Pablo Picasso was born to paint, Frank Sinatra to sing, Marlon Brando to act, Norman Mailer to write, and David Ortiz to hit a baseball.
It’s what these geniuses did, and in the case of Ortiz, nicknamed “Big Papi,” is something he’s still doing at age 37, and seems to be having more fun than ever as his career is winding down.
This past weekend, Boston (35-23) stormed into Yankee Stadium and came away with two wins in three games, increasing its lead in the American League East to three games over the third-place New York Yankees (31-25).
In the series finale on Sunday, which was shortened to five and a half innings because of rain, Ortiz, the designated hitter who sometimes plays first base, clobbered his team-best 10th homer in the sixth inning, while driving in his 36th run during the 3-0 shutout.
In Saturday’s 11-1 thumping of New York, Ortiz reached base twice on walks, and scored on Mike Napoli’s grand slam in the third inning.
In Friday’s 4-1 loss to C.C. Sabathia (5-4), who allowed six hits in seven and one-third innings, Ortiz, an eight-time All-Star who is batting .333, singled in four at-bats.
That the Red Sox sit atop the AL East and have the sixth-best mark in the major leagues is remarkable given that Boston is coming off a 93-loss season.
With first-year Manager John Farrell at the controls, the Red Sox have added power-hitting first baseman/catcher Napoli, and brought up infield sensation Jose Iglesias, whose solo shot in the fifth in Sunday’s encounter made it 2-0, while Napoli’s fielder’s choice in the fourth gave the Red Sox a 1-0 edge.
Ortiz originally signed with the Seattle Mariners, but began his career with Minnesota at the end of 1997.
For whatever reason, it never materialized for Ortiz, who was released but signed as a free agent with Boston following the 2002 campaign.
In 1,693 plate appearances with the Twins, Ortiz managed 58 home runs with 238 runs batted in, and his most-productive season was his last when he slapped 20 homers with 75 RBIs.
Once in Beantown, everything began to take shape for Ortiz, who belted 31 homers with 101 RBIs, then rolled out 41 homers with 139 RBIs in 2004 when the Red Sox wiped out 86 years of misery by winning the World Series.
Documented to the gills, Boston found itself in a 3-0 deficit to the rival Yankees in the AL Championship Series before rallying for four straight wins as Ortiz was named Most Valuable Player after cracking three homers with 11 RBIs and a .387 batting average, then swept past the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
Ortiz’s prowess at the plate continued as he hammered 47 over the fence in 2005 with a personal-high of 148 RBIs, followed by his career-best 54 homers in 2006 with 137 RBIs, then added 35 homers with 117 RBIs in 2007 as the Red Sox claimed another World Series banner with a four-game romp of the Colorado Rockies.
Since then Ortiz, who has five Silver Slugger trophies along with the Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron awards, has averaged 27 homers coming into this season.
A long-ball hitting dynamo and fan favorite, Ortiz continues to baffle his critics and pitchers alike with a wide grin on his face.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.