COOPERSTOWN, NY (AP) — David Ortiz has promised to speak from the heart. As usual, Big Papi delivered.
His megawatt smile tinged with a bit of emotion, the former Boston Red Sox slugger was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday – after his daughter Alexandra sang the national anthem – and was humiliated by its environment.
“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here today and for giving me the joy of being able to walk this path, this path that has allowed me to be here today and , hopefully to inspire everyone to believe in themselves,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz was greeted by a noisy crowd chanting “Papi!” Grandpa!” as many fans made the four-hour drive from nearby Fenway Park to witness the festivities.
When he took the stage, Ortiz pointed to the sky as usual in special moments, a way to honor his late mother, who died two decades ago after a car accident.
“I’ve always tried to live my life in a way…so that I can be a positive influence in the world,” said Ortiz, 46, just the 58th player elected in his first year on the ballot. “And if my story can remind you of anything, let it remind you that when you believe in someone, you can change the world, you can change their future, just like so many people have believed in me.”
Ortiz, who survived a nightclub shooting in the Dominican Republic three years ago, soaked up the celebration.
Legions of fans thronged the field adjacent to the Clark Sports Center, umbrellas and Dominican Republic flags dotted all around. Ortiz’s number 34 was seemingly everywhere as fans chanted and sang in Spanish. A sign reading “I Love U” summed up the admiration for Big Papi on his special day.
The Six Era Committee selections were also part of the Class of 2022 – former Twins teammates Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva, the late Minnie Miñoso, former Dodgers star and Mets manager Gil Hodges, and black trailblazers Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler.
In 14 years with the Red Sox, Ortiz hit 500 home runs, including 17 in the playoffs.
If there was a smudge, there was a New York Times report that said he tested positive in the 2003 drug test conducted by MLB and the players’ association. Ortiz was never penalized for performance-enhancing drugs, and MLB and the union never confirmed he tested positive. The parties said the results of investigative testing were never verified to the point of testing with sanctions that began in 2004.
It was far from the spirit that day, as Ortiz paid tribute to many in English and Spanish.
“It’s an honor to be on this stage,” Ortiz said. “I can’t ask for anything more.”
Kaat, 83, now a broadcaster for the Twins, pitched for a quarter of a century, winning a World Series a year before retiring in 1983. He credited his father for instilling the discipline needed to succeed, his wife forever being there, and his former minor league manager, 94-year-old Jack McKeon, who was in the audience.
“I am humbled and honored to be included in this fellowship, some of the greatest players to play the game, and thank you for being a part of this wonderful day,” said Kaat, a native of Zeeland, Michigan.
Oliva was the 1964 American League Rookie of the Year, led the league five times in hits and became the first player in major league history to win batting titles in each of his first two seasons, finishing with a .304 lifetime average in 15 seasons with the Twins.
Oliva got her chance partly thanks to Miñoso, the Cuban comet.
“I have been so blessed, so lucky,” said Oliva, who turned 84 four days ago. “I appreciate it very much. I would like to say thank you to all these friends, all these wonderful friends, all these friends from all over the world. I appreciated it very, very much.”
Miñoso grew up on a sugar cane plantation and played weekend ball as a kid and became a star with the New York Cubans in the black leagues before becoming the first black Latino player in the major leagues in 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson broke in. For Cuban players, Miñoso was the Jackie Robinson of Latin America and played for the White Sox in the 1950s. He was a nine-time All-Star and finished his career with 2,110 hits and a batting average of .299. He died in 2015.
“From a humble ranch in Cuba to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, what a way to honor such a remarkable life and serve in the sport he loved. He would have been so proud to be a Hall of Famer” , said his wife, Sharon.
Irene Hodges spoke on behalf of her father, a hard-hitting first baseman who had 370 home runs and 1,274 RBIs in 18 major league seasons — all but the last two with the Dodgers. He retired in 1963 and five years later was hired to manage the Mets, leading them in 1969 to their unlikely World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles before dying of a heart attack three years later. at 47 years old.
“He would be so proud. Today I am especially happy for my mother,” said Irene Hodges. “When the call came from the Hall of Fame…I started sobbing probably as much as when I lost my father. I was so happy for him, and even thrilled that my mother at 95 could hear this My mom is watching today from our home in Brooklyn.
O’Neil, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the black leagues and was a tireless defender of the game until his death in 2006, was represented by a niece, Dr. Angela Terry.
“He would remind us all that his playing career was in the black leagues and today he was inducted into the same class as a black baseball pioneer, Bud Fowler, and a former black league star, Minnie Miñoso,” Terry said. . “Dude, oh dude. Nothing better. Thank you for loving our uncle.
Hall of Famer Dave Winfield has paid tribute to Fowler, the first black man to play on a white professional team nearly seven decades before Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers. Fowler is also the first person from the Cooperstown area to receive this honor. He was born in Fort Plain, but grew up in Cooperstown, where he learned to play.
A second baseman who batted just over .300 in 13 seasons, Fowler was signed at age 20 by an all-white Massachusetts professional team in 1878. It was the start of a 13-year career that saw him seen playing for 18 teams, including four in a year, the constant moves are a direct reflection of the racism he had to endure.
“I ask you to remember Bud Fowler in a broad context,” Winfield said. “Remember him as a talented athlete who endured odds hard to imagine today. Personally, I hope you all see him as a man who loved baseball from its inception.
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