David Ortiz confirms reports; plans to retire following season
BOSTON (AP) — Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Boston’s beloved “Big Papi” who helped the cursed franchise end its dynasty of disappointment and cursed out the bombers who attacked his adopted city, said on Wednesday he will play one more year before retiring.
On the day that he turned 40, the Dominican designated hitter said in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune that the 2016 season will be his last. The post was titled “40.”
“Life is based on different chapters, and I think I am ready to experience the next one in my life,” he told his fans. “I wish I could play another 40 years, so I could have you guys behind me, but it doesn’t work that way. After this year, time is up. So let’s enjoy the season.”
Ortiz led the Red Sox to three World Series championships, hitting 503 homers in a career of clutch at-bats while serving as the inspiration that turned a tormented franchise into a big-market bully.
Already treasured for his big hits and even bigger personality, Ortiz further cemented himself in the city’s lore after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds more. Taking the microphone before the ballclub’s first game back, Ortiz told a Fenway crowd that included the governor and top police officials: “This is our (expletive) city. And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom.”
With “Boston Strong” as its rallying cry, the Red Sox returned to the World Series. Ortiz batted .688 in the six-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, and was named the Series MVP. He is one of just four players in baseball history with at least 500 career homers and three World Series championships, joining Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson.
“He’s given all of our fans so much reason to cheer,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on Wednesday. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and the way that he’s always, I think, brought a great leadership to his team. He’s been a great example.”
A fun-loving, free-swinging bon vivant, Ortiz was also active in the community in Boston and in his native Dominican Republic; in 2011, he was awarded baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award for positive contributions on and off the field.
“It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox,” team owner John Henry said in a statement. “For those of us who have had the honor of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization.”
Red Sox fans will remember Ortiz best for his performance in the 2004 playoffs, when Boston ended its 86-year title drought.
Big Papi, as he came to be known by his fans and teammates, had consecutive game-ending hits in extra innings of Games 4 and 5 of the AL championship series against the Yankees as the Red Sox became the first major league team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The Red Sox went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first title since 1918.
Ortiz stuck around for two more titles — the only member of the ‘04 team that was still active in 2013, when he had 11 hits in the first five games before the Cardinals walked him four times in the clincher.
“He is one of the game’s greatest players — and greatest champions — and he has been there for the city of Boston through thick and thin every step of the way,” Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said. “He has been a pillar of our team and a pillar of our city.
“We look forward to a final season of raising our heads to the sky looking for his long-ball, and watching him point to the heavens when he arrives home one final time.”
Originally signed by Minnesota, Ortiz played parts of six seasons with the Twins before they released him after the 2002 season. He came to Boston as an unknown platoon first baseman, found a spot at designated hitter and emerged as one of the best sluggers in baseball history.
In all, he enters his final season with a .284 average, 2,303 hits, 584 doubles and 1,641 RBIs. In 82 postseason games, including nine with the Twins, he batted .295 with 17 homers and 60 RBIs.
His 445 with the Red Sox is the third-most in franchise history behind Ted Williams’ 521 and the 452 hit by Carl Yastrzemski. He is 27th on baseball’s career homer list, one behind Eddie Murray.
The 447 homers he hit while in the lineup as a DH are the most since the position was established in 1973. He was been named the AL’s designated hitter of the year a record seven times, surpassing the five won by Edgar Martinez, for whom the award is named.
“Baseball is not just based on putting up numbers,” Ortiz said. “I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family, a guy that was trying to do the best, not only on the field but with everyone around him.”
AP freelancer Gethin Coolbaugh contributed to this story from Foxborough, Mass.