Tuesday was a big day for Big Papi.
David Ortiz, the beloved Boston legend and longtime Yankees tormentor, was the only player elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in voting announced on Tuesday night.
Ortiz received 77.9% of the vote in his first year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. Seventy-five percent is required for election to Cooperstown. So Big Papi will always be known as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"I can call myself that," Ortiz said. "I started paying attention to that lately. The thought of just getting into the Hall of Fame no matter what was important because I know so many great players that they haven't gotten in on the first ballot . . . It's a wonderful honor to be able to get in. I can imagine how New England has to feel about one of its babies getting into the Hall of Fame today. I'm not even going to tell you about the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a country that breathes baseball and people are very excited right here and everything is going crazy right now."
Tuesday’s election was the end of the road for all-time greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, neither of whom came close on their 10th and final year on the ballot.
"Hey y’all! I figured I’d give y’all a statement since it’s that time of the year again," Clemens said on Twitter. "My family and I put the HOF in the rearview mirror ten years ago. I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF . . . I gave it all I had, the right way, for my family and for the fans who supported me. I am grateful for that support."
Bonds earned 66%, Clemens 65.2, as the performance-enhancing drug scandals that plagued their careers officially kept them both out of the Hall via the BBWAA route.
"Not having them join me at this time is something that it’s hard for me to believe," Ortiz said.
Ortiz’s only steroid-related blemish was a reported positive in survey testing that was supposed to be anonymous and used to determine whether to institute regular testing. Ortiz denied using steroids, and commissioner Rob Manfred said in 2016 "I think it would be wrong" to exclude him from the Hall of Fame based on that report. MLB started testing players without the cloak of anonymity in 2004.
"I never failed a test," Ortiz said on Tuesday. "What does that tell you?"
Ortiz was extremely popular with the writers, which may have helped his candidacy just a bit.
Former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, another steroid-tainted superstar, received 34.3%t in his first year of eligibility.
Steroid-linked slugger Sammy Sosa’s BBWAA eligibility ended as he got 18.5% in his final year on the ballot.
Politically outspoken former Red Sox World Series star and former Ortiz teammate Curt Schilling fell to 58.6% in his final year on the ballot after receiving 71.7% in 2021,.
Tuesday night, Schilling posted on Twitter: "Every year the conversation revolves around who didn’t get it . . . I say it every year and especially this year, focus on who did get in. @davidortiz deserved a 1st ballot induction! Congratulations my friend you earned it!"
Schilling’s previous post was a diatribe about President Biden.
Three other players received more than 50%: Scott Rolen (63.2), Todd Helton (52) and former Mets closer Billy Wagner (51).
Also of local interest was former Mets and Yankees slugger Gary Sheffield (40.6%), former Mets infielder Jeff Kent (32.7), former Yankees lefthander Andy Pettitte (10.7) and former Yankees outfielder Bobby Abreu (8.6).
First-time candidate Mark Teixeira (0.5) and 10 other players who earned less than5% are off the ballot, including Stony Brook alum Joe Nathan (4.3).
A 10-time All-Star, Ortiz batted .286 with 541 homers and 1,768 RBIs in a career that started with the Twins before they released him to avoid a big payday in arbitration. After arriving in Boston, he finished in the top five of the AL MVP balloting for each the next five seasons; he came in sixth in his final year, 2016, when he batted .315 with 38 homers and 127 RBIs.
But Ortiz’s case is also buttressed by his contributions in big moments, with 23 game-winning hits in his career — three of them during the 2004 postseason, when he helped Boston overcome a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the ALCS en route to ending its 86-year World Series drought. He led the team to two more titles after that, including 2013, when he helped his "[expletive] city" heal after the Boston Marathon bombing and then batted .688 against the Cardinals to win World Series MVP.
Ortiz had 88% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter. He joins Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines as DHs in the Hall.
Ortiz will be enshrined on July 24 in Cooperstown along with Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva and Buck O’Neil. The latter six were elected in December by two of the Hall’s era committees.