New York Yankees. Boston Red Sox.
When someone mentions both teams in the same sentence, the first thing you think about is the captivating rivalry that ignited a flame throughout Major League Baseball. From Aaron Boone‘s walk-off home run to drown the Red Sox in 2003, to the Red Sox stunning the Yankees by winning four in a row to advance to the World Series, to the infamous benches clearing brawl between Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek. Both teams have shown fire, and have played with such intensity you’d think they were playing for their mere lives.
As years passed, the flame in the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry flickered, mainly because the fixtures that made the rivalry come to fruition hung up their cleats and left the game. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tim Wakefield, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Kevin Youkilis, Johnny Damon and many others have quietly retired, leaving David Ortiz the last one standing from the rivalry’s glory days. However, this week will be the final time Ortiz plays against the Yankees in his illustrious career, as the 40-year-old DH plans to retire come the end of the Boston Red Sox season.
Ortiz was a player Yankees fans loved to hate, mainly because his most memorable damage was during the famed rivalry. But as he hangs up his cleats at the end of the 2016 season, there’s only one thing left to do; thank David Ortiz for everything he’s done over the years.
I know, it sounds odd coming from someone who spent their preteen and teenage years despising the Boston Red Sox simply because it was “Yankees / Red Sox”. But now that I’ve taken off the fan goggles, it’s easier to appreciate Ortiz for everything he’s done regarding the rivalry and for the city of Boston.
Take yourself out of the rivalry for a moment, and just admire the numbers Ortiz put up against the Yankees. He has 53 career home runs and a .307 batting average vs. the Bronx Bombers, which is the highest among any team with a minimum of .300 at-bats. He played spoiler against the Yankees in Game 4, Game 5 and Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, and had his biggest game at the old Yankee Stadium in May of 2005 when he notched four hits and multiple home runs against former Yankees starter Mike Mussina.
However, Ortiz wasn’t just one of the many faces of Major League Baseball. He was also a sign of hope.
On April 15, 2013, explosions turned the Boston Marathon into a scene of chaos, and from Ortiz’s living room, he watched horrifying coverage as death and destruction marred the city of Boston. The Boston Red Sox honored the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings the next day, but the most memorable part of that day was Ortiz’s pregame speech.
“All right, Boston,” Ortiz boomed through a microphone as a sold out crowd kept their eyes glued on their undisputed leader. “This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It says ‘Boston.’ We want to thank you, Mayor [Thomas] Menino, Governor [Deval] Patrick, the whole police department for the great job that they did this past week.”
“This is our f——- city. And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
That one speech exemplified the kind of person he was, not only for the Red Sox, but for his city. His presence alone provided a sense of comfort during a difficult time, and it was enough to help the city of Boston overcome a major setback and recover.
David Ortiz means a lot to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, Major League Baseball and believe it or not to the New York Yankees. As he said in his Tribune post, some players are born to be Yankees. Ortiz was born to be a Yankee killer.
Even though Ortiz is playing his final series against the Yankees, there’s no doubt he will give the Yankees a special parting gift.
And of course, I’ll thank him for it.