BOSTON (AP) – Ted Williams waited 24 years after his last at-bat before the Boston Red Sox hung his No. 9 from the Fenway Park facade. Bobby Doerr and Joe Cronin waited 37 years, and Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice 20.
David Ortiz‘s No. 34 will join the others Friday night – 265 days after he walked off the Fenway field for the last time as a player.
“That short amount of time is a symbol,” team president Sam Kennedy said Thursday, “of how everyone … feels about the player who was the most important player in the history of the Red Sox.”
The Red Sox will retire Ortiz’s number Friday night before their game against the Los Angeles Angels. It will be the 11th number on the facade, and the third in three seasons.
And, yes, it will be less than a year after the player beloved as “Big Papi” walked off the field for the final time.
Ortiz’s farewell last year was a season-long affair in which he was showered with gifts on the road and celebrated for an entire weekend at Fenway. Among the honors was the announcement of a quick turnaround before he would be back for a number retirement ceremony this summer.
Things got started a day early, with Mayor Marty Walsh stopping by the Fenway on Thursday afternoon to help rename the street from the ballpark to the nearest train station “David Ortiz Drive.”
Taking the podium in front of a crowd of high school ballplayers, with Red Sox employees hanging out the windows and watching from the Fenway roof across the street, Ortiz said, “This city means a lot to me. This city got me to where I am.”
A giant No. 34 also will line the way, joining those for those previously retired by the team (and the No. 42 retired by all of baseball for Jackie Robinson).
Ortiz retired at the age of 40 with one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .315 with 38 homers and a league-leading 127 RBIs. In his career with the Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, he finished with a 286 average, 541 homers, and 1,768 RBIs.
His late-inning heroics helped the Red Sox rally from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS and win their first World Series in 86 years. He then added two more titles – the only player on all three Boston championship teams this millennium.
But most importantly, he is also remembered for rallying the city after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, when he grabbed a microphone on the Fenway mound and declared, “This is our (expletive) city.”
“In one of the darkest moments of the city, he was somebody that lifted us right up,” Walsh said, right before a pair of school buses drove by, with students hanging out the window and yelling “Big Papi!”
Noting that he’s watched Ortiz work both on and off the field, Walsh said, “he has a heart as big as our city.”
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