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Only a few players in the history of sports have been honored by their rivals the year in which they retired. You can add David Ortiz to that list.

On Thursday Ortiz made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium in a game that’s atmosphere was unorthodox to say the least. It was the first time in the history that the Yankee fans actually cheered for an opponent in the new Yankee Stadium.

Ortiz’s retirement is a symbol for both fans alike. It’s an end of an era of a time when the Yankees and Red Sox were not only the biggest rivalry in baseball, but in sports as a whole.

This inter division matchup has attracted more than just the likeness of their fan bases of the two teams, but to also non sport watchers just to keep up with the rest of the nation. It was cultural currency to have watched the games and to be able to talk about them the next day. They were back and forth, full of drama and for a couple hours gave people an escape from reality from their everyday grind.

In 2003 and 2004 the Yankees and the Red Sox met in back to back ALCS’s in which two game sevens would decide who would go to the World Series.  Both years were equally filled with drama and it epitomized the American spirit in an uncertain time a few years after 9/11. David Ortiz was a catalyst in both series and is the last active player in the MLB from either team still playing in the majors. When he retires after this season it will symbolize the passing of the torch to the future generations that have yet to experience big moments as such.

On Thursday Yankee stadium had an aura that was out of the ordinary and hadn’t been experienced by many. Fans that grew up rooting against the Red Sox and David Ortiz came together and celebrated a man that was a big contribution to the rivalry’s success.

Prior to the game the Yankees honored Ortiz and his family behind home plate. Yankee legend Mariano Rivera, unbeknownst to the fans, cam out of the dug out to a thunderous roar representing the Yankees to present Ortiz with a sendoff gift.

Rivera presented Ortiz first with a leather-bound book with hand written notes from present and past Yankee players. The notes spanned decades of players wishing Ortiz good luck with his future endeavors. Then Rivera and Ortiz unveiled an original painting of David in the batter’s box tipping his cap to a sold out Yankee stadium. The crowd gave Big Papi a standing ovation and chanted his name, “Papi! Papi! Papi.” It was Yankees and Red Sox fans coming together in a special way sending off a special player.

Every team that Ortiz has faced this season presented him with a sendoff gift in his last game at their stadium, but it failed in comparison to what the Yankees had planned.

“I thought tonight, the gift that he received, the leather-bound notebook, might be the most meaningful gift that we’ve seen him receive this year on this (farewell) tour,” said Red Sox Manager John Ferrell during an interview with masslive.com.

“Our rivalry with the Yankees made me who I am. The intensity of that competition is what I’m gonna miss the most when I’m done,” said Ortiz in an article he wrote for the Player’s Tribune. Ortiz admits that growing up in the Dominican Republic that he always wanted to be a Yankee, but later on in life he knew he was meant to play against them.

Players like Ortiz, Jeter, Rivera, Williams…ect made what the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is and was. With Ortiz exiting it might make us realize how good we really had it. Red Sox- Yankees never disappointed our appetite for good baseball and great competition. After this season we can only reminisce to a time when the biggest rivalry in baseball captivated a nation and for that was should be thankful.

Goodbye Big Papi!


John C. Longton III is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. He previously served as sports editor for Hudson Valley Community College's student newspaper, the Hudsonian. Longton also works for Townsquare Media, the Albany Patroons, and runs his own podcast weekly, Rated R Sports.

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