The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium for 3-games for the first time since 2013. For the Red Sox it’s yet another stop on David “Big Papi” Ortiz farewell tour. For Dodgers manager Dave Roberts it brings up memories of his time with the Red Sox and an unforgettable World Series.
Red Sox fans will always have a favorable view of Roberts. As a matter of fact, Roberts connection to the Dodgers and the Red Sox runs deeper than it appears on the surface. Roberts was in the midst of a slightly below average year in 2004 when the Dodgers traded him to the Red Sox for Henri Stanley, who I assume is an actual baseball player that once existed.
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While Roberts performed slightly better overall for the Red Sox, posting a .772 OPS in 86 at bats, it was a specific moment in the magical 2004 Red Sox playoff run for which he will always be remembered.
Let us set the stage. The Red Sox were facing elimination from the ALCS at the hands of their hated rival, the New York Yankees.
Down 4 to 3 in the 9th inning against the great Mariano Rivera, Kevin Millar worked a walk with no outs to put one of Roberts most iconic career moments into the limelight. Roberts pinch ran for Millar, and on the year, he was successful in 38 of his 41 stolen base attempts on the year.
Everyone at Fenway and on TV knew Roberts was going to steal. Mariano threw to first 3 times, almost picking him off on the last one.
Bill Mueller was at the plate, with a track record of success against Rivera. Rivera finally delivered the pitch for a ball as Roberts swiped second, beating the throw from Jorge Posada to Derek Jeter by about an eyelash. Two pitches later, with a hard single up the middle, Mueller had tied the game as Roberts rounded third and slid across home. The Red Sox went on to win in the 12th inning.
It seems, Roberts set the Red Sox 2004 playoff run in motion. Including this game, the Red Sox went on to win 8 straight games, besting the Yankees in the ALCS and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. That was a World Series run that saw David Ortiz win the ALCS MVP and old friend, Manny Ramirez, bring home the World Series MVP while helping the Sox end their World Series drought.
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Roberts didn’t get a chance to step foot on the field during the World Series, but his ALCS moment was enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, leading Roberts to the only World Series championship he won in his career. He would go on to be traded to the Padres in the winter. However, despite playing for other teams Roberts is always shown love when he returns to Boston.
Roberts credits Dodger great Maury Wills, who once told him on the back fields at Vero Beach:
“DR, one of these days you’re going to have to seal an important base when everyone in the ballpark knows you’re gonna steal, but you’ve got to steal that base and you can’t be afraid to steal that base,” a “Mauryism” if I’ve ever heard one.
The Dodgers skipper also has a few memorable quotes regarding his similarly named Red Sox friend, Mr. David Ortiz, who will be hanging his hat at the end of the year after 20 seasons in the MLB.
“I love his energy, everyday he’s positive, he’s contagious he makes people around him laugh and makes them better/accountable but this guy works. He is a tireless worker and I think that people feel like that it comes easy to David but he works his tail off, but he’s a great teammate and win or lose he’s still positive,” Roberts told Alanna Rizzo in a SportsNet LA Interview.
As we say goodbye to David “Big Papi” Ortiz this weekend, it’s often fun to remember how intertwined baseball players can be. David Ortiz will go down as an all time great, leading the Red Sox to two championships and hitting baseballs like few other 40 year-olds have.
Dave Roberts possesses one of the all-time great Red Sox moments, which is quite an accomplishment for someone who didn’t have a single plate appearance during the entire 2004 playoffs. Let’s hope that Roberts and the Dodgers can send Ortiz off into the sunset while also claiming the series win.
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