BOSTON (Reuters) - David Ortiz capped an already stellar career by winning the Most Valuable Player award in the World Series on Wednesday and capturing the hearts of the Boston Nation.
Already a cult figure in New England, the Red Sox slugger was an unstoppable force during the series, smashing two home runs and batting a remarkable .733 (11-for-15) with six runs batted in for the six-game series.
The St. Louis Cardinals, beaten 4-2 in the best-of-seven series, were seemingly unable to stop the 37-year-old, known affectionately as ‘Big Papi’.
“I know I’m one of the forces for this ballgame, and I like to take things personal, you know,” he told reporters after his team mates sprayed him with champagne.
“And that’s been my whole career, a challenge. I wasn’t trying to be the guy, but I know I got to get something done to keep the line moving.
“And thank God, everything worked out well, and I don’t even have to do anything today, I guess, the rest of the team take over.”
By Wednesday’s Game Six at Fenway Park, the Cardinals had virtually given up on stopping Ortiz and elected to walk him four times as he completed one of the most dominant batting performances ever seen in a Fall Classic.
“He’s as hot as anyone you’re going to see this time of year,” said Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager. “We tried to make tough pitches in tough situations, tried to pitch around him at times.”
The hulking lefthander, who also won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, set the tone for Boston’s victory when he hit the first home run of the series in Game One at Fenway Park, blasting a 408-feet shot off St. Louis relief pitcher Randy Choate over center.
In Game Two, Ortiz smashed a 375-feet homer over the Green Monster off Cardinals rookie sensation Michael Wacha.
But it was his inspirational pep talk in the dugout in Game Four, with his team 2-1 behind the series, that proved as important as anything he did with the bat.
Jonny Gomes belted a three-run homer and the Red Sox won the game to tie the series. They then won the next two to clinch their first title at Fenway Park in 95 years.
“This is a team that we have a lot of players with heart,” Ortiz said. “We probably don’t have the talent that we have in ‘07 and ‘04, but we have guys that are capable to stay focused and do the little things. And when you win with a ball club like that, that’s special.
“You have those funky years that you put a really good team together and you don’t make it to the playoffs, and you have those other years that you let a big player go, and all of a sudden you’re in the playoffs.”
Ortiz, whose impassioned speech after the deadly Boston marathon bombings in April became a rallying call for the team and the city, once again paid homage to a town he now calls home after moving to the United States from Dominican Republic.
“This is a city that we’ve been through a lot of situations,” he said. “Sometimes bad things got to happen for us to get the message. And we got the message.
“Everybody stayed together. And it showed the whole world that this is the best country of every place.”
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Nick Mulvenney