For this generation of Boston Red Sox fans, there was nobody and there hasn’t been anybody like the legendary David Ortiz.
Ortiz, the longtime designated hitter of the Red Sox, was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday after earning 77.9% of the vote. He secured his spot in the coveted class while being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Ortiz finished his career with a .286 batting average, 541 home runs, 1,768 RBIs, and most importantly three World Series titles along with his jaw-dropping postseason statistics.
There are a number of other accolades that helped Ortiz secure his spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but many of those don’t matter to the generation of Red Sox fans that grew up with him as the centerpiece of the team for 14 seasons. What mattered most were the moments, the memories, and the hope he always managed to give young Red Sox fans.
Older supporters, after all, had been so used to heartbreak. The generations of Red Sox fans before the 2000s lived and knew the hardships and dealt with “The Curse” of zero World Series championships for 86 years. The next generation learned about winning in large part because of Ortiz.
“Big Papi,” as he was known to all ages, created Red Sox fans for life with his late-game and postseason heroics. Many point to his heroics in 2004 that helped lead the Red Sox to their first World Series since 1918, but he was just as important — if not more important — in 2013 when the city of Boston went through what it did after the Boston Marathon bombing.
At that moment, it wasn’t just on the field where Ortiz made his impact. His well-known “This is our (expletive) city!” speech remains a signature moment that Boston fans hold on to when it comes to talking about his contributions. The power in those words will stay with the city and its fans forever.
Athletes are often these larger than life figures. Ortiz, while absolutely in that discussion, always helped fans feel important. There was a personal level there that humanized the 10-time All-Star. As he played his final game at Fenway Park on Oct. 10, 2016, it really did feel as though the fans were saying goodbye to their friend.
Ortiz means a lot to Red Sox fans of all generations, but he meant everything to those who grew up watching him. He made Red Sox baseball must-see television each and every night.
“Big Papi” is one major reason people fell in love with Red Sox baseball. And he’s the reason they will be fans of the sport, and specifically the Red Sox, for the rest of their lives.