David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox leaves behind a magnificent brand for franchise
The Boston sports community saw its idol David Ortiz play his final regular season game on Sunday and, by all accounts, the tributes to one of the greatest hitters also shed light on how he helped rebrand the Red Sox franchise during his career.
In 14 seasons with the Red Sox, Ortiz, or "Big Papi," a most singular nickname, not only helped the team win their first World Series since 1918 in the 2004 season, but his talent and personality re-kindled and intensified great rivalries like the one between the New York Yankees and the Red Sox.
Ortiz's overwhelming success with the Red Sox also re-ignited an international interest in the brand with films, television and merchandise, where at one time celebrities wore only Boston Red Sox jerseys and movies like "Fever Pitch" were big box office draws.
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His grit on the field and graciousness off the field created a persona that affected the Red Sox brand to the point where, when Boston beat New York in 2004 in the American League playoffs and went on to win the world series for the first time in 86 years, Ortiz was forever crowned the true warrior of the Red Sox nation.
That same warrior-like quality he had as a player helped heal Boston during one of its worst tragedies ever experienced on April 15th, 2013 during the Patriots Day bombing at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Five days later, Ortiz addressed the crowd at Fenway park saying: "This is not just the Red Sox, this is Boston. This is our *@#$ city. We are going to stay strong." And, not only did the words 'Boston Strong' become a symbol of the struggle against terrorism and defeat, it was more believable because Ortiz said it.
This week, the Governor of Massachusetts and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh surprised Ortiz when they named the only bridge in Boston without a name after Ortiz, calling it the "Big Papi" bridge.
“Every bridge in Boston practically’s been named after somebody, and we were shocked, stunned amazed, and thoroughly psyched when we found out that that bridge over Brookline Avenue that so many Red Sox fans have walked over for so many years had not actually been named," Baker said. “And to be able to name that after David Oritz — and to get our colleagues in the legislature to whip that one through in a matter of minutes — was a terrific opportunity, I think, for us to just say thank you to him.”
An advertisement in the Boston Globe yesterday may have said best what Ortiz means to the Red Sox 'as its centerpiece of the golden age' and ultimately to sports.
"Over 116 seasons, nearly 2,000 players have worn a Red Sox uniform. You stand alone. You carried a team on your back and a city in your heart. Thank you for the impossible, for the hugs, for the smiles and for being the centerpiece of the Golden Age of this franchise."