BOSTON (USA TODAY/Bob Nightengale) — The Boston Red Sox, declaring David Ortiz as perhaps the greatest player in franchise history Sunday, treated him with such a glorious and splendid farewell ceremony, you almost forgot the Red Sox still have a playoff series ahead.
The game was simply an afterthought after Ortiz was greeted with teammates from his three World Series teams, presents from custom-made work boots to a bridge and avenue named in his honor, to a $500,000 check to his foundation, to Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing a “David Ortiz fellowship program to increase front-office diversity.
And after the Red Sox are eliminated from the postseason - or win their fourth World Series since 2004 - no one will again wear No. 34, they declared.
It was that kind of afternoon, with nine-time Grammy award singer Mary J. Blige singing the National Anthem, which followed the Canadian and Dominican Republic anthems, and ending with Blige singing a song in Ortiz’s honor.
Leo Ortiz, Ortiz’s father, was there. So was Danilo Medina, president of the Dominican Republic, with Ortiz taking out his cell phone and taking a selfie. And representatives from all three of his World Series teams, from Pedro Martinez to Manny Ramirez to Jonny Gomes to Mike Lowell.
Ortiz, emotional at times, broke down thanking his late mother, and was visibly shaken when the Red Sox announced his number would be retired.
Yes, five years before he’s even eligible for the Hall of Fame.
“There may be no more important player,’’ Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “ever in the organization.’’
And just in case someone might be holding out their vote for Ortiz because of a positive test in MLB’s 2003 anonymous drug testing survey, Manfred made it clear that there were at least 10 false-positive tests in the survey, and it’s quite possible Ortiz was one of those cases.
Manfred said it was “unfair and wrong’’ for Ortiz’s legacy to be disputed because of a leaked, disputed drug test.
It was a genuine, all-weekend lovefest that won’t end until the Red Sox’s final day of the season.
"I'm going to be here until the World Series," Leo Ortiz said, "because we're going to win that, too.’’
All of New England will be right there with him.
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