David Ortiz, the ebullient slugger who carried the Red Sox and their fans to unimagined heights, is the newest member of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The news only a few players ever receive came Tuesday night in a call that traveled from Cooperstown, N.Y., to the Dominican Republic. Ortiz was in with 77.9 percent of the votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Three other former stars, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, failed to gain admission on their final time on the ballot.
Ortiz joined Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, Carl Yastrzemski, and Ted Williams as the only Red Sox players to gain entrance to the Hall on the first ballot.
Martinez, a teammate from 2003-04, was among the family and friends who gathered with Ortiz at a restaurant in Santo Domingo when word came from BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell.
Martinez had his left hand on Ortiz’s shoulder as he answered the phone and O’Connell said he had been elected.
“Yes!” shouted Ortiz before hugging his father, Leo, and Martinez with both arms then embracing his longtime agent, Fernando Cuza.
“Being in the Hall of Fame, I never really never dreamed of it,” said Ortiz, who also celebrated with his three children. “All I was looking for was the opportunity to be able to be a great player and it came true once I got to the Red Sox.”
The induction ceremony is scheduled for July 24. COVID-permitting, a caravan of Red Sox fans are sure to make the trip to Cooperstown to pay tribute to the player known as Big Papi.
Ortiz is one of 58 players elected on the first ballot, the inner circle of the Hall of Fame.
“I can call myself that. I started paying attention to that lately,” he said. “I learned how difficult it is to get in on the first ballot. It’s a wonderful honor to get in on my first rodeo. It’s something very special to me.”
Ortiz is part of a Hall of Fame class that also includes Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges, longtime Minnesota Twins lefthander Jim Kaat, beloved Chicago White Sox outfielder Minnie Miñoso, hard-hitting Twins outfielder Tony Oliva, and Negro League stalwarts Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil.
They were elected in December by two era committees. Hodges, Miñoso, Fowler, and O’Neil will be honored posthumously.
Bonds (66 percent) and Clemens, the former Red Sox ace (65.2 percent), were denied admission on their 10th and final time on the ballot.
Schilling, one of the celebrated members of the 2004 Red Sox, received 58.6 percent in his final attempt. He received 71.1 percent a year ago then derailed his candidacy with a Facebook post attacking the voters.
“Focus on who did get in. David Ortiz deserved a 1st ballot induction!” Schilling wrote on Twitter. “Congratulations my friend you earned it!”
Ortiz cleared the 75 percent required for induction on the strength of a 20-year career that included 541 home runs, 632 doubles, a .286 batting average, and three World Series championships.
Ortiz hit .455 in 14 World Series games with nine extra-base hits, 14 walks, and 14 RBIs.
“I was always concerned about going home without a trophy, it was something I got used to,” Ortiz said. “If I was born again, I would like to get the opportunity to play for [the Red Sox] again, because they educated me not only as a player; they educated me as a human being.”
Ortiz, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson are the only players with at least 500 home runs and three rings.
“There are countless reasons why David is deserving of this honor, beginning with three World Series trophies that we would not have without his heroics on the field and his leadership,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry, who also owns the Globe.
“He was critical in transforming the narrative around the Red Sox from one of curses and superstitions to tales of clutch moments and a collection of championships.”
That Ortiz would one day land in the Hall of Fame seemed unlikely when he was released by the Twins after the 2002 season and signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox for a modest $1.5 million at the urging of Martinez.
“Oh, man, I don’t think without Pedro here this would have happened,” Ortiz said. “Pedro was a big brother to me, encouraging so many wonderful things.”
Martinez posted a video on social media after the announcement.
“Well-deserved. Welcome to Cooperstown. I love you, boy,” he said.
A part-time player in Minnesota, Ortiz took off with the Sox once he became a regular member of the lineup late in May.
The Sox fell to the Yankees in a seven-game American League Championship Series in 2003 but stunned their rivals a year later. Trailing, 3-0 in the ALCS, Ortiz delivered game-winning hits in Games 4 and 5.
The Sox went on to win the pennant then claimed the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1918. Ortiz became the face of baseball in Boston as the Sox won again in 2007 and 2013.
“David Ortiz is the most important player to ever wear a Red Sox uniform,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said.
In ‘13, as the city recovered from a terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, Ortiz took the microphone after an April ceremony at Fenway Park to honor the victims and first responders and declared, “This is our [expletive] city.”
Ortiz led a Sox team with low expectations to a thrilling season that helped rally a shaken city. His eighth-inning grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS shook Fenway as the Sox rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win the game.
Persistent injuries led to Ortiz announcing his retirement before the 2016 season. He hit 38 home runs and drove in 127 runs to lead the Sox to a postseason berth then cried on the mound at Fenway Park when the team was eliminated.
Ortiz’s Hall credentials were damaged by his reportedly testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. But he received 307 of the 394 votes cast.
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