Sabermetricians like to argue about whether there is such thing as a "clutch" hitter. It's baseball's version of dark matter and quantum physics.
David Ortiz is the anomaly in the machine. While his performance in big moments is just a reflection of the fact that he is a good hitter in any and all situations, his career is also defined by big hits in big moments. As Ortiz prepares to hang up his cleats (fortunately, we have one last October of postseason baseball left), let's bid adieu to Ortiz with 10 of his most memorable hits.
1. The first homer
Just like your first kiss, you'll always remember your first dinger. On Sept. 14, 1997, Ortiz went deep for the very first time. Facing Julio Santana, the not-yet-Papi drove the ball deep to right field to drive in two.
Even though it was his first, it still retained that wonderful David Ortiz-iness as the young slugger took a 21.45-second home run trot.
2. His first walk-off homer
For a hitter whose 20 walk-off hits make us wonder if "clutch" is an actual skill, Ortiz had to start somewhere.
Fittingly, it came in the bottom of the 12th inning and was his last home run as a Twins player.
3. His first Red Sox home run
Imagine you're a Red Sox fan in 2003. Your team has just picked up Ortiz -- a 1B/DH-type who seemed like a useful hitter but hardly a future legend. And then, in the top of the 14th inning of a 4-4 game, Ortiz did this against Mickey Callaway of the Angels.
Maybe you felt something, an intuitive sense that this was a magical player who would someday help deliver a World Series to a team that hadn't won one in nearly a century. But you would have told yourself that this thought was simply a result of staying up past your bedtime for a late West Coast game.
4. The first big postseason hit
The cult of Papi was just starting when Ortiz kept the Red Sox alive in the 2003 playoffs. Down two games to one to the Athletics in the ALDS, Ortiz came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, trailing 4-3. While he was a few feet short of a home run, it was enough to give the Red Sox a victory.
5. ALDS stands for American League Done Series
The Red Sox were already up two games to none as Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS went to extra innings. But Ortiz likes wrapping things up nice and tidy. So he took Jarrod Washburn's offering high over the Monster for a walk-off two-run home run, his arm lifted high in the air as he rounded first. No one knew it at the time, but it would be a sign of things to come.
6. Oh, just the defining home run of the 21st century
Ortiz has 17 October long balls to his name, but none resonate as strongly as the one he hit against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
With the Red Sox trailing the Yankees three games to zero, there was something like a .00000000000000000000000000001 percent chance that they would move on to the World Series (and I may be rounding up).
After Boston tied the Yanks at 4 in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 thanks to Dave Roberts' steal and Bill Mueller's RBI single, Ortiz did what he does best.
7. The next day's single
While the home run to keep the Red Sox alive was big, the team was still losing to the Yankees, three games to one. Had the Red Sox lost any of the next three games, his famous home run would just be a footnote in baseball history.
Instead, Ortiz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 5 to help the Red Sox come back and force extra innings.
It would remain knotted until the bottom of the 14th. With two on and two out, Ortiz hit one of the biggest -- and softest -- hits that you'll see on this list.
8. The Red Sox's first World Series home run since 1986
Rich Gedman hit a home run in the second inning of the Red Sox's ill-fated Game 7 loss to the Mets in 1986, but Boston would go nearly two decades before returning to the Fall Classic.
The team wouldn't have to wait long in 2004. With two on in the bottom of the first of Game 1, Ortiz (and his chinstrap beard) took Woody Williams' pitch just fair into the right-field corner. The Red Sox would not trail again that day.
9. David Ortiz makes a meme
Ortiz was put on this planet to hit home runs in big situations.
The Red Sox were trailing, 4-1, in the bottom of the eighth, in danger of falling into a 2-0 hole during Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS against the Tigers. While the concept of momentum across a full team of individuals is difficult to quantify, once again, Ortiz lives at the intersection of baseball science and faith. When he hit the game-tying grand slam, inspiring a bullpen cop to raise his arms in triumph over Torii Hunter's dangling feet, well, it really didn't feel like the Red Sox would ever lose another game.
10. The 2013 World Series cavalcade of hits
Ortiz treated the 2013 Fall Classic as his own personal showcase. He homered in Games 1 and 2, singled and walked twice in Game 3, went 3-for-3 with another walk in Game 4 and, with the series tied at two in Game 5, he helped put the nail in the Cardinals' coffin as he picked up another three hits and drove in Dustin Pedroia in the top of the first to put the Red Sox in the lead.
When Boston clinched in Game 6, the Cardinals wanted nothing to do with Big Papi. They walked him four times -- three of them coming intentionally.