ON THIS DATE
(September 21, 2006) ...
David Ortiz, in his first at-bat, did some mythmaking of his own,
hitting his 51st home run of the season, breaking the club record set
in 1938 by Jimmie Foxx, a Hall of Famer. Boston's designated hitter
added his own coda to this historic night by hitting another home
run, No. 52, in his last at-bat during a 6-0 Boston victory over the
Minnesota Twins before a crowd of 36,434.
games to play, Ortiz is a distant nine home runs from the AL record of 61 set in
1961 by Roger Maris, a record that has been eclipsed in the steroid era in the
National League by Sammy Sosa (three times), Mark McGwire (twice), and Barry
Bonds, who in 2001 hit 73, the current record.
his 34 1/2-inch, 33-ounce bat the same bat carved of white ash and laminated
black that he'd used the night before to hit No. 50 at the first pitch he saw
from Twins lefthander Johan Santana, with two outs and nobody on base in the
bottom of the first inning. The pitch from Santana, widely considered the best
pitcher in the American League and a "brother" by Ortiz, was a belt-high
fastball that did not veer inside enough to interrupt the full violent twist of
Ortiz's hips and the upward sweep of his bat.
At the sound
of bat meeting ball, and the sight of the ball soaring high into the cool
autumn-like night, Ortiz's teammates rushed to the railing of the dugout, and
the crowd rose as one, exploding when the ball cleared the Sox bullpen. With
that swing, Big Papi, trumping Double X, whose record had stood the test of
other Sox sluggers, from Ted Williams to Yaz, Jim Rice to Mo Vaughn, for 68
of "The Natural" played over the ballpark PA system as Ortiz circled the bases,
and "51" flashed repeatedly on the video scoreboard. Santana, standing on the
grass near the mound, tipped his cap to Ortiz, then removed it in an apparent
gesture of respect. Six times previously, Santana had faced Ortiz, and six times
he'd gotten him out, striking him out three times. The seventh time, history.
crossed the plate, he performed the ritual that follows each of his home runs,
gently kissing the tips of his fingers and pointing to the sky, in tribute to
his mother, Angela Rosa Arias, who died in a car accident four years ago and
whose visage is etched on Ortiz's giant biceps. He exchanged fist bumps with the
Sox' on-deck hitter, Mike Lowell, then returned to the dugout, where one by one,
led by manager Terry Francona, teammates engulfed him with hugs and backslaps.
deference the Sox accorded Ortiz for his record-breaker was replaced by some
traditional baseball mischief when he hit No. 52, a towering drive into the
left-center-field seats off 27-year-old right-handed reliever Matt Guerrier with
one out in the seventh. Ortiz returned to a dugout that, at Curt Schilling's
prompting, collectively ignored him for several moments before abandoning the
silent treatment and pounding him anew.