Yankees say farewell to David Ortiz in 'very professional' ceremony

ByScott Lauber ESPN logo
Friday, September 30, 2016

NEW YORK -- For a rival slugger who gained fame by tormenting the New York Yankees for most of his career, David Ortiz was made to feel at home on his final day as a visiting player in the Big Apple.

By day, Ortiz said he walked around Manhattan with his family, taking pictures and signing autographs for respectful fans who recognized him. And by night, he was given a pair of thoughtful parting gifts by the Yankees and sent off to a standing ovation after drawing a walk and being lifted for a pinch runner in the fourth inning of the Boston Red Sox's 5-1 loss.

"Impressive, man. There were no boos out there," Ortiz said. "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving."

Ortiz, whose wife, daughter and son participated in the pregame ceremony, achieved villain status in New York after helping to lead the Red Sox to an epic comeback in the 2004 American League Championship Series. He finished his career with 53 home runs against the Yankees, 52 as a member of the Red Sox.

But as Ortiz walked onto the field at Yankee Stadium shortly before 7 p.m., public address announcer Paul Olden provided the keynote for the evening by saying, "Tonight, the Yankees would like to put the rivalry aside for a few minutes and honor David Ortiz."

In a simple, dignified pregame ceremony, they did exactly that. The Yankees gave Ortiz a leather-bound book filled with handwritten personal notes from past and present Yankees players, a gesture that Ortiz said "blew my mind." Then, legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, whom Ortiz refers to as "one of my idols," presented an oil painting of Ortiz tipping his cap at home plate in Yankee Stadium.

Ortiz called it "a very professional and very nice ceremony." Red Sox manager John Farrell described it as "the most meaningful" tribute that Ortiz received during his 18-city farewell tour, a sentiment with which center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. agreed.

"You could really tell they put a lot of thought into that," Bradley said. "I mean this in the most respectful way: It might not have been the most expensive gift he's gotten, but I felt like it meant the most. From my standpoint, there couldn't have been a more special gift than that. All those people that was in that book, and we only saw a few of the pages, I can only imagine."

Several Red Sox regulars, including MVP candidate Mookie Betts, rested Thursday night after celebrating the AL East title one night earlier. But Farrell said Ortiz "felt an obligation" to play in his final game at Yankee Stadium.

Ortiz walked to the plate to a standing ovation in the second inning and struck out in his first at-bat against longtime Yankees rival CC Sabathia. He walked in the fourth inning before leaving the game to another rousing ovation.

"I don't remember seeing it happen here," Ortiz said of a visiting player receiving such adoration. "But like I said, man, I really appreciate it."

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