Mike El-Far | June 12th, 2019
Sunday night was supposed to be a great night for Boston fans everywhere. The Boston Bruins were in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Finals and had a chance to force a decisive Game 7 at the Garden on Wednesday. But by the end of the night, the concern wasn’t on what to make for the Game 7 watch party, but the health of the most impactful athlete in Boston history: David Ortiz.
Now, if you aren’t aware, Boston has gotten pretty good at winning over the last two decades. All four major teams have won a championship since 2008, and the Bruins have a chance to join the Patriots and Red Sox in winning multiple titles in that span. This trend is relatively new to “Titletown”, though. The Bruins spent almost 4 decades between titles, the Patriots couldn’t win until Tom Brady and Bill Belichick joined forces, and the Red Sox had that pesky 86 year-old curse.
Clearly, there are many players that have contributed to this success, and many have “cult-hero” status in Boston. If you were going to do a Mount Rushmore of Boston athletes during this time period, it probably looks like Tom Brady, David Ortiz, Patrice Bergeron, and Paul Pierce. While all of these athletes are looked at as larger than life in this area, here is why Big Papi has had the most impact.
The one common thread from all four aforementioned athletes is a championship. But it’s not just any championship, it is the first title for each team in at least 22 years. Winning is everything in Boston, and cannot be substituted by anything else. While Brady delivered the first championship for the New England Patriots in 2002, Ortiz essentially did the same for 90% of Red Sox fans.
Also, Papi had so many postseason moments it’s hard to pick just one. The walk-off hits in games four and five of the 2004 ALCS, the grand slam in the 2013 ALCS into the bullpen, and the complete domination in the 2013 World Series are just a couple quick memories. If you want to truly nitpick, David Ortiz is also the only member of that group to never lose in a championship game/series.
By 2004 the Patriots had won two Super Bowls and were on their way to win a third. When the Red Sox were able to finally take down the Yankees on their way to their first World Series since 1918, it seemed to be a catalyst for the rest of the teams. The Pats win in 2005, the Sox win in 2007, Celtics in 2008, and Bruins in 2011. The Red Sox winning, especially the way they did in 2004, really started to change the narrative of Boston sports.
Currently, the largest immigrant group in the city of Boston is comprised of Dominican-born people. Massachusetts as a whole has over 100,000 Dominican-Americans residing in the state. This commonality has made certain Dominican-born Red Sox players beloved by the fans. In the late ’90s/early 2000s, whenever Pedro Martinez took the mound at Fenway Park you were guaranteed to see Dominican flags waving in the crowd. This was such a part of the culture that when Pedro Martinez got his number retired by the Boston Red Sox, he had one ceremony in English and one in Spanish.
Coming not only from the Dominican Republic, but being from the capital of Santo Domingo, there were many people in the city who looked up to what Ortiz was doing. Not only was he a great player on the field, but he was extremely involved with charity efforts both in the Boston area as well as in his home country. Being hands-on with the community both domestic and abroad super-sized the love and respect he got from the fans.
Sometimes, timing is absolutely everything. With that being said, think about what is the most iconic moment for each of the four Boston athletes. Patrice Bergeron’s is probably the two goals in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Paul Pierce will always be remembered for the wheelchair incident during Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Tom Brady, with all of his moments, probably will forever be linked to the 28-3 comeback in Superbowl LI.
David Ortiz? His moment has nothing to do with sports. On April 15th, 2013 the city of Boston was shaken to its core. Two cowards decided to plant homemade bombs along the finish line of the Boston Marathon and took the lives of five people and maimed countless others. The first home game for a Boston sports team was April 20th, as the Red Sox hosted the Kansas City Royals. David Ortiz took a microphone before the game and told the city of Boston to “Stay Strong”.
That impassioned speech, with the image of his fist raised in the air, is the profound leader of iconic moments by David Ortiz. Here is a man who is not even from this country trying to unite the members of this community together after an act that was meant to rip them apart. We know the rest; Daniel Nava hits the home run in the 8th inning to beat the Royals. They go on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in six games and win the 2013 World Series. And Ortiz takes home another piece of hardware: the 2013 World Series MVP award.
Sure, you can make the argument that there have been better players for the Boston Red Sox (Ted Williams). You can argue that Tom Brady has had a significantly better career. You can use the DH position as a slight to Ortiz. But in terms of most impactful Boston athletes both on and off the field, the case is closed. It was, is, and forever will be David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
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