The situation: September 27, 2006
The moment: Ortiz’s 51st home run of the year breaks Jimmie Foxx’s Red Sox single-season record
For 68 years, the Red Sox single-season home run record was held by Jimmie “The Beast” Foxx. Foxx’s 50 home runs during the 1938 campaign were not approached even by the legendary sluggers who wore the Red Sox uniform after him: Not by Carl Yastrzemski, not by Jim Rice, not even by “the greatest hitter who ever lived” Ted Williams.
It didn’t look like Ortiz would be able to break Foxx’s record either. Sure, he was hitting home runs at a near league-leading rate, but he was well off Foxx’s pace after only five long balls in May. It took until July for Ortiz to really get going. His fourteen home runs in the month brought his season total to 37, putting him well in a position to reach Foxx’s mark.
Ortiz kept up the pace in August, smacking ten more longballs and leaving him just three back of the record. With the Red Sox well out of the postseason race, the fans could focus all their attention on Ortiz’s pursuit of history. Though he would miss the first week of September with an irregular heartbeat, Ortiz went into a late-season series with the Twins standing on 49 home runs.
Ortiz tied the record with a home run in the opener, and a packed house entered Fenway Park for the middle game looking for Big Papi to hit his record-setting 51st home run.
They wouldn’t have to wait long, as Ortiz launched Cy Young winner Johan Santana’s pitch into the right-field seats. He would hit another in the game and three more on the season, giving him 54 home runs for a franchise record that still stands today.