Matt Burke: Old man David Ortiz changed Boston and the Red Sox forever - Metro US

Matt Burke: Old man David Ortiz changed Boston and the Red Sox forever

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You know you’re getting old when there are reflection shows on TV and music tours revolving around the decade in which you grew up.

JaRule and Treach playing this Friday at the House of Blues!? Sign me up!

While the typical shelf life of a pop culture figure lasts 2-3 years, iconic athletes thankfully have longer periods in the spotlight. But we’re getting to a point in sports history right now where it’s really kind of funny to think about guys having played in the 1990s. There’s a reason why Kevin Garnett is grandpa in those “Meet the Hoopers” commercials, after all, and there’s a reason why everyone thought Paul Pierce’s career was over when he fell down and went boom against the Celtics this past week.

And those clips they show once in a while of Tom Brady throwing touchdown passes while a member of the Michigan Wolverines? There’s a reason why there are black bars on both sides of your television screen for those. A good chunk of Brady’s career in the national spotlight was played in a non-HD world, of course.

David Ortiz has been playing Major League Baseball since 1997 for God’s sake. For reference, that was before anyone outside of the Oval Office knew of the name “Monica Lewinsky.” That was a time when Donald Trump had only three corporate bankruptcies to his name. Michael Jordan was a year away from retiring (for the second, but not final time). Peyton Manning and Brady hadn’t even thrown a football in the NFL yet. And Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were a season away from having a steroid-fueled home run chase.

In other words, David Ortiz is as old as the Fenway dirt.

And you might have heard – this 2016 season will be Ortiz’s last.

He got his MLB start in Minnesota – playing there from 1997-2002. But he didn’t become “Big Papi” until he arrived in Boston in 2003 – the season in which he split time with Jason Giambi’s forgettable brother, and Kevin Millar.

“Big Papi” changed Boston sports forever. For the better.

During the early 2000s, things were looking up here sports-wise, sure. The Patriots had won it all in February of 2002 and there were hints that that Bill Belichick guy might actually know what he’s doing. But make no mistake – Boston was still defined as a “baseball town” then, and by the lovable loser role of the hometown nine Red Sox.

So, “clutch” was not exactly a word associated with the city at that time despite the Pats’ upset win over the Rams.

Ortiz altered the narrative here, however. Forever.

By batting .409 in the 2004 playoffs, by hitting a walk-off homer to beat the Angels in the ALDS of that year, by hitting a walk-off homer in Game 4 against the Yankees that year, by hitting a walk-off single in the 14th of Game 5 against the Yankees that year, by hitting a Red Sox record 54 homers in 2006, by hitting .370 in the playoffs in 2007, by hitting two home runs off of Tampa Bay’s David Price in Game 2 of the ALDS in 2013, by hitting a game-tying grand slam against the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2013, by hitting home runs against the Cardinals in both Game 1 and Game 2 of the World Series in 2013 and by reminding the city of Boston that they were strong with a literal “F-U” to terrorism in the spring of 2013 – Ortiz changed the narrative here. Forever.

David Ortiz is not the best athlete in the history of this city. But no athlete flipped the script of this city like him.

It’s 2016 now, and Ortiz is an old man. But we get the next six (maybe seven) months to send him off in style.

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