14 of Papi's most memorable moments

November 18th, 2023

David Ortiz's numbers jump off the stat sheet. The Dominican Republic native played until he was 40, putting up one of the best final seasons -- at any age -- in baseball history. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2022, after putting together a career full of amazing moments.

Let's look at some of Big Papi's top moments (in chronological order) since he helped change the course of Red Sox history with his arrival in 2003.

1. 1st HR for Red Sox

It's easy to forget that Ortiz was a part-time player in the first couple of months of his first season with the Red Sox. So on the night of April 27, 2003, when the Red Sox were playing on the road against the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball, Ortiz started the game on the bench. But manager Grady Little called on him to pinch-hit in the top of the 14th and Ortiz went to the opposite field for a go-ahead home run -- his first with the Red Sox. As Ortiz rounded the bases, ESPN captured Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez roaring with approval from the stands.

2. Start of a postseason legend

Ortiz's first huge hit in the postseason came in Game 4 of the 2003 American League Division Series against the Athletics. With the Red Sox trailing in the series, 2-1, and in the game, 4-3, Ortiz stepped to the plate with two on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Facing future teammate Keith Foulke, Ortiz mauled a two-run double off the bullpen wall in right, giving Boston the lead. The Sox went to Oakland and won the decisive Game 5 the next day, successfully overcoming a 2-0 series deficit.

3. Game, set, series

There are few things more thrilling for a baseball player than ending a postseason series with a home run. Ortiz did just that in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS, clocking Jarrod Washburn's first pitch over the Green Monster in the bottom of the 10th inning to complete a three-game sweep of the Angels. That hit marked the first time Ortiz gave his signature helmet flip before touching home and being mobbed by teammates.

4. Back from the brink

For all the talk about Dave Roberts and his legendary steal helping the Red Sox tie Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series in the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees, the game was still going on in the 12th. Ortiz provided the big hit, smashing a walk-off homer on a slider by Paul Quantrill. Though the Red Sox still trailed in the series, 3-1, Ortiz created the belief that the impossible could happen.

5. Another day, another walk-off hit

Leave it to Ortiz to produce back-to-back walk-off hits in extra innings with Boston on the brink of elimination. In Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox were down, 4-2, in the eighth. Ortiz opened the fame with a towering shot over the Monster against New York's Tom Gordon. Boston tied it later in the inning, but the game was still going in the 14th when Ortiz engaged in a 10-pitch at-bat with Esteban Loaiza that included six foul balls.

Ortiz set off euphoria again, this time with a flare that fell in front of Bernie Williams in center, as Johnny Damon raced home with the winning run. "Damon running to the plate. He can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night," exclaimed Joe Buck to viewers on FOX.

The Red Sox, helped by a two-run shot by Ortiz in the first inning of Game 7, won the last two in New York to become the first -- and still only -- team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

6. "The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox"

At some point in 2005, Red Sox owner John Henry had a plaque made for Ortiz that stated, "The Greatest Clutch Hitter in the History of the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, No. 34" -- he was simply waiting for the right time to give it to him.

So after Ortiz hit a majestic walk-off blast off Scot Shields to sink the Angels the night of Sept. 6, 2005, Henry found Ortiz in the clubhouse and presented him with the plaque. A decade later, few can argue with the inscription.

7. No. 51

From 1938-2005, Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx held the Red Sox's record for most homers in a season, with 50. But by midseason of 2006, it was becoming clear Ortiz had a real shot at breaking that record. By the end of July, Ortiz had 37 homers. Fittingly, Ortiz broke the franchise record on Sept. 21, 2006, against the Twins -- the team that released him more than three years earlier. The blast was hit against Johan Santana, one of the premier pitchers in the game at that point. Ortiz finished the season with 54 homers, and his club record still stands.

8. "This is our … city"

Ortiz had already been a fixture in the Boston community for many years. But he took it to another level on April 20, 2013. Boston had been ripe with emotion for days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and Ortiz addressed the Fenway faithful prior to the team's first game back. "This is our f------ city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom," Ortiz bellowed. At that moment, Ortiz demonstrated that he was feeling the same things as so many Bostonians.

9. The series-shifting slam

The Red Sox had been shut out by the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS, losing 1-0. And they trailed, 5-1, with two outs in the eighth inning of Game 2. Not only that, but Justin Verlander was armed and ready to take the ball for the Tigers in Game 3. Luckily for the Red Sox, it was Ortiz's turn to hit. And he came up with a homer as dramatic as any other in his career -- a game-tying grand slam to right-center field in which Torii Hunter went sprawling into Boston's bullpen. The image of Boston police officer Steve Horgan raising his arms in triumph in the bullpen is iconic.

10. The speech

Through five innings of Game 4 of the 2013 World Series in St. Louis, the Red Sox were playing tight and Ortiz recognized it. Instead of just watching it continue, he did something about it. Ortiz called a meeting in the dugout just prior to the top of the sixth, telling his teammates they might never again play in a World Series and they needed to capitalize while they were there. Jonny Gomes belted a three-run homer later that inning, and the Red Sox won the game and tied the series at 2-2.

They wouldn't lose again, clinching in Game 6 at Fenway. Meanwhile, Ortiz had one of the most dominant performances in World Series history, hitting .688. Ortiz went 6-for-7 in the crucial victories in Games 4 and 5 that shifted the Fall Classic in Boston's direction.

11. No. 500

Entering the 2015 season, Ortiz needed 34 homers -- matching his uniform number -- to reach 500 in his career. Sure, he hit 35 in '14, but at the age of 39, was it realistic to expect he could have another season like that? It didn't seem like it when Ortiz arrived to work on June 10, hitting .219 with six homers. But then he went on a power tear that didn't subside until the season ended. On Sept. 12, playing against the Rays on a Saturday night at Tropicana Field, Ortiz walloped two homers to reach 500. His Red Sox teammates mobbed him at home plate.

12. Ortiz homers for Maverick

In the first Red Sox-Yankees rivalry game of 2016 on April 29, Ortiz clocked a first-pitch curveball against Dellin Betances into the Monster Seats for a go-ahead two-run homer that led the way to a 4-2 victory. It was enough of a moment in and of itself, but it turns out there was more to the story. Ortiz had promised a 6-year-old boy named Maverick Schutte in a pregame conversation that he would hit a home run for him that night. It was a thrill for Maverick, who was born with a congenital heart defect and has already had nearly 30 surgeries in his young life. A couple of weeks later, Maverick flew to Boston from his Wyoming home and threw a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway to Big Papi.

13. Passing Teddy Ballgame

Leave it to Ortiz to pass three Hall of Famers with one home run swing. Such was the case at Fenway Park on the night of July 1, when he ripped No. 522 to pass Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas. Considering what Williams has meant to both the Red Sox and baseball history, the accomplishment was not lost on Big Papi.

"Like I said before, any time you can attach your name to Mr. Williams, that's a good thing. The man did it all," Ortiz said.

14. The Fenway finale

In a ceremony befitting Ortiz's legendary status, he had a street and bridge named after him prior to his final regular-season game, on Oct. 2, 2016. Then there was the news that No. 34 would be retired at Fenway Park the next season. Ortiz was the first Red Sox player to have his number retired within a year of his career ending. In an emotional ceremony, Ortiz got down on one knee to thank the fans of Boston.

And there was also one big hit in his final home series, a two-run shot to right on Friday night that led the Red Sox to a 4-2 win.

"Big-time player. Big-time playmaker," teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. said.