By Peter Gleason
Boston said good-bye to Big Papi last night.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s 20-year career came to an abrupt end as he and his club were swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians.
Ortiz achieved cult status in Boston for both his stellar hitting and his outsized personality, and announced last winter that this would be his final season. But his Red Sox entered last night facing elimination in this best-of-five series, and Ortiz couldn’t save them from that fate.
After his team had lost Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Ortiz stood alone on the Fenway Park mound, tears in his eyes, and raised his cap to the roaring crowd before departing into the dugout one final time.
Ortiz, author of so many dramatic postseason hits, had two chances to add to his legacy and keep his team alive– coming to the plate representing the tying run in both the sixth and eighth innings, the crowd on its feet, chanting “Pa-pi.”
Both times, Ortiz was productive, but couldn’t deliver the home-run heroics fans craved, offering instead a sacrifice fly and a walk. Both times, his teammates failed to follow up, and the Indians hung on for the 4-3 victory. They next face the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series.
As perhaps baseball’s most beloved active player, Ortiz was feted with a season-long farewell tour, as teams bestowed him with gifts ranging from cowboy hats to funds for his foundation to a 34-lb northwest king salmon. He even had a bridge in Boston named in his honor.
But as he has said, the present Ortiz really wanted was a fourth World Series ring, and that was not to be.