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About the Author
The Boston Globe was founded in 1872 and is the recipient of 23 Pulitzer Prizes. It is based in Boston. Pedro Martinez is a former Red Sox pitcher and 2004 World Series champion who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. John Henry is the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe.
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The Legend and Legacy of David Ortiz
By John Henry
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 The Boston Globe
All rights reserved.
BIG PAPI // THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF DAVID ORTIZ
DOMINICAN DRIVE AND
BY JOHN POWERS
He originally wanted to be Michael Jordan.
David Ortiz was an imposing manchild who could make plenty of space for himself beneath a basketball rim. But if you lived in the Dominican Republic, your role models were Juan Marichal and Felipe Alou and the rest of the island's storied ballplayers. Once Ortiz vaulted the fence that separated the court from the diamond and swatted a home run in his first at-bat, he was hooked on horsehide.
Enrique Ortiz had been a promising pitcher but his burly son grew up swinging at bottle caps, doll heads, stuffed socks – anything that could pass for a baseball. By 16, David had been discovered by a local scout and passed on to the Florida Marlins, then an expansion franchise that was building a system from scratch.
"Dah-veed, you are going to play in the big leagues someday," his father assured him when he was cut loose, sore-elbowed, from the club's local prospects program after a few months. "Maybe it won't be with the Marlins, but that is their mistake. There are other teams to play for."
Ortiz ended up signing for $7,500 with the Seattle Mariners, who seasoned him for a couple of summers in the Arizona sun, then sent him to their affiliate in Wisconsin, where he was the Midwest League's best defensive first baseman (not a misprint) and hit .322 as the Timber Rattlers reached the 1996 championship round.
That made Ortiz an attractive trading piece and when the Mariners needed a third baseman for the stretch run, he suddenly found himself a Twin as the player to be named later in the Dave Hollins deal. "This was one of the best young hitters I've ever been around," observed Wisconsin manager Mike Goff, who said he "lost it" when he was told that Ortiz had been swapped.
Ortiz responded with a breakout year, zooming from A-ball to the majors in five months, hitting .317 with 31 homers and 124 runs batted in along the way. "He just stormed through our minor-league system," observed general manager Terry Ryan.
Minnesota, a losing club that needed offensive punch, plugged in Ortiz as its everyday first baseman in 1998. He was hitting .306 when he fractured the hamate bone in his right wrist, the slugger's occupational hazard, had surgery, and missed two months.
That was the beginning of an up-and-down ride in the Twin Cities that lasted for five years and was marked by injuries, confusion, and frustration. The mutual disenchantment between Ortiz and the club began in spring training in 1999 when the Twins sent their 23-year-old strongman, who was hitting .137 with a dozen strikeouts in 51 at-bats, down to the Salt Lake Buzz for development.
After crushing Triple A pitching, Ortiz was back by September and in 2000 he was their main but miscast designated hitter, a basher for a club that wanted him to be a singles hitter. "Whenever I took a big swing, they'd say to me, 'Hey, hey, what are you doing?'" he recalled. "So I said, 'You want me to hit like a little (girl), then I will.'"
Ortiz never was quite sure what the club wanted from him and it didn't help that he and manager Tom Kelly weren't on the same page. "I don't think he really liked me," Ortiz mused later. "I don't know why. That was his style, not just with me. He was hard on young players. He was the kind of manager who likes veteran players. He never liked me."
When Ortiz broke his right wrist sliding into home against the Royals (yet stayed in the game and hit a homer in his next at-bat) and missed nearly three months of the 2001 season, it was the beginning of his annus horribilis. His mother Angela was killed at 46 in an automobile accident on the first day of 2002. "She used to love just watching me hitting the ball," said Ortiz, who had her face tattooed on his right arm. "All she worried about was how I hit the ball."
Then, after having knee surgery in the spring to remove bone chips, Ortiz missed several weeks and went 43 games without a homer. His turnaround came after the All-Star break when he heated up with a 19game hitting streak while the Twins ran away with the AL Central and made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, knocking off the Athletics in the divisional series.
"I felt like things were really starting to come together," Ortiz said in his 2007 autobiography "Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits." "I had the best year of my career, a season I dedicated to my mother ... I was starting to make good money playing in the big leagues and I was starting to build my confidence, and I was playing for a team that went to the American League Championship Series. I really thought that things were looking up."
But his days in Minnesota were finished. The club had a Gold Glove first baseman in Doug Mientkiewicz. Ortiz, who was making $950,000, was up for salary arbitration and the Twins, a small-market operation with a limited budget, didn't want to pay him what could have been twice as much. So they let him go in December in what Ryan later conceded was "a bad baseball decision."
"I thought I might get traded or something but I never thought about getting released," said Ortiz. "It just didn't seem like the kind of thing that could happen. I was coming off a pretty good year and I was young and I thought there would be some team out there that would want to trade for a big dude like me."
Ortiz was a man with a point to prove in search of a wall to clear. The opportunity came in the Fens, where the Sox were revamping and, among other things, looking to replace Brian Daubach, whom they'd set free. Ortiz was four years younger, had similar stats, could split time at both first base and DH, and would play for less than half as much money. He also came highly recommended. Pedro Martinez called the Boston front office from Santo Domingo as soon as he heard that Ortiz was on the market and urged that he be signed; fellow countryman Manny Ramirez concurred.
After Ortiz pummeled the ball in the Dominican winter league and showed defensive deftness, club scouts urged general manager Theo Epstein to acquire him. There was little risk or expense and significant upside. "You're looking at a player with the potential to be a middle-of-the-lineup bat in the big leagues," reckoned Epstein, who inked Ortiz to a one-year deal for $1.25 million.
Ortiz became much more: the greatest clutch hitter in Sox history, who helped put three rings on his teammates' fingers; the supersized face of the franchise; and a civic icon.
BY ANY OTHER NAME, ALWAYS ORTIZ
BY NICK CAFARDO
David Ortiz, known in 1996 as David Arias, was the top defensive first baseman in the Midwest League for the Seattle Mariners' farm team. And when Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan acquired Ortiz from the Mariners for veteran third baseman Dave Hollins later that year, he felt he had stolen a top hitting prospect.
Ortiz proceeded to skyrocket through the Twins' minor league system in 1997, hitting .317 with 31 homers and 124 RBIs.
Five years later, after the 2002 season, Ryan released Ortiz. Ryan has beaten himself up ever since.
"We just made a bad baseball decision," Ryan said.
"I can't say David ever did one thing wrong. He was one of our best hitting prospects. We put him on our 40-man roster when he was in A ball. He just stormed through our minor league system; played at three levels in one year."
And what was Seattle GM Woody Woodward thinking?
David Arias (Ortiz was then using his mother's surname) hit .322 with 18 homers and 93 RBIs for Wisconsin of the Midwest League, while also earning defensive honors at first base.
"We had our people scout the league that year and David really stood out," recalled Ryan. "When Seattle needed a third baseman because of an injury, they came to us and we settled on David as the player to be named later."
Woodward seemed desperate when his third baseman, Russ Davis, was slowed by an injury. Hollins was a veteran having a good season for the Twins, and Woodward earmarked him as Seattle's choice. Ortiz was sent to Minnesota.
In Woodward's defense, he had four players — Alex Rodriguez (123 RBIs), Ken Griffey Jr. (140 RBIs), Jay Buhner (138 RBIs), and Edgar Martinez (103 RBIs) — having huge years. He had a first baseman — Paul Sorrento — with 93 RBIs, and Martinez was the greatest DH of his era. The Mariners scored 993 runs that season.
Ryan didn't have that abundance of offensive firepower.
A young Justin Morneau was behind Ortiz, but he was being converted from catcher to first base. Doug Mientkiewicz was an outstanding defensive player at first base, but the DH spot was open.
"DHs are pretty valuable, especially the ones who have done the things he has done," said Ryan. "You want a complete guy, but that wasn't a problem with us. There was plenty of room for a DH."
"Minnesota did a nice job identifying David as the player they wanted," Woodward said. "We needed a third baseman and Hollins came over and did a nice job for us. We had a lot of good hitters on the major league side, so it was hard to project David down the road on our club, but when he got to Boston ... he's had a great career."
Ortiz was 19 when he played for Mike Goff for Wisconsin in the Midwest League.
"He was tough, but I really liked him and he taught me a lot," Ortiz said. "He'd fine me all the time. Twenty-five or $50 for things. I didn't have any money. But at the end of the year, he gave it all back to me."
Goff wouldn't say what the fines were for.
"If I'd reveal that, David would probably shoot me," Goff said. "He was a wonderful kid. I loved him. He had a great year for me. At the start of the season, I didn't have a first baseman or a lefthanded hitter. People in the organization said he was having throwing problems. I just said the kid had a good year in rookie league and I need a lefthanded hitter and first baseman. They said, 'OK, but he'll be a 24th or 25th guy on the team.'"
Ortiz nearly won the Triple Crown.
Wisconsin got into the playoffs that year and lost in the league championship.
"It was right after the [final] game, and my phone rang. It was one of our farm people and I said, 'Please don't tell me David is the player to be named in the Hollins deal.'"
But that's what they told Goff.
"I lost it," Goff said. "This was one of the best young hitters I'd ever been around. This kid was special. Imagine if we had David and Edgar Martinez on the same team?"
In fact, when he gave Ortiz his cash back, Ortiz said Goff told him, "You know why I was so hard on you? Because of all the players on this team, you're going to be the big leaguer."
"I'll never forget that," Ortiz said.
Ortiz said back then, the Seattle organization didn't pay much attention to players who weren't high draft picks. Latin players, he said, had a tougher time getting through the organization. Ortiz said it was a long haul for those players.
And when he was traded, "I was devastated," Ortiz said.
Ortiz loved Martinez, a player who spoke to Ortiz a lot in spring training, much like Ortiz does now to young Dominican players.
Conversely, Ortiz has no affection for then-Twins manager Tom Kelly, and Ortiz doesn't think there was any the other way, either. Ortiz loved John Russell and Al Newman, two managers who had him in the Twins' lower levels. And Ortiz never blamed Ryan for dumping him.
"Terry is a good man," Ortiz said. "Decisions are decisions. Just because you make a bad decision doesn't mean you're a bad person. I have a lot of respect for Terry. The decision he made wasn't all his."
On Kelly, Ortiz said, "I don't think he really liked me. I don't know why. He was hard on young players."
Ortiz said longtime Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who replaced Kelly in 2002, "was OK. I remember one time in 1998 after the season, I remember Gardy told me, 'See you next year if you're still here.'
"The following year they sent me down on the first cut. A lot of people do things they forget about, but we don't forget. If you don't want people saying things about you later, don't say it," Ortiz said.
Ortiz also remembers a bad moment in Seattle. He said he was going to receive a bat at the Kingdome for being the best hitter in the Mariners minor league system. Lou Piniella, the Mariners manager at the time, was supposed to present him with it.
"I was all excited ahead of time because I'm gonna shake the manager's hand. [Piniella] comes out on the field and basically threw the bat at me and walked away. That was very disappointing. I was like damn ... OK. That's how it is? It was something I never forgot," Ortiz said.
In Minnesota, Ortiz was platooning at DH with Matt Le- Croy. Ortiz finally broke out in 2002 when he hit 20 homers and knocked in 75 runs in 412 at-bats. He was going to get about $1.5 million in arbitration that year and the Twins decided to let him go. He settled with the Red Sox after they picked him up for $1.25 million.
Ryan disputes money was the factor.
"I hit 20 and knocked in 75 runs in 400 at-bats. Imagine if you give me 500-550 at-bats what that might lead to? I knew I was good. I knew I was a stud as a hitter, but I just couldn't prove it until I got the chance to play every day in Boston. And I had to wait for that because we had Jeremy Giambi," Ortiz said.
Theo Epstein had to be talked into picking up Ortiz by Red Sox international scout Louis Eljaua. Epstein balked because he had Giambi, but he still signed Ortiz. It was one of the best moves Epstein ever made.
"It's never been easy but that's good," Ortiz said. "That forces you to give everything you have. It's different when you have to fight your way through it. You don't take things for granted."
And as for his name, Arias or Ortiz?
"I haven't changed my name," Ortiz said. "When I was in Seattle they used to call me my mother's last name and sent my visa in my mother's name. When I got to Minnesota I straightened all that out. They said if something happens in the future we should call you by your father's last name. People think I changed my name, but I always went by Ortiz."CHAPTER 2
BIG PAPI // THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF DAVID ORTIZ
BIRTH OF A LEGEND
BY JOHN POWERS
The first one was an autumnal preview of all the rest since. The Red Sox were down two games to one to the Athletics in the 2003 American League Divisional Series and were facing extinction at home, trailing 4-3 with two out in the eighth. Then David Ortiz, who'd been 0-for-16 with six strikeouts to that point in the series, launched a drive off future teammate Keith Foulke that bounced off the Oakland bullpen for the game-winning double, setting up his team to win the series on the road the next day.
"This is how guys are made heroes," observed first baseman Kevin Millar.
Thus did Ortiz make himself into Senor Octubre, the savior of seasons. All three of Boston's championship campaigns – 2004, 2007, and 2013 – bore Big Papi's timely thumbprints. None were more notable than the first of them, which ended 86 years of frustration and was made possible by Ortiz's consecutive wee-hour walkoffs that brought the Sox back from the dead against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
They were down three games to none after a brutal 19-8 home loss that concluded in a near-empty ballpark. "I thought about all the people I saw at the field that night, destroyed," said Ortiz, whose 10th-inning, two-out walkoff homer had clinched a divisional sweep of the Angels a week earlier. "I thought about us being in Boston. I thought about how I don't like to lose. I'm not a loser."
So he won the next two games with two swings of the bat that turned the series around and produced the unlikeliest pennant in history. His 12th-inning blast off Paul Quantrill that landed in the New York bullpen at 1:22 a.m. set the stage for his game-winning, 14th-inning single the following night. "It was unbelievable," said outfielder Gabe Kapler. "It was Jordanesque. It was remarkable, unparalleled, unrivaled."
After his confreres went on to close out the Yankees in the Bronx, Ortiz set the tone against the Cardinals in the World Series with a three-run shot in the first inning of the opener, the first home run by a Sox player in the Fall Classic at Fenway since Carlton Fisk's blast against the Reds in 1975. "Who's your Papi?" Sox fans asked the visitors.
Pitching to Papi when the leaves were falling was a risky notion. After Ortiz jacked a two-run homer into the right-field seats to bust apart the opener of the 2007 divisional series against the Angels, manager Mike Scioscia walked him intentionally with two outs and the score tied in the ninth inning of Game 2, then watched Manny Ramirez hit a killer three-run homer. "It's hard to let David beat you," mused Boston manager Terry Francona.
Excerpted from Big Papi by John Henry. Copyright © 2016 The Boston Globe. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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