Irreplaceable: adjective 1. incapable of being replaced; unique:
I am a native of Northampton Massachusetts. In the year 2000 I made the decision to move to New York City, I have lived in various parts of both Brooklyn and Manhattan (mostly Manhattan) ever since.
That means that I’ve witnessed David Ortiz’s entire Red Sox career from the epicenter of the home of his team’s greatest rivals.
All Red Sox fans probably consider Ortiz irreplaceable, but for those of us who reside in New York City, David Ortiz is perhaps even more irreplaceable.
Imagine if you will, living in a city where “The Sultan of Swat,” ” The Iron Horse,” “Joltin’ Joe,” “The Mick,” “Mr. October,” and “The Captain,” have all played baseball. They’ve combined to win 27 World Series Championships and the franchise and their fans had spent nearly a century rubbing that history of success in the faces of Red Sox fans.
Now imagine one player almost single-handidly standing up to that history of dominance.
That one player is David Ortiz.
“…I’m not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 people from New York shut up.”
Schilling’s start in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS had that desired impact. It was just one start though.
Plus, David Ortiz has never made New York Yankees fans “shut up” as Schilling put it.
When Ortiz strides to the plate, Yankees fans have traditionally expressed a mix of boos and fear. There’s palpable chatter in the stands when Ortiz is up to bat. It isn’t the type of chatter and electricity that takes place when Ortiz is up to hit in Boston, at Fenway Park.
It is different. Rather than eagerly anticipating what might happen, fans in New York have sort of held their breath in fear of what might happen. The reason is that time and time again, David Ortiz has done things against the Yankees that no other player in Red Sox history has ever done.
It isn’t just that Ortiz has come up big against the Yankees, it is the amount of times he’s done it over so many years.
Pedro had his start on September 11, 1999. Manny Ramirez always hit well against the Yankees and Schilling’s exploits have already been discussed.
For 13 seasons, Ortiz has been the thorn in the side of the New York Yankees and because of that, he’s made being a Red Sox fan who lives in New York City, fun as opposed to tortuous.
There were some rough patches. The 2003 ALCS was obviously rock-bottom, or at least the conclusion was.
From then on, it has been mostly enjoyable. The collapse of 2011 was bad, the last place finishes in 2012, 2014 and 2015 were all tough to deal with, but that had more to do with the team’s performance than living in New York City.
There was that disastrous five-game series in August of 2006.
Those were the tough times, but to offset that, the Red Sox, with David Ortiz often front-and-center, have provided the greatest comeback in Major League History, along with eight playoff appearances, and three World Series titles.
Three in just 13 years and until the 2016 season concludes, a fourth can’t be ruled out.
David Ortiz has made wearing a Red Sox tee-shirt or baseball cap a fun experience in New York City. Oh sure you’ll endure some ribbing, but by now every Yankees fan knows that taunting a Red Sox fan is not a one-way, no-lose proposition.
Want to bring up rings or 1918? David Ortiz has made it possible to bring up the Red Sox three-to-one World Series advantage in the 21st century. Then there’s that epic choke from 2004.
The Red Sox and Yankees have not faced each other in the playoffs since 2004. That was the second of back-to-back ALCS showdowns. Over those two series, Ortiz hit .333 with 5 home runs and 17 RBI’s. All of that in just 14 games and 57 at-bats.
Perhaps what has made Ortiz’s time in a Red Sox uniform most enjoyable is that I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with being a Red Sox fan living in New York City before Ortiz had cemented himself as a legendary hitter.
Less than two months after moving to New York City, the Yankees won their fourth World Series title in five seasons by beating the crosstown Mets in the 2000 Fall Classic.
One year later the Red Sox were a barely over .500 team that missed the playoffs, while the Yankees advanced all the way to Game 7 of the 2001 World Series before losing in a familiar (to experienced Red Sox fans) and heartbreaking fashion.
No matter how delighted a Red Sox fan was about the Yankees Game 7, walk-off defeat in the World Series, the reality was that my team, your team, the Boston Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1918. They had reached the verge of numerous postseason glories only to be denied in their own heartbreaking fashion.
The Yankees not winning the World Series in 2002 was nice, but they still won over 100 games, ran away with the division and advanced all the way to the ALCS before being upset by an upstart Angels squad.
I could taunt a Yankees fan for losing to the Angels, but it was still “1918,” “got rings?” and the usual assortment of tortuous reminders.
One year later, I found myself not being able to get out of work for Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
That photo above has some meaning to me, the guy with the Yankees hat on, second in from the left with his face partially obstructed by a police officer. That was the chef at the restaurant I was working at back in October of 2003. I might have been next to him, but instead I was working, missing what I believed to be the biggest sporting event of my life.
Thanks to David Ortiz, moments like that feel like they took place in another era. The two franchises might not own the same glorious long-term history, but the 21st century and especially the 21st century post David Ortiz arrival, has been very very good for Red Sox fans.
Fast forward to 2004 and I really was in attendance for the biggest sporting event of my life. I did have tickets (the seats weren’t as good as those pictured above) to Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. I watched Derek Lowe dominate the Yankees, watched David Ortiz get things started with a towering home run into the right field bleachers in the first inning. Johnny Damon hit a grand slam, the rout was on.
It was heaven, it was previously incomprehensible. There’s never been anything that compares to that 2004 ALCS comeback, and odds are there never will be.
Red Sox fans over the age of 30 and especially those over the age of 40, know all too well how difficult it can be to passionately root for the Red Sox. In fact, up until the David Ortiz era the life of a Red Sox fan was one in which disappointment was expected. The challenges were managing the expectations and trying to figure out just how painful the inevitable final losses would be.
Thanks to David Ortiz, Red Sox fans get to start almost every season with legitimate hopes of not just winning, but winning the World Series. Red Sox fans look forward to match-ups with the Yankees. They get to imagine what was once considered to be only a dream actually transpiring on the baseball diamond.
For Red Sox fans in New York City, David Ortiz has provided so many bright spots, so many chest-thumping, we-win, you-lose! moments. It is tough to see how being a Red Sox fan in New York City will ever be as fun.
So thank you David Ortiz, that was an amazing run. Can’t wait to watch your Hall of Fame Induction.