Festivities to honor David Ortiz are already underway as the Red Sox prepare to honor Big Papi by retiring his number 34 before Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. For only the eleventh time in their history, the Red Sox will retire the number of one of its greats. What makes this retirement ceremony unique is that it has only been eight months since Ortiz played his last game.
Retiring Ortiz’s number so soon reflects a deep love and appreciation for Big Papi. Ortiz wasn’t just a great hitter who played most of his career in Boston. Ortiz was a symbol of hope in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. His words, “This is our f–king city!” became a rallying cry for discouraged Bostonians. Later that fall his home run against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS staved off defeat and allowed the Red Sox to advance to the World Series. In a time when Hall of Fame-caliber players are few and far in between, Ortiz’s heroics not only made the Red Sox great, but made baseball even greater.
Qualifications Have Waned in Recent Years As Red Sox Prepare For Jersey Retirement
The Red Sox used to have very strict requirements when it came to retiring a jersey number. The strict set of requirements allowed a select few to see their numbers retired. First, the player had to have played for the Red Sox for ten years. Second, he has to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Third, he had to have retired with the Red Sox. While those rules stood for many years, one by one, the Red Sox accommodate other greats who didn’t meet the requirements.
Carlton Fisk, the greatest catcher in Red Sox history, finished his career with the Chicago White Sox. Pedro Martinez didn’t play ten years with the Red Sox, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. Johnny Pesky isn’t a Hall of Famer, but his service to the team over the course of sixty years earned him a spot among the retired.
While Ortiz didn’t have to wait for induction into the Hall of Fame to see his number retired, his induction will happen. Some say Ortiz won’t be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Allegations surrounding his use of PEDs have haunted him for years. Those allegations should have little to no impact on the BBWAA when Ortiz becomes eligible. One this is for sure though. Bostonians will pack the small town of Cooperstown when it comes time to induct Ortiz.