While the three-time World Series champion might have been “just” a talented designated hitter on an American League team fighting decades of failure to the world before Patriot’s Day 2013, afterward, he was the galvanizing face of a city that stood against terrorism, fear, and violence.
Sure, New York had the New York Yankees and the NY Giants after 9/11. But with one ad-libbed speech in Fenway Park, just days after two brothers had rocked Boston with homemade bombs, Ortiz announced that Boston would be broken:
“This is our $^&@#$% city. And nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
While this is one of many stories that Ortiz tells with Boston-based writer Michael Holley in Papi, My Story, it is the one which will bring Ortiz to mind for years after his baseball feats have been forgotten. But that’s a long while from now, because Papi’s rise coincided (are there ever coincidences?) with the ascension of the Red Sox from late-night punchline to World Champions.
In his autobiography, Ortiz recounts his childhood, and the beauty of his parents’ efforts to raise him right; his marriage, with its ups and downs to his wife, Tiffany; his experience as a minor leaguer with the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins; his challenges and successes with the Boston Red Sox. Peppered throughout are reminders that Ortiz sees how God has seen him through, how hard work achieves results, and wisdom from the journey.
Entertaining, funny, poignant, and always straightforward, Ortiz’s story reflects the same man who showed up for interviews and told it like he saw it. Sure, that created some friction with management, but all of the great ones have been willing to tell what they thought. Now, Ortiz does the same, looking back, not with regret but with respect and humility for twenty years in the majors.
Boston fans will find this a must-read, but any aspiring athlete, or someone seeking a reminder that there’s more to life than being knocked down, will appreciate the rise of one of Boston’s greatest.
Papi: My Story is available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.