It’s hard to fathom a Boston Red Sox lineup without David Ortiz in the middle of it.
Such will be the case next year, though, as Big Papi gets set to retire after 20 illustrious major league seasons. Ortiz spent the bulk of those two decades in Boston, winning over an entire region with his big bat and even bigger personality.
We can think of a million reasons why Red Sox fans love Ortiz and will miss him as he walks out the door. But since we don’t have all day — Boston has a World Series title to chase, after all — we’ll give you 34, a number that might have a permanent place at Fenway Park in the near future.
Without further ado, we present the “Big Papi 34:”
1. He started from the bottom; now he’s here.
2. He came into the league carrying a big stick.
3. He used a rocky tenure with the Minnesota Twins as motivation to become one of the most prolific designated hitters in the game.
4. He’s been clutch since the moment he joined the Red Sox. His first home run with Boston came in the 14th inning of an April 2003 game and broke a 4-4 tie with the then-Anaheim Angels.
5. His first walk-off hit in a Red Sox uniform came against — who else? — the New York Yankees.
6. He’s appeared on four Sports Illustrated covers — including one with the Boston Police Department.
(H/t to Boston.com for the photo)
7. His bat has the power to transform other people into icons.
8. He’s not a fan of playing telephone.
9. When he gets ejected, he knows how to get his money’s worth.
10. He also likes to go out on his own terms.
GIF via MLB’s Cut4
11. He can throw down with the best of them.
12. He’s had his fun with mascots — not too much fun, though.
GIF via MLB’s Cut4
13. He isn’t afraid to Cowboy Up.
14. The guy is mowed into Fenway Park’s outfield grass. Seriously, how cool is that?
15. He’s about to get his very own bridge near Fenway Park, too.
16. He delivered one of the most clutch hits in Red Sox history.
17. He’s hit so many walk-offs that even his series-winning home run can get overlooked.
18. He helped Boston “Reverse the Curse,” hitting .308 with a homer and four RBIs to help the Red Sox sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.
19. He was even better in the 2007 World Series, going 5-for-15 (.333) with four RBIs in Boston’s four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
20. He took things to another level in 2013. Big Papi hit an incredible .688 (11-for-16) during the 2013 World Series, reaching base 23 times in six games while hitting two home runs and driving in six.
That was enough to earn him a new car as World Series MVP.
21. He starred in one of the best “This Is SportsCenter” commercials ever.
22. He once beat Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in a minor league home run derby.
23. He then defeated all comers in the real thing in 2010, outslugging future teammate Hanley Ramirez.
24. He and Manny Ramirez formed one of the most potent 1-2 lineup punches in recent memory.
25. He and Pedro Martinez are best buds.
26. He took a selfie with the leader of the free world.
27. The most nervous he’s ever been wasn’t ahead of a big at-bat, but when his daughter sang the national anthem at Fenway this season.
28. When asked what he’d like Red Sox fans to remember about his storied career, this was his response:
“I have been an OK player, but what means the most to me is being a good human being. … I really care more about the impact that I can make on somebody else’s life.”
29. He knows how to make good on a promise.
30. He’s touched countless lives in the community over the course of multiple visits to Massachusetts General Hospital and other local care centers.
31. He lifted an entire city with a single sentence.
32. He has the respect of one of the greatest broadcasters ever.
33. He’s going out in style with one of the greatest final seasons in Major League Baseball history.
34. His immense talent and even larger personality has created 13 years worth of lasting memories. Thanks, Big Papi.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images