07/03/05 7:00 PM ET
Ortiz tops with more than 4 million
Red Sox slugger receives record 3.6 million online votes
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Aside from being selected as the starting designated hitter for the American League, Ortiz received more votes than any player in Major League Baseball. He was the only player to top the four million barrier, finishing with 4,138,141.
"What? Four million. That's a lot, huh? Pretty good," said Ortiz.
An overwhelming number of those votes came via the Internet at MLB.com, where Ortiz received a record of 3,629,492 online votes.
Last year, Ortiz wasn't even on the fan ballot because the game was in a National League city (Houston) and there was no designated hitter.
"Last year, I barely made it," said Ortiz. "Like I say, people realize that you did a great job last year. This year, they had a the designated hitter in the All-Star Game and they threw some votes out there for the Big Papi."
"I think it says a couple of things," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "One, when you play in the postseason, you get the publicity, people watch. And what he did in the postseason -- the way he rose to the occasion time and time again. You couple that with his personality, that infectious smile, how wildly popular he is, not just among players, but fans, and the way he produces runs. I think that leads to, justifiably, the amount of votes he got."
Nobody in the Red Sox clubhouse would disagree.
"He's probably the biggest clutch hitter in the game," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "And he has a brilliant personality about him. But he's a great player. He's developed and gotten better with lefties. He's a constant threat at the plate, and he has a pretty vibrant personality. He's very likable. We're lucky we have a big mass of people that support the Red Sox."
The rise of Ortiz continues to be one of the best stories in baseball. Consider that the Twins released him following the 2002 season and the Red Sox, without much competition, signed the free agent for $1 million.
In that first season in Boston, Ortiz began the year as a part-time player, but landed in the everyday lineup for good at the end of May. Backed by a torrid second half, Ortiz hit .288 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs in the 2003 season, finishing fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player voting.
A career year? Only until 2004, when Ortiz took his game to another level, hitting .301 with 41 homers and 139 RBIs.
It was during the month of October when Ortiz reached iconic status, as his clutch hitting played a huge role in the Red Sox winning their first World Series championship since 1918.
Down 3-0 to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the man known as Big Papi gave the Red Sox life, hitting a walk-off homer in the 12th inning of Game 4. The next day, his game-ending single in the bottom of the 14th sent the series back to New York, where the Red Sox became the first team in Major League history to win a postseason series after losing the first three games. Ortiz cemented that quest by belting a two-run homer off Kevin Brown in the first inning of Game 7.
And he got the Red Sox off on the right foot in their eventual World Series sweep of the Cardinals, ripping a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 1.
"I always believed in myself," said Ortiz. "I know that I have the ability to play this game. It was all about staying away from the DL and getting the opportunity to play."
Ortiz has maintained his high level of play in 2005. He is hitting .310 with 22 doubles, 19 homers, 56 runs, 68 RBIs and a .578 slugging percentage.
But the most staggering number of all is four million-plus. That one even shocked Ortiz.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.