The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, January 26, 2022 1:00 am

Big Papi's place: Cooperstown

Ex-Red Sox star gets in Hall on 1st try; will go in alone

JAKE SEINER | Associated Press

David Ortiz gazed at his phone, his pursed lips revealing nerves rarely seen from one of the game's great clutch hitters.

Pedro Martinez's hand rested on Ortiz's shoulder, and Martinez grinned when the good news came through. The former teammates embraced, and Martinez welcomed Ortiz into a rare space in baseball history.

Big Papi is bound for Cooperstown – and on the first ballot, too.

Ortiz was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first try Tuesday, while steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were denied entry in their final year under consideration by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Ortiz, a 10-time All-Star over 20 seasons mostly with the Boston Red Sox, was named on 77.9% of ballots, clearing the 75% threshold needed for enshrinement. He's the 58th player inducted in his first time up for consideration.

“Man, it's a wonderful honor to be able to get in on my first rodeo,” Ortiz said.

Big Papi was among baseball's most recognizable faces through the 2000s and 2010s. His enormous grin endeared him to fans, but the Dominican's hulking frame menaced pitchers, especially in the late innings. Three of his 23 career game-ending hits came during Boston's drought-breaking 2004 postseason, when the Red Sox thwarted the rival Yankees and then won their first World Series in 86 years.

He's the fourth Hall of Famer born in the Dominican Republic, joining Juan Marichal, Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero.

“I can imagine how New England has to feel about one of its babies getting into the Hall of Fame today,” Ortiz said. “I'm not even going to tell you about the Dominican Republic.”

The left-handed hitter was signed by Seattle as a teenager and traded to Minnesota as a minor leaguer. He made his major league debut with the Twins in 1997 but hardly looked like a future Hall of Famer there. He was released in 2002, signed a free agent deal with Boston and slugged 31 homers the next season.

Ortiz said he joined the Red Sox to learn what made stars such as Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra great. Martinez helped pave the way, encouraging first-year general manager Theo Epstein to sign the 6-foot-3 slugger.

“Once I figured it out, it was going to be a wrap,” Ortiz said. “That team was surrounded by so many superstars, and I went in there like a sponge ready to learn.”

Martinez became a mentor for his countryman. Now, they share the honor of being first-ballot inductees.

“I feel so proud to have been your teammate, to have been your brother, to have been someone there for you when you needed me,” Martinez said. “I'm so glad I have you in my life.”

Ortiz batted .286 with 541 home runs with Boston and Minnesota while making 88% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter, the most by anyone in the Hall. He passes Edgar Martinez, who was a DH for 71.7% of his plate appearances.

Ortiz also has performance-enhancing drug baggage, but enough voters chose to ignore a positive test that came during survey testing in 2003 that was supposed to be anonymous.

Ortiz will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24 along with era committee selections Buck O'Neil, Minnie Miņoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Bud Fowler.

Bonds, Clemens and Curt Schilling were all rejected in their 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds is the league's career home run leader and Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards, but voters denied them the game's highest honor over suspicions they used PEDs. Bonds got 66% of the vote, and Clemens was at 65.2%.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling are done on the BBWAA ballot, but they will be considered again next year by the Today's Game era committee. The 16-person committee of Hall members, executives and veteran media members will convene in December to consider players who played between 1988-2016 and are no longer eligible for BBWAA selection.

Among other first-timers on the ballot, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins got the most support.

Rodriguez won three MVPs and hit 696 homers, fourth most of all time, but also has PED use clouding his case. He was banned by for the entire 2014 season after violating the league's drug policy. Voters named him on 34.3% of ballots.

Rollins, a four-time Gold Glove winner with Philadelphia, appeared on 9.4% of ballots and was the only other first-timer to earn the 5% necessary to remain under consideration. Joe Nathan, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Howard were among 10 one-and-done players. 


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