When Papi talks, Red Sox listen

David Ortiz woke up his teammates ... and changed the (blank)ing Series

Originally Published: October 27, 2013
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- Even an hour after it was over, we could hear David Ortiz, somewhere in the showers, still yelling.

"You see?!? You see?!?" he kept hollering at somebody we couldn't see. "I got two rings! You want a ring, you need to listen to me when I go crazy! You need to listen!"

They did. And this World Series is all new for it.

Just before the sixth inning Sunday in Game 4, with the Boston Red Sox looking like they'd stayed too long at the blood bank, Ortiz gathered them all into a huddle in the dugout.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
AP Photo/Matt SlocumAfter scoring the only run in Game 4, David Ortiz used the dugout as his pulpit, and the Red Sox responded with a three-run sixth inning.
"It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher," left fielder Jonny Gomes said. "That message was pretty powerful."

It must've gotten through to Gomes. Minutes later, he drilled a Busch-busting, two-out, three-run home run -- with Ortiz standing on first -- that cracked the game open and evened this Dramamine Series at 2-2, with Boston getting two of the next three games at home.

Big Papi will go down as one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history -- he's hitting a ridiculous .727 in this Series -- but who knew he was one of the most clutch speakers?

"We call Big Papi 'Cooperstown,'" starter Clay Buchholz said. "Whatever he says, everybody listens."

"He kind of took us all into the corner of the dugout," outfielder Daniel Nava said. "I can't repeat all the words he was using, but he just shook us up."

Outfielder Quintin Berry: "He was yelling and screaming. It was like football or something. Man, he had everybody juiced up. 'We can hit this guy. Get on that fastball!"

Nava: "It was like, 'It's go time. Let's get after them. Let's get in the box and be looking to do some damage.' And I mean, he never does that. And it worked."

The Red Sox were listing. They were stinging from two games blown by wildly stupid throwing errors. They were taking too many good strikes. Without the DH, they looked as lost as a man in the wrong pair of glasses.

"We were putting all the pressure on ourselves," Ortiz would explain afterward. "I saw some faces that were down. I asked them to wake up their minds."

Nava: "It was just what we needed. He told us to put our foot on the accelerator. To get going. To not sit back. And it was just so unexpected. And you couldn't help but listen."

Where did Ortiz learn to orate like that?

"Bill Clinton, he makes a lot of money making speeches," Ortiz said. "And he changes a lot of lives with his speeches. I watch him. I learn. If you can get people to listen, they will react."

Their ears ringing, the Red Sox suddenly believed in a place called Hope. Dustin Pedroia started things with a two-out single. Then the white-hot Ortiz walked on four pitches. That brought up Gomes, who was 0-for-9 in this Series, hitting .125, lifetime, in the postseason, and wasn't even supposed to be playing at all in Game 4. He made it into the lineup only because Shane Victorino strained his back. Thank you, muscle strain.

Gomes ripped the fifth pitch he saw, a slider from Cardinal reliever Seth Maness, over the left-field wall to make it 4-1. All over Boston, people started grabbing each other's beards.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz picked up Koji Uehara after Boston's win and has been carrying the team all series.
Ortiz is always the most fun, goofy and yet passionate player you'll find in baseball. But in this series, he has been double that. He has been pounding his chest at first base after big putouts, gesturing wildly at his teammates when he gets a hit, and he has gotten a lot of them. He's 37, playing in his third World Series, and yet you'd think it was his first.

"Why shouldn't I be [excited]?" he said. "I don't have another 10 years in me. I don't know when I'm going to make it to another one."

He said he felt this Series slipping away and did something about it.

"I'm a dinosaur, man. I've seen so many things these guys have never seen. I know how big this is. I been on better teams here that didn't even make the playoffs. So I know. I have to squeeze everything out of every chance I get now."

Big Papi is the Charles Barkley of baseball, possessed with so much irresistible charm and organic leadership that you and your inner tube would follow him over Niagara Falls. And that doesn't stop at teammates. Remember his famous Fenway Park speech after the Boston Marathon bombings in April? When a staggered city didn't quite know what to think or how to feel? Ortiz woke it up, too.

"This jersey that we wear today, it doesn't say Red Sox. It says Boston," Ortiz said that day. "This is our [blank]ing city! And nobody's going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."

Suddenly, thanks to Ortiz, this is looking like Boston's (blank)ing Series.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com