NEW YORK — Welcome to Papi-Palooza, Big Apple style.
The interminable David Ortiz Farewell Tour made its final stop in the House That Jeter Built Thursday night. The Yankees’ pregame ceremony was short and sweet — nothing like the overblown homages showered upon Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter at Fenway in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
At 6:52 p.m., while the stadium was still half-empty, Ortiz was introduced to the crowd and came out to stand behind home plate with his wife Tiffany, daughter Alex, and son D’Angelo. The Yankees presented Tiffany and Alex with floral bouquets.
Ortiz’s former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury and former Red Sox pitcher David Cone were first out of the Yankee dugout. They carried a custom-made autograph book with hand-scripted messages from Yankees who have played against Ortiz through the years.
Next up was Rivera, the all-time saves leaders and future Hall of Famer. Rivera helped Ortiz unveil an oil painting that portrayed Ortiz tipping his cap at home plate at Yankee Stadium.
Then they played “Sweet Caroline” over the PA.
And that was it. No video montages. No speeches. No appearances by Whitey Ford, Woody Allen, Liza Minnelli, Billy Joel, or Dick Flavin. It was brief and buttoned-down. Very Yankee-like. And it was over in a New York minute. It was as if the entire presentation had been scripted by Bill Belichick.
The show shifts to Boston Friday for a Fenway farewell Cecil B. DeMille weekend which promises to be larger and longer-lasting than anything ever done for Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, or Larry Bird.
Ortiz’s Red Sox career was a 14-year nightmare for the Pinstripes. He hit 53 career homersagainst the Yankees, including 31 in the Bronx. The only player in big league history with more homers against the Yanks in New York was Goose Goslin, and something tells me that Goose’s homers did not do as much damage as Big Papi’s. The Yanks didn’t need a wrecking ball to tear down the original House That Ruth Built. Big Papi practically did it all by himself.
Ortiz always loved playing in New York. From a small space in front of his locker in the visitors’ clubhouse, he entertained associates, friends, and relatives on a near-nightly basis. He frequented Cafe Rubio, a Dominican restaurant in Queens where he boldly (and correctly) predicted a Game 7 homer in the infamous 2004 ALCS. He was a friend to the Spanish-speaking media and held a farewell presser with the Latino press in the dugout before Thursday’s ceremony. You can safely say that the session was well-attended.
There was some speculation about what the Yankees might do to say goodbye to Papi. Some Yankees (players and front office personnel) were offended by the Sox’ Fenway 2013 farewell to Rivera — a program in which Rivera was teased by highlighting his blown save in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS — and the New Yorkers were careful not to make the same mistake.
“It wasn’t playful,’’ CC Sabathia told the Daily News. “It was more about the Red Sox than it was about Mo, them wanting to show what they’ve done. Mo’s got five World Series rings to their three. Don’t even go there.’’
The Yankees did not go there and Ortiz no doubt was grateful. He didn’t appreciate the ceremony last week in Baltimore, when the Orioles tweaked him by presenting him with the dugout phone he smashed in a fit of rage in 2013.
“Great ceremony,” said Ortiz. “I want to personally thank the Yankees for taking their time and honoring my career. It was a very professional and very nice ceremony. I want to thank them.”
In between television appearances, commercials, and ballgames, Big Papi had nothing but nice things to say about New York this week.
“With all the history behind Yankee Stadium and all these years in baseball, it’s kind of impressive,’’ he said when asked about Yankee Stadium. “You go from when you were a kid watching the games on TV and then being part of what baseball is all about — that’s always a motivation when you come to Yankee Stadium.’’
He wasn’t worried about Bronx cheers.
“I’m so used to them booing me when I step up to the plate, it feels weird if it doesn’t happen,’’ he said. “They love me. Booing is part of the game. It doesn’t upset me, it just motivates me . . . We have a lot of Dominicans living here in New York. Most of them are Yankee fans. I play for Boston, but I still represent the Dominican community and they appreciate that.’’
They appreciated Ortiz being in the lineup Thursday. On a night when Sabathia was pitching — the day after a clinch party — it would have been a perfect day off for Ortiz. No.
“Impressive, man. There were no boos out there,” said Ortiz. “It seems like everybody was happy that I’m leaving.”
Said Sox manager John Farrell, “David felt it was clearly an obligation on his part to be in the lineup.’’
When Ortiz came up to face Sabathia in the second inning, he was greeted with some boos and a lot of cheering. These eyes did not see a single moon (too bad — Ortiz said he’d be carrying his cellphone camera in his back pocket just in case). A light chant of “Let’s go, Papi!” broke out on the third base side of the seats just as Sabathia delivered some chin music. Ortiz worked the count to 2-2, then fanned on a curveball in the dirt.
The “Papi” chants were louder when he batted in the fourth. He walked on a 3-1 pitch. Brock Holt came out to run for him and Ortiz heard one last round of cheers as he disappeared into the third base dugout.
This was not a great series for Ortiz. He went 0 for 10, struck out four times, and stranded a raft of teammates. But it was a good trip because the Red Sox clinched the American League East while at Yankee Stadium.
Any “David Fatigue” in evidence?
“There has been a lot [of Ortiz ceremonies] the entire season,’’ Farrell acknowledged. “It’s a celebration well-deserved and we’ll have time to recover.’’
First pitch at Fenway on Friday is at 7:10 p.m. The Red Sox are asking fans to be in their seats by 6:30.