Red Sox: 2004 ALCS was David Ortiz’s coming out party
By Jake Ellis
The Boston Red Sox are set to retire David Ortiz‘s jersey on Friday, June 23rd. Let’s take a look back at one of Big Papi’s biggest moments.
On June 23, David Ortiz’s jersey will be retired by our Boston Red Sox. While he has given fans a lifetime of memories, I want to focus on the time where he truly lived up to his nickname of Big Papi.
Flashback to 2004 after the Red Sox had just been drubbed 19-8 by our hated rivals, the New York Yankees. The Yankees had scored 32 runs in the first three games. No team had ever come back from a 3-0 lead. Our Red Sox were in big trouble.
The Red Sox were down 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth. Not only did the Sox need to score a run, but they needed to do it off probably the best closer of all time in Mariano Rivera. The Yankees’ closer walked Kevin Millar. The Sox needed to score, so they put Dave Roberts on to get a runner into scoring position. Roberts stole second. As soon as Roberts stole second, Bill Mueller singled him home and the Sox tied the game.
Paul Quantrill was pitching for the Yankees in the bottom of the 12th inning. In an interview with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, Ortiz recalls his famous walk-off.
"“A front-door sinker. He threw it to me all the time,” Ortiz said to Verducci, “When you see him, ask him, What did you throw Papi back then to get him out? Front-door sinker. Because he’s got a good one. It starts at you, and then boom, comes back. But you know what, to be able to do that, you can’t just go out there with an empty mind. You need to have that hard drive all set.”"
Ortiz hit a two-run walk-off home run to right field. The Sox got this one, but little did we know that this was the start of something special for David Ortiz.
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Flash forward to the eighth inning of Game 5. Ortiz came through again, hitting another home run off of Tom Gordon, bringing it to a one run game. The Red Sox and Yankees were held scoreless after that until the bottom of the 14th. Just like the night before, Ortiz came through again, this time knocking in Johnny Damon, prompting a huge celebration at Fenway and forcing a Game 6.
Before the Red Sox, the 1998 Atlanta Braves and the 1999 New York Mets were the only baseball teams to ever be down 0-3 in a seven game series and force a game 6, but neither the Mets nor the Braves won that next game. So the task ahead of the Sox was still incredibly daunting.
We all remember the walk-offs Ortiz had and the clutch moments he provided for us, but the one thing he installed into the Red Sox that had been missing for 86 years can be summed up into one word: Win. He helped carry the Red Sox to three World Series championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013.
Before Ortiz came to the Red Sox organization, we were lost and had no idea when or if the dreaded Curse of the Bambino would end. It almost ended in 2003, but the way we won in 2004 conquered the baseball world. To reel off eight straight victories against two of the best teams in baseball in the Yankees and Cardinals made it that much sweeter.
There is so much to thank David Ortiz for during his time with the Red Sox. Thank you for lifting that dreaded curse off our Red Sox. Thank you for being an inspirational light after the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Thank you for being the lovable teddy bear that every Bostonian could not resist.
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I think in six words his former teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. put it best when describing Ortiz, “Big-time player. Big-time playmaker.” David Ortiz has done more for this organization than he will ever know. For that, we tip our Red Sox caps, and say one last thank you to David Ortiz, our Big Papi.