BOSTON — David Ortiz headed to the plate, ready to hit for the final time in the World Series. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina stood up, spoke softly to his pal and twice patted him on the side.
By that point, even the Cardinals were members of the Big Papi fan club.
Ortiz walked off as the MVP after Boston won 6-1 Wednesday night in Game 6, capping a week in which he spurred the Red Sox with a mix of power, patience and a most timely pep talk.
“I know I’m one of the forces for this ballgame and I like to take things personal,” he said. “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,” he said. “I don’t even have to do anything today, I guess, the rest of the team took over.”
Ortiz drew four walks and three of them were intentional, including the last one in the eighth inning after talking with Molina.
Overall, Ortiz piled up totals that not even slow-pitch softball players dream about: He reached base a whopping 19 times in 25 plate appearances.
“Hey, let me tell you,” he said. “I was hitting well, but it wasn’t like I was hitting pitches right down the middle of the plate. They were trying their best to get me out.”
When the game ended, Ortiz hoisted reliever Koji Uehara over his shoulder. He then raised the gleaming gold trophy with one hand, the crowning achievement of his career.
Now a three-time champion, Ortiz is the last link to the Red Sox team that swept the Cardinals in 2004 and ended an 86-year title drought.
The sellout crowd broke into thunderous chants of “MVP! MVP!” each time Ortiz batted. Ortiz hit 11 for 16 (.688) with two home runs and six RBIs against the Cardinals, and just missed a grand slam when Carlos Beltran robbed him.
Yet for all the impact he made swinging the bat, Ortiz made an equally important contribution with his words.
With St. Louis leading the Series 2-1 and the Red Sox scuffling in Game 4, Ortiz called his bearded band together in the dugout.
“It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher. He got everyone’s attention and we looked him right in the eyes,” said Jonny Gomes, who answered with a winning home run. “That message was pretty powerful.”
That’s also what the Red Sox expect from their Dominican-born thumper, known for his neatly tailored suits and dazzling diamond jewelry.
Whatever the Red Sox need, and whenever they need it, he’s ready. When the Series shifted to St. Louis and there was no designated hitter, he adeptly moved from the DH spot to first base.
He did the same thing way back in the 2004 Series, and again in 2007 when the Red Sox swept Colorado.
As the Red Sox celebrated on the field after the final out, Ortiz considered what it meant to win a third title. Easy, he answered.
“That means I’m getting old,” he said.