In a sort of measuring stick that only has a place in the Boston sports scene, some like to assert their dominance over a younger generation of Red Sox fans by pointing out that we only know what it is like to win.
Sure, those of us born in the late 1990s may not have been cognizant for much, if any, of Boston’s 86-year World Series drought. But one thing we also didn’t particularly understand is what it means for one of our own to be a Hall of Famer.
That changed Tuesday, when Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz was selected for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. He was the only player voted in off of the writer’s ballot, receiving 77.9% of the vote. For induction, a player must get 75% of the votes.
Ortiz’s selection is a major milestone for the Red Sox organization, the city of Boston and the sport of baseball. And for Red Sox fans who grew up with memories of the 2004 World Series that are fleeting at best, this moment conceptualizes what baseball greatness truly is.
Growing up in the age of championship parades, we knew what we were witnessing was special — we heard about it from our parents and our grandparents. But taking a family vacation to the Baseball Hall of Fame or even to Fenway Park, where plaques hang in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, meant hearing stories about players like Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin and Lefty Grove.
They were legends of a bygone era, and it was impossible to truly connect the past to the present moment. With no connection, it was difficult to understand the magnitude of those places and those people.
Pedro Martinez joined their ranks in 2015. Yes, he was a step closer, but having played for the Red Sox from 1998 to 2004, he felt like more of a victory for our parents’ generation than ours. While their careers in Boston overlapped ever so briefly, it was Ortiz whose career defined this generation.
On the playground, he was the one kids would pretend to be when they stepped up to the plate. He was at the center of Halloween costumes and school projects. For so many, he was a first favorite player or a first jersey.
We may not have been old enough to understand the implications of 2004, but we certainly were old enough to understand how much Boston needed him in 2013, when he coined a rallying cry that still rings strong today: “This is our (expletive) city.”
We always knew this was greatness, but was it greatness like Williams or Doerr or so many others?
Now we know — yes, it was. Finally, there will be a plaque in Cooperstown that makes this generation remember a moment and remember a feeling. After all, that’s what baseball is all about in the end.