Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: O is for…

Ortiz, as in David
David Ortiz has had quite the career with the Boston Red Sox. He’s gone from bench player to all-star to aging veteran. He is as responsible as any other player for the two recent World Championship banners hanging at Fenway. He is a legendary clutch player with a string of walk-off hits to his credit. Of his dozen or so walk off hits with the Red Sox, two stand out in my mind.
The first, naturally, is his home run in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. This homer meant the world to the Sox. It meant that the Sox wouldn’t be swept by the Yankees. That was the big one. At the time, nobody was really thinking about actually winning the series. They just didn’t want it to be embarrassing. The Sox have already lost to the Yanks in the ALCS twice before, once even in five games. So, as long it wasn’t a sweep it would just be disappointing. Not miserable. But, as you know, the win did more than that. It led to a string of seven more wins on the way to the title. I was lucky enough to be at that game. When the home run landed in the bullpen, it was absolute relief. Not only had the game ended with a win, but I could get out of the cold and into my car. We had parked that day in one of those parking lots that blocks people in, and we were one of the last ones in. When we got to our car, there were several people in their cars waiting for us. We joked that we hoped they weren’t waiting long. We were surprised when they responded, “A couple innings.” Who leaves a playoff game early…when you know you’re in blocked parking? Frankly one of the reasons we stuck it out so late was because we figured we were blocked in anyway. I can’t imagine leaving the game, and sitting in my car listening to the radio as that ending plays. That’s just too bad.
The other walk off hit of Ortiz’s that I remember happened on July 26, 2003. It was David’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Red Sox. It was against they Yankees, which made it even more special. It was the circumstances around the hit that were the most fun. The Sox and Yanks were tied entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Bill Mueller led off, and flied to center. Jeremy Giambi (remember him?) followed with a single. Giambi shocked everyone by stealing second base. Yup. A strike out by Varitek and a walk to Damon put runners at first and second with two outs. That brought Damian Jackson’s spot in the order. Jackson had come into the game the previous inning as a pinch runner for Todd Walker. Obviously, that wasn’t the situation you wanted Jackson up in. I was at this game as well, and remember wondering what would happen. With Jackson and Walker out, who would play second base? Grady Little put in Ortiz anyway. I have to admit; there was a part of me that hoped Ortiz made an out. I wondered what the defensive alignment would be for the top of the tenth. Would Ortiz be at second? Millar? Mueller? Of course, I never got to see what it would be. Ortiz smacked a ball of the Wall to score Giambi with the winning run. The legend had begun.
O is for Ortiz, David

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