By Robert Dominguez
Few players have left the game with a flourish like David Ortiz, who at 40 years old and in his final season of a Cooperstown-worthy, 20-year-career put up remarkable numbers in 2016 that belied his age.
On this day in béisbol, May 14, 2016, Big Papi hit a big milestone in his capstone season that put him in the same rarified air of two of baseball’s greatest hitters.
Ortiz, one of the most fearsome clutch hitters in history, also came through for the Red Sox yet again — twice.
Losing 5-4 at home against the Astros, Boston was down to its last out in the ninth when Ortiz, who had already homered earlier, stepped up to the plate with shortstop Xander Bogaerts at first — and rocketed a drive to the deepest part of Fenway’s centerfield for a triple that tied the game.
In the bottom of the 11th, again with two outs and the score still 5-5, Bogaerts was at second when Ortiz spit into his batting gloves before launching another drive to deep center — a double this time to win the game.
It was more than just a typically clutch Papi knock. The two-bagger was Ortiz’s 600th lifetime, making him only the third player besides Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds with more than 500 home runs and 600 doubles.
Ortiz finished 2016 with 38 HR, a .315 average, and a league-leading 127 RBI, 48 doubles and 1.021 OPS before calling it quits.
But his fairy-tale year — and career — had a not-so-happy ending in the postseason, as the Red Sox faced the Indians in the ALDS.
Ortiz, who helped lead Boston to three World Series victories in 12 years after the city suffered through eight decades of championship-less futility, hit a meek .111 with just one hit in three games in the series as the Indians swept the Red Sox.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo: Alex – Cropped, under Creative Commons license