The Red Sox had won seven of eight games and 22 out of 30 entering Father’s Day back in June. In the hours before they were to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers, David Ortiz approached a flank of reporters and gave his best wishes to the fathers in the group.
Ortiz then cracked a joke about all of the non-fathers, taking a not-so-subtle stab at their inability to get a date, so to speak. The timing, the delivery and the wording were all perfect, and anyone within earshot had a hearty laugh.
Hours later, the Red Sox finished an 8-1 homestand with a shutout win over the Dodgers, followed by more good times in the clubhouse.
Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, requires players and coaches to find time to let loose, to have a good laugh. When a good hitter fails 70 percent of the time and a great team might have 60-plus losses, a sense of humor is imperative.
That logic can be applied to most any situation.
One of the signature funny lines this season for the Red Sox came the night of May 4, when Dustin Pedroia took to the defense of designated hitter David Ortiz, who at the time was mired in a woeful slump. Ortiz was hitting .149 and was coming off an effort in which he struck out twice and hit into two double plays, stranding seven runners in a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
When asked after that game what was wrong with Ortiz, Pedroia uttered this now-famous line: “David’s fine. He’s one of our teammates. It could have been me who hit into a double play. It happens to everybody. He’s had 60 at-bats. A couple of years ago, I had 60 at-bats, and I was hitting .170, and everybody was ready to kill me, too. What happened? Laser show.”
The line cracked everybody up, gave us all a catchphrase to utilize each time Pedroia lines one off the Green Monster and may have served to loosen up Boston’s big slugger.
Ortiz went 2-for-3 with a home run the very next night, starting a seven-game hitting streak and propelling the DH to a remarkable stretch through the end of the month that saw him hit .391 with eight home runs.
He was awarded the American League Player of the Month, and while plenty of personal work went into it, Ortiz certainly got a boost from Pedroia’s humor.
Perhaps that was why Ortiz, then hitting .263 with three home runs in his previous five games, paid it forward on Father’s Day.