In the batter’s box and in some of the biggest moments in October history, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz had a presence even larger than his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame. And so it is with the man known as Big Papi’s presence in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.
Ortiz was the lone player elected into the Hall of Fame by the vote of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in results unveiled Tuesday night on MLB Network. He will be joined by the six selections of the Golden Days and Early Baseball Era committees — Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Big Papi elected to Hall on 1st ballot and the late Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, and Buck O’Neil — in being inducted into the Hall on July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The selection of the 46-year-old Ortiz on his first ballot prevented the BBWAA from going consecutive years without a Hall entrant for the first time in the voting body’s history. Ortiz is the first solo selection from the BBWAA ballot since Reds shortstop Barry Larkin in 2012.
Ortiz had his name-checked on 77.9 percent of submitted ballots, clearing the 75% threshold required for entry. In addition to Curt Schilling falling short in his final chance, performance-enhancing drug implications continued to prevent entry for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in their 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot.
Though he is the 58th first-ballot Hall of Famer — and the 14th just since 2014 — Ortiz stands alone as the only “true” designated hitter to get into the Hall on his first try. Frank Thomas (inducted on his first ballot in 2014) was the DH in 56.4% of games he played in and Edgar Martinez (elected in his 10th year) spent 71.4% of his starts there, but Ortiz filled the bat-only role in 84.2% of his 2,408 games played, topping them both.
Ortiz overcame any stigma associated with the DH duties — as well as some voters’ concerns about his inclusion in the 2003 PED survey testing list that was not intended for the public (Ortiz never tested positive in any of his 13 seasons in which MLB had formal drug testing.) — by amassing gargantuan offensive numbers. A 10-time All-Star and seven-time Silver Slugger winner, Ortiz had a career .286/.380/.552 slash, a 141 OPS+, 541 home runs (17th all-time), 632 doubles (12th all-time), 1,768 RBIs (23rd all-time), 2,472 hits and 1,319 walks (T-41st all-time). He had 10 seasons of at least 100 RBIs, finished in the top five of the AL MVP voting in five straight seasons from 2003-07, and finished his career by leading the Majors in OPS (1.021), ranking sixth in the MVP vote in that age-40 season of 2016.
But Ortiz truly cemented his place in Red Sox and baseball lore with his performance in the postseason. He was instrumental in Boston breaking the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, and he also helped power the Red Sox to titles in 2007 and 2013. In 85 career postseason games, Ortiz slashed .289/.404/.543 with 22 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 61 RBIs, and 51 runs. In perhaps the most consequential playoff series in franchise history – the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees – he went 12-for-31 (.387) with three homers and 11 RBIs in seven games, with the walk-off RBIs in Games 4 and 5. Nearly a decade later, his inspiring speech and play in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the club’s subsequent title run was a testament to his importance to both team and town.