BOSTON -- The celebrating of David Ortiz will be there for all to see tonight, when his No. 34 takes a permanent place on the right-field façade of Fenway Park.But the celebration started on Thursday. First, in the afternoon, the city of Boston renamed Yawkey Way Extension David Ortiz Drive.
BOSTON -- The celebrating of David Ortiz will be there for all to see tonight, when his No. 34 takes a permanent place on the right-field façade of Fenway Park.
But the celebration started on Thursday. First, in the afternoon, the city of Boston renamed Yawkey Way Extension David Ortiz Drive. And then Thursday evening brought a night of laughs at the expense of the retired slugger. Make that howling laughs at The Roast of David Ortiz, which took place at a nightclub on Lansdowne Street, not far from many of the towering home runs Big Papi smacked during his legendary career.
A lineup of designated roasters, as they were called, took their turns poking fun at a man known for all the fun he had during his career.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, actor Anthony Mackie and comedians Josh Wolf, Bill Burr, Lenny Clarke and Sarah Tiana were all part of the pile on Big Papi event, from which all proceeds went to the David Ortiz Children's Fund.
The laughs began before the event even started.
"We drove by each other on our way in, and [Pedroia] was like, 'I'm going to get you tonight.'" Ortiz said. "I was like, 'Relax, little guy.'"
Once Pedroia finally took the stage, the diminutive second baseman brought down the house with a story that had never been told before.
"It was in 2015," Pedroia said. "I had already played with David for, I don't know, nine years? I hit right in front of him for nine years. We go on deck and we're playing the Indians at home, and the umpire went to go [to the bathroom]. So the catcher didn't have a ball and the ball kind of rolled over, and the catcher comes over to me and goes, 'Hey, what's up, Dustin?'
"I said, 'What's up, man?' David walks over and goes, 'What did he call you?' I said, 'He called me Dustin.' David then said, 'Why did he call you that?' I said, 'That's my name.' He goes, 'Is that right?'"
Keep in mind that Ortiz's poor recollection of names is the reason he got the Big Papi nickname in the first place. Ortiz would simply call anyone "Papi" if he didn't know their first name.
"I was like, 'Yeah bro, I've played 1,600 games with you, they've actually said it 5,000 times, now batting, Number 15, Dustin Pedroia', and he goes, 'I thought it was Pee Wee.' I'm dead serious," Pedroia said. "Now the umpire comes back and we're standing together, and I've got to hit and I look at him and go, 'He thought my parents would name me Pee Wee?' And he's just looking at me. The umpire is yelling at me [to hit]. The catcher is laughing because he can kind of hear what we're saying. That's my favorite [Ortiz story]."
Gronkowski was in his typically joyful mood as he took some jabs at another of Boston's most beloved sports stars.
"Big Papi and I have a lot in common," Gronkowski said. "We both have fun-loving personalities. But also, we both only play offense. Did you know David's average time as DH is that he spent 4.3 minutes a game actually doing something athletic? My mom's Fitbit has more steps after a brisk morning walk. Big Papi, you're an inspiration to beer league, overweight softball players."
Before the event started, Ortiz said that he would just sit there and take it. But after the roasters were done with him, he had his chance for payback.
"Gronk is my man," said Ortiz. "We dominate at our positions, we are adored by our fans, but English wasn't our first language. Seriously, you were born in this country, Gronk? How do I speak English better than you? Come on, man!"
The roast was the conclusion of Papi's whirlwind day, which ended with laughter and proceeds that will be used for children in Boston and the Dominican Republic to have open-heart surgery.
"To me, this is bigger than hitting homers," said Ortiz. "It's better than the best hit I could ever think of for me personally. This is bigger than anything, and that's why we're here tonight."
The roast will be televised on NESN on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Big Papi's number retirement ceremony will be streamed live on MLB.com and redsox.com, starting at approximately 6:30 p.m. today.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.