My Sportsman Choice: David Ortiz
Posted: Monday November 15, 2004 12:37PM; Updated: Monday November 15, 2004 12:37PM
By Rick Reilly
For your consideration for Sportsman of the Year: a man who gave more joy to New England than maple syrup and clam shovels combined, Senor Octubre, the Boston Red Sox' joyous giant, David (Big Papi) Ortiz.
What'd he do? What didn't he do? Off the field, he made the Boston clubhouse fun again. Until he got there in 2003, it was made up mostly of growls, snarls and no-comments. Ortiz came, he laughed, he bellowed at reporters: "Nobody look at my nipples!" One time, he interrupted a press conference in Terry Francona's office before a game with Baltimore by poking his bucket-head in and declaring, "Don't worry. We're going to drink their beer and kick their ass!" Then he went out and did it almost by himself. On the field, he made pitchers wish they'd gone on to med school. There was no part of the plate, the stadium, the city that seemed safe to pitch him. He got more menacing as the season rolled on and in the playoffs, he approached godliness. No hitter in history had a better postseason than David Ortiz. He clubbed the now legendary 12th-inning walk-off home run in the epic Red Sox Game 4 win against the New York Yankees to keep the Sox breathing. Then, in Game 5, he did it again -- ending the longest postseason game in history by time with a 14th-inning walk-off pure-muscle single to give the Sox real hope.
Not only has any baseball player never had two game-winning playoff hits in one year, Ortiz had his in one day -- the first at 1:22 a.m. (EDT) and the other at 11:01 p.m. From now on, all Massachusetts calendars shall mark Oct. 18: Papi Day.
Then, in Game 7 of what may go down as the single most thrilling series since The X Files, Ortiz hit a first-inning two-run bomb on the first pitch to give the Red Sox a lead they'd never give up and no true Sox fan will ever forget.
Is that enough? No? Well, he was named the MVP of that monster series for leading the Sox to the single greatest comeback in the history of the game. And, just so you remember, Ortiz was all set to be the MVP of the pennant series with the Yankees the year before until everything went Ka-Boone!
Still not enough? Don't forget his crucial 10th-inning walk-off homerun against Anaheim to finish that sweep. That's three walk-off hits in one postseason, the all-time never-to-be-equalled shut-your-mouth record. Ortiz has been at the center of more giant group hugs than Dr. Leo Buscaglia.
And don't forget his huge home run in the All-Star game that helped the American League win, which gave the home-field advantage to Boston, which allowed them to hop out to a 2-0 lead on their way to their mind-warping sweep of the Cards, the first world championship in Boston since the invention of Time magazine, Butterfinger candy bars or the Maidenform bra. And if that's still not enough, then how about this: Ortiz is 6-feet-4, 230 pounds and I just gave him your address.
Sports Illustrated will announce the 2004 Sportsman of the Year winner on FOX on November 28. Check back every weekday until then to read more Sportsman picks from SI writers.