red Sox clubhouse after his team got swept in three games. That remark got a laugh from the media and a lot of those cheers during a pre-game ceremony in his honor came from the loyal Red Sox fans who
Made the journey to Yankee Stadium.
He was this impact player and continues to be as the Red Sox begin their journey to the World Series when the baseball postseason begins next week. You either loved him or were expected to see another home run ball hit when this impact player came to the plate and used more frequently as the designated hitter.
Yankees fans mostly cheered when Ortiz was introduced prior to the first pitch. But the cheers were slim because Ortiz was their so-called enemy. The ovation was louder when a longtime friend and rival, Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader was introduced. Rivera presented Ortiz with an oil painting depicting his exploits at Yankee Stadium.
“It was very professional,” said Ortiz. The Yankees held a brief and well deserved honor to thank him for his contributions to the game. Ortiz embraced Rivera.and they have the same agent, though “Big Papi” had his issues connecting on a late game cutter thrown by the closer at the height of that Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
The final time in the Bronx was not memorable. There were no home run balls that added to his record number against the Yankees, second most ever by a visiting player at Yankee Stadium. He slowly took the trot to first base after drawing a five-pitch walk in the fourth inning and was replaced by a pinch-runner.
It was the last time David Ortiz walked off the field at Yankee Stadium and headed to the dugout.Slowly there was a quick tip of the cap and David Ortiz heard more cheers this time. Again they were mostly Red Sox fans relishing the moment, but a good amount of Yankees fans who appreciated the David Ortiz exploits over the years stood and cheered.
One of the parting gifts from the Yankees was giving Ortiz a bound book. There were messages from former and current Yankees players and David Cone, the pitcher, who had issues keeping Ortiz from hitting one out of the yard made the presentation.
Said Cone, “When you reflect on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry it is David Ortiz,”
“Wishing you all the best in your retirement,” was one of those messages from former Yankees manager Joe Torre. “You’ve been a terrific clutch hitter during your special career. Personally I wish I you had retired after the 2003 season.”
That was a height of this Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Torre, the manager of four World Series championship teams was the first to say that David Ortiz was the difficult hitter in that Red Sox lineup to keep off base, or for that matter it was trying to pitch around the home run hitter.
Derek Jeter also wrote something in the book, along with current Yankees manager Joe Girardi. And this was only appropriate what the Yankees did, as the Red Sox paid tribute to Jeter up in Fenway Park in a pre game ceremony a few years ago.
“Sweet Caroline” was played, a trademark at Fenway Park. David Ortiz walked off the field with his wife and two daughters and then the game was played. It was not a memorable and final three games for “Big Papi in the Bronx who struck out five times.
“I want to thank the Yankees for being so professional about this night,” he said. In the end, that is what it is all about in a rivalry of this magnitude. Opposing players, fans and most of all the game of baseball can appreciate those moments.
But the journey continues for David Ortiz after Sunday. That’s when the Red Sox try to put a cap on the season and give “Big Papi” another World Series ring.