David Ortiz breaks Dave Kingman's final-season HR record with 36th

ByScott Lauber ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

BALTIMORE -- Just in case it wasn't already clear that David Ortiz is having the best farewell season in baseball history, the 40-year-old Boston Red Sox slugger applied a statistical exclamation mark Tuesday night.

Ortiz belted his 36th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the seventh inning against Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. It gave the division-leading Red Sox a four-run lead en route to a 5-2 victory, their sixth consecutive win.

But Ortiz also passed Dave Kingman for the most homers ever by a major league player in his final season. At age 37, Kingman hit 35 homers for the Oakland Athletics in 1986.

"I'll have to hit a couple of more so nobody can reach me," Ortiz said, laughing. "It's just a number, man. I'm just trying to help this ballclub. I don't really care about personal numbers. I care about winning."

His three RBIs gave him 121 on the season, putting him three shy of passing Shoeless Joe Jackson for the most in a player's final season since the RBI became an official stat in 1920.

Ortiz used his homer against Gausman as an illustration of how he has matured as a hitter over the years. He noted that Gausman throws a good splitter to offset his high-90s fastball. But because the Orioles right-hander was throwing particularly hard, Ortiz said he decided to lay off the splitter and sit on the heater.

"I told myself, well, I have to shoot for either fastball or splitter, but I know he's throwing his best fastball right now," Ortiz said. "Sometimes we get caught in trouble when we have that doubt about the things we want to do. I'm not saying experience is 100 percent what you're looking for, but it gives you a balance of good things that you're going to decide to do."

Before the game, Ortiz spoke to reporters on the occasion of his final series in Baltimore. And just as he has everywhere else he has been during his last hurrah, he was asked if there's any chance he might change his mind and return in 2017.

The answer, once again, was a resounding no.

"You know, it's just my body, man," said Ortiz, who has played through pain in his feet and ankles since he injured his Achilles in 2012. "I wish I could continue playing, but it takes a lot out of me. I've been dealing with it for the past four years. Every year gets worse. I've got to put a lot of effort and lot of work to perform at my highest level. At some point, it wears you out."

Ortiz laughed at the suggestion that he likely could continue to put up big numbers for another 10 years.

"I don't think anybody hits until they're 50. Maybe Julio Franco," Ortiz said. "Yeah, man, I got a little crazy, but I've played in a lot of pain. It is what it is, man. I love this game. It's been my everything. But [it's] not forever."

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