On a chilly, windy night at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees honored retiring Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz on Thursday with a six-minute pregame ceremony that included an appearance by Mariano Rivera.
The very important question of whether Yankees fans would cheer or boo their longtime tormentor was mostly moot. The stands were half-filled during the ceremony and most of those in attendance seemed to be wearing Boston colors. So Ortiz was cheered.
Yankees public address announcer Paul Olden started the ceremony by pointing out how important Ortiz has been to the rivalry. “Tonight,” Olden intoned, “the Yankees would like to put aside that rivalry and honor David Ortiz.”
Ortiz and his family were welcomed to the field and greeted by former Yankees and Red Sox pitcher David Cone and current Yankee and former Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. They presented Ortiz a leather-bound book containing pages of hand-written tributes by members of the Yankees family, including manager Joe Girardi and former and current players.
Rivera then was introduced to cheers and uncovered an oil painting of Ortiz standing at home plate at Yankee Stadium.
As Ortiz walked off, the stadium PA played the Fenway Park staple “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.
“It was a great ceremony,” Ortiz said. “I want to personally thank the Yankees for taking their time and remembering my career. It was very professional and a very nice ceremony. I want to thank them.”
The Ortiz ceremony was in stark contrast with one the Red Sox staged for Rivera during the all-time saves leader’s final visit to Fenway in 2013. The Red Sox “honored” Rivera by showing a slicky produced video that was mostly about one of Rivera’s lowest moments as a Yankee, when he blew a save to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. Rivera said he was not offended, but many Yankees fans were.
The Red Sox clinched the AL East title on Wednesday night. Ortiz, 40, who announced his retirement before the season, would have gotten Thursday night off, but manager John Farrell said Big Papi felt an “obligation” to at least get a few at-bats in his final game in the Bronx.
Before leading off the second inning, Ortiz got another ovation that was accompanied by a few scattered boos. Ortiz struck out against CC Sabathia, making him 0-for-10 in the series and hitless in his last 14 at-bats against the Yankees. He walked in the fourth and was replaced by pinch runner Brock Holt.
Ortiz wound up with 53 career home runs against the Yankees. On Tuesday, he said: “All the emotions, all the adrenaline, all the competition . . . competing against the Yankees has been outstanding.”