Ortiz stood in shallow left field at Fenway Park late Wednesday night, not far from the spot where, six months ago, he dictated an impassioned love letter to the city of Boston. Behind Ortiz was a shiny black truck, his reward for winning the World Series' Chevrolet Most Valuable Player Award. Around him gathered fans, well-wishers and teammates, so many of them waiting, waiting, waiting for him to say the words again.
"This," Ortiz finally shouted, offering a clean version this time, "is our bleeeeeeeep city!"
Speaking for Boston, Ortiz also spoke for himself, in the middle of a town that has long been his to own. Twice previously a World Series star, Ortiz sealed his legend this week by running away with MVP honors.
Ortiz hit .688 in the series, the second-highest average in a single Fall Classic. He reached base at a .760 clip and slugged 1.188, ranking second and ninth in those categories, respectively. Ortiz hit so unconscionably well that the Cardinals finally decided in Game 6 not to pitch to him -- a strategy that backfired when he twice scored following intentional walks.
World Series MVPs since 1980
R. Johnson/C. Schilling
In short, Ortiz performed like a supersize version of the October legend that he already was. Gone was the 37-year-old who earlier this month bemoaned his aches and pains, replaced by a grinning, high-wattage version framed by his new truck.
"I'm back, baby!" this version boomed to the tens of thousands who watched the Sox celebrate.
In reality, Ortiz is the only one who never left, the only one remaining from Boston's 2004 championship run. He is not the official captain, but he may as well be considering his impact on the team.
Heading into the sixth inning of Game 4, sensing something lacking from his teammates, Ortiz called the Sox together for an impromptu team meeting in the visitors' dugout of Busch Stadium. He spoke that night of the rarity of this opportunity, challenging them to make the most of it.
Moments later, Jonny Gomes hit a go-ahead three-run homer, and the Sox never trailed again in the Series.
"We're talking about a likely Hall of Fame player," manager John Farrell said. "The new players that came in, they look up to [Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury] and their leadership, how they respond to the distractions or the requirements to play successfully here in the city. And they gave a lot of guys confidence just the way they carry themselves. Yes, they're successful players, but they remained focused. They push away those distractions, and I think our guys draw a lot of confidence from the way they go about their work."
It helps to be a generational-type talent, as Ortiz clearly is. But rather than gush praise on his longest-tenured player, Farrell said he would "rather let his bat do the talking, because it's pretty special."
Ortiz reached base safely at least once in all six World Series games, extending his lifetime streak to 14. He did so at least thrice in five of the six games, at one point tying a World Series record by reaching safely in nine consecutive plate appearances.
And yet, until Game 6, the Cards continually pitched to Ortiz in big spots -- something that surprised even Farrell, who credited it to the depth behind Big Papi in his lineup. There was simply no stopping Ortiz, who scored seven runs in the series, hit two doubles and two homers and drove in six, splitting his time between designated hitter and first base.
"He's as hot as anyone you're going to see this time of year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We tried to make tough pitches in tough situations, tried to pitch around him at times. What this comes down to is, they got big hits in big situations, and that's something that eluded us."
For the Sox, Ortiz's presence is not about to change; he remains under contract next season. But Ortiz will turn 38 next month, meaning he has already blown past the age at which most sluggers turn mortal. Many of his peers from 2004 have long since retired, some of them even returning to Fenway last week for a tribute ceremony.
Ortiz may play in the World Series next year, or the year after, or the year after that, but it is not unreasonable to think this might have been his last turn to win.
If so, there is not much for Ortiz -- now a three-time World Series champion, the first non-Yankee to win three with one team since Jim Palmer did so with the Orioles -- to regret. He already stood beside Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Tom Brady in the Boston sports pantheon. Any further accomplishments would fall well beyond the bounds of reasonable expectation.
"I can't add anything more to the legend that's already there," general manager Ben Cherington said. "He keeps writing more chapters on his own."