In honor of David Ortiz having his No. 34 retired by the Red Sox, MLB.com and John Hancock are celebrating Big Papi's greatest career moments with the "Papi 10 List," counting down one legendary moment each day leading up to Friday's pregame ceremony at Fenway Park.David Ortiz had already saved
In honor of David Ortiz having his No. 34 retired by the Red Sox, MLB.com and John Hancock are celebrating Big Papi's greatest career moments with the "Papi 10 List," counting down one legendary moment each day leading up to Friday's pregame ceremony at Fenway Park.
David Ortiz had already saved the season less than 24 hours earlier by the time he stepped into the box with two outs in the bottom of the 14th inning in the epic Game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
To push the series back to Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox needed Big Papi again.
• Papi 10 List: Ortiz's greatest moments
Yankees reliever Esteban Loaiza did what he could to extend the game to a 15th inning by throwing Ortiz a series of tough pitches that the lefty slugger fouled off. By the time the 10th pitch of the at-bat was delivered, Ortiz muscled a tough pitch off the handle of his bat and got just enough of it to put it into center field, in front of Bernie Williams.
Johnny Damon raced in from second and the Red Sox -- who were once down, 3-0, in the ALCS and three outs away from getting swept -- were Bronx-bound.
"Damon is running to the plate, and he can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night," Joe Buck exclaimed on FOX, while the Red Sox mobbed Ortiz in the walk-off celebration.
In Game 4, Ortiz had taken a big swing and drilled a two-run walk-off homer to win that contest in 12 innings.
By smacking back-to-back season-saving walk-off hits, Ortiz's status to his teammates and his fans had reached amazing heights.
"His status at that point -- especially in the clubhouse and amongst the players -- was almost other-worldly," recalled former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler. "We almost expected greatness in those late-inning at-bats -- unfairly so. Like he's going to hit 1.000. He's going to get a hit every time. It was going to be an extra-base hit, and it was going to be a dramatic hit. That was sort of what we came to expect from him. We bought into how Boston was feeling about David at that time."
Ortiz had belted a walk-off homer against Jarrod Washburn to clinch the AL Division Series against the Angels.
"David, at that point in his career, turned into the greatest big-RBI guy in the history of baseball," said MLB Network analyst and former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar. "There wasn't a bigger RBI guy going than David Ortiz, period. You knew any situation, he was going to do something special. That's just the way he was. We knew at that point he was a superstar."
"Ortiz at that point turned into a superstar. The '03 season put him on the map. In 2004, he is now a superstar."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.