David Ortiz was feted at Fenway Park yesterday. The 40-year-old slugger will retire following the postseason, and he’s deserving of any and all accolades that come his way. “Big Papi” finished the regular-season portion of his career with 541 home runs, 4,765 total bases, and a .931 OPS.
His October exploits are legendary. Ortiz has 17 home runs and 60 RBI in postseason action, many of which have come in key situations. The Red Sox have captured three World Series titles — their first since 1918 — since he joined the team in 2003. His slash line in those Fall Classics is .455/.576/.795.
The Dominican Republic born-and-raised slugger is a Boston icon for more than his on-field accomplishments. His charitable endeavors have been exemplary, his engaging personality omnipresent. His larger-than-life persona has captivated his adopted home. Ortiz will long be remembered for his words following the Boston Marathon bombing: ‘This is our f-ing city.”
Myriad people throughout the game have shared their thoughts on the soon-to-retire superstar in recent weeks. I collected quotes from 15, including players, managers, executives and broadcasters.
Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals manager: “I’d have loved to have had David Ortiz on my teams. The postseasons he’s had… he’s carried them by himself, through sheer willpower. David Ortiz is one of the best that’s ever played this game. To me, he’s one of the best leaders that’s played this game. People gravitate toward him. That’s what being a leader is about. If David Ortiz wants it… what Big Papi wants, usually Big Papi gets.”
Phil Coke, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher: “I have a lot of memories of facing him. In the 2013 ALCS, when he hit the home run where Torii Hunter went over the wall, I was standing there on the bullpen mound, watching it happen. The next day, he asked me, ‘How come you no pitch against me last night?’
“Their last series against us, I’d introduced him to my wife. This cracks me up, because he’s a great dude. He’s larger than life. I see him and I’m like, ‘Hey, David.’ He’s like, ‘Cokie, what’s up man?’ I say to him, ‘This is my wife.’ He looks at her and goes, ‘I hate facing your husband.’ Then he erupts in laughter.”
Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins infielder: “He’s one of the best DHs of all time. This is my fifth year in the big leagues and he’s always gone out of his way to interact with me. Anytime I’ve had a question, he’s been happy to talk to me. I’ve always loved that the guys I grew up watching — the Jeters, the Pujols — you can call them your friends, so to speak. That’s the most rewarding thing for me. And David Ortiz is a top-notch guy. He’s always having fun. He reminds me of Miguel Cabrera that way. He’s joking around and having fun out on the field. Of course, when he’s in the box he’s all business.”
Dan Duquette, Baltimore Orioles president: “He’s a beloved figure in New England. He’s very articulate and he understands the fans in Boston. He was here to win and his team won. There’s been a common thread on their championships teams: David Ortiz.”
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians manager: “Sometimes Boston can be too much for players. David flourished there. His personality came out and he turned into the face of the Red Sox. There are a few of them, but he’s probably the biggest.
“That speech he made after the bombing — the Marathon— probably only David could have pulled that off the way he did. People didn’t even blink. He’s very special. I have two rings, and David is largely responsible for both.”
Andy Freed, Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster: “I remember seeing David Ortiz not long after he came to the Mariners, when he was still David Arias. I remember looking him up in a media guide. Then I saw him when he played in New Britain, in 1997. What stands out to me is that he didn’t necessarily stand out.
“Seeing him now, at the other end of his career, what I’m most fascinated by is that he’s one of the main guys who caused shifting. When we were [at Fenway Park] in 2006, Joe Maddon set up the 34 Defense, with four outfielders and three infielders. I remember Ortiz getting into the box, looking up and doing a double take, and then stepping out of the box. In time, he ended up beating the shift as well as anybody. He’s used the Green Monster as well as Wade Boggs. But when I think back to him as a New Britain Rock Cat, it’s like a baby compared to a grown up.”
Jonny Gomes, former teammate: “I was fortunate enough to get [a World Series ring] here with David pretty much driving the bus the whole time. All the big hits in 2013. A lot of them. It was, ‘When are we going to stop being surprised?’ He’s obviously going out on top now, so we’re never going to see that time when David didn’t drive the bus.”
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals outfielder: “He’s a guy all players look up to. Knowing this is his last time around, and maybe my last chance to get an autograph from him, I sent a bat over for him to sign. He personalized it. He wrote a heartfelt quote on it. It was pretty meaningful. Little things like that, how a superstar treats everybody, go a long way. He’s well-respected by everybody in this clubhouse, and in every other clubhouse as well.”
Jason Grilli, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher: “What comes to mind for me is how he’s handled big moments. He’s thrived in big situations. That’s what every player aspires to do, and he’s done that here in Boston. He’s come through in clutch situations, and he’s done so a number of times.”
Jerry Howarth, Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster: “David Ortiz is easily the best major-league six-year free agent in the history of the game. It’s amazing that he could spend six years with one organization [the Minnesota Twins] and then come here and become the iconic figure that he is, with possibly four World Series rings.
“All that he’s stood for in the city of Boston, especially when they had the bombings here — Boston Strong — he’s the epitome of an icon. Major League Baseball doesn’t have too many of those. We have Hall of Famers, but not too many icons. And what a Boston Triple Crown: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and David Ortiz.”
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “The numbers speak for themselves. But the man is what I love more. I don’t need to speak for his numbers. We all know what he’s done on the field, especially in big games. Like I said, it’s the man I appreciate more. The genuineness. The humbleness. You don’t need to elaborate when you say you love the human. Big Papi.”
Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox pitcher: “This is my first year playing with him, but I’ve been watching him since I was a kid. He’s special. What he’s been able to do on the field… he comes up huge in big moments. That’s fun to watch. There’s also the professionalism he brings to the clubhouse. And to watch a guy who has played as long as he has — and have all that success — have so much fun… it’s cool to see.”
Mike Napoli, Cleveland Indians infielder: “He’s a great friend. He was a great teammate. To be able to see him before I got to Boston… he was always a great hitter. He’s a guy who would always be good in the clutch. Getting to play with him… I learned a lot from him. Awesome guy, and not just on the field. Off the field, too. What he’s been able to do at his age is remarkable. In my mind, he’s a Hall of Famer.”
Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals manager: “We were here when he made his famous speech after the Marathon bombings, but probably what sticks out to me more than anything else is how much of a threat he is offensively. It was cool to be there at the All-Star Game with him and seeing the massive respect all the players have for him. That was a fun time, too.”
Chris Young, Kansas City Royals pitcher: “He’s a legend. I’ve played against him a long time now and have seen his greatness firsthand. You appreciate what he brings, day in and day out, and the numbers he puts up, year after year. It’s remarkable that he’s done it for as long as he has. You know that any time he steps into the batter’s box he can change the game with one swing. He’s definitely got me a couple of times. He’s got a lot of pitchers. He’s had a great career.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.