David “Big Papi” Ortiz: Caribbean Series Icon and Baseball Hall of Famer

A young David Ortiz swinging the bat for Escogido. Photo credit: https://r.search.yahoo.com/

On Tuesday evening, January 25, 2022, David Ortiz received the “special phone call” informing him of being elected to the National Baseball of Fame, with 77.9 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America votes. https://www.mlb.com/es/news/david-ortiz-eleva-a-18-numero-de-latinos-en-salon-de-la-fama Coincidentally, he was voted into the 2022 Caribbean Series Hall of Fame, with 14 of 15 votes (93.3 percent) from sportswriters and historians in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. (Colombia and Panamá now participate in the Caribbean Series, but their media does not vote at the present time.)

https://www.diariolibre.com/deportes/beisbol/david-ortiz-en-pabellon-fama-serie-del-caribe-BC30108292 The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native, played at 6”3” and 230 pounds.

This blog focuses on “Big Papi’s” Winter League career in his native Dominican Republic (LIDOM); his exploits in five Caribbean Series, resulting in four titles for his country; plus, some big-league and minor-league accomplishments in the States, including the World Series.

It will begin with “Big Papi” being one of eight ex-players inducted in Cooperstown AND the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame. Table I lists them by country of origin, year inducted in each Hall of Fame and a quick Caribbean Series highlight. He was born on November 18, 1975.

Table I: Elite 8 Superstars in Cooperstown and Caribbean Series Hall of Fame (CARSHF)

PlayerCountryCARSHFCooperstownCaribbean Series Highlights
Willard Brown#U.S.19962006MVP: 1953 series (4 HR, 13 RBIs),
Tony Pérez##Cuba19982000Career .400 AVG (34 for 85),
Willie Mays###U.S.20051979.440 AVG (11 for 25), 1955 series.
Minnie MiñosoCuba20052022Back-to-back titles: 1957 and 1958.
Edgar MartínezPR20072019.370 AVG, 9 RBIs, 1995 series.
Roberto AlomarPR2011201714 for 25, .560 AVG, 1995 series.
Roberto ClementePR20151973.391 AVG, .609 SLG, 1958 series.
David Ortiz####DR20222022MVP: 2004 series; four team titles.

#Brown represented Puerto Rico in three series; ##Pérez represented Puerto Rico in four; Mays represented Puerto Rico in one. ####Ortiz played in five for the Dominican Republic (DR). Puerto Rico (PR) hosted two of Ortiz’s five series. Sources: Multiple ones.

Ortiz’s LIDOM team: Escogido Lions

Ortiz always played for Escogido, aka as the “Red Team” or “Scarlet Team” (Equipo Escarlata), except when he reinforced the Licey Tigers (“Blue Team”) and Águilas Cibaeñas (“Yellow Team” or “Equipo Mamey”) in five Caribbean Series events. Escogido was affiliated with the San Francisco Giants, late 1950s-1960s, when Willie McCovey, the three Alou brothers (Felipe, Mateo and Jesús), Juan Marichal Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Virgil Sr., among others, wore their uniform. Frank Howard, a Dodgers prospect, was an exception when he played for 1959-60 Escogido—the “Red Team” as he called it—before playing two seasons in Puerto Rico with the 1960-62 Caguas Criollos, a franchise in the 2022 Caribbean Series.

“Big Papi” had his first LIDOM at-bat, at age 19, for the 1994-95 Lions. He played sporadically until 1997-98, once he had a “taste of MLB” with the 1997 Minnesota Twins. Table II includes his regular season hitting stats tor Escogido.

Table II: David Ortiz regular season stats, Escogido, 1994-95 to 2003-04

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIKBBAVGOBPSLGOPS
94-9541101000040.091.092.091.182
95-96111726200540.353.353.471.824
96-9715433103007114.233.292.302.594
97-984516612391111212711.235.279.331.610
98-994015423441224283122.286.382.468.850
99-00341251540905272220.320.405.512.917
00-01391451441935273816.283.356.490.846
01-02311129281003181614.250.336.420.756
02-032074132680423109.351.422.6221.044
03-041552413302896.250.328.423.751
Total2548999524867624164172102.276.349.444.793

Source: Winter ball data (LIDOM) subscription.

Additional Escogido experience came via LIDOM round-robin contests which preceded the league finals. Table III summarizes Ortiz’s participation in these games. He played in the 2005-06 round-robin, despite not participating in the regular season.

Table III: David Ortiz round-robin stats, Escogido, 1994-95 to 2005-06

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIKBBAVGOBPSLGOPS
94-951312100200.667.6671.001.667
95-9641112000040.182.182.182.364
96-97195661320110155.232.290.321.611
97-9817548134039113.241.271.481.752
98-99134961300312129.265.379.449.828
99-0017638194021464.302.375.460.835
00-011754131550314812.278.403.537.940
02-0341613101432.188.278.438.716
05-0672425201564.208.300.417.717
Total99330468519014706539.258.329.442.771

Source: Winter ball data (LIDOM) subscription

Escogido’s last LIDOM crown as of January 28, 2022, came in 1991-92. Ortiz and fellow Lions fell short in four final series, held before Ortiz’s 2003 (initial) season with the Boston Red Sox.

Table IV: David Ortiz final series stats, Escogido, 1996-97 to 2002-03

SeasonGABRH2B3BHRRBIKBBAVGOBPSLGOPS
96-9731101000030.091.091.091.182
98-999343101024115.294.385.500.885
00-0162245101364.227.346.409.755
02-0341613101432.188.278.438.716
Total2283819304112311.229.319.410.729

Source: Winter ball data (LIDOM) subscription

Five Caribbean Series for Big Papi

Ortiz reinforced five outstanding teams—Licey Tigers in 1999 and 2004, and the Águilas Cibaeñas (AC) in 2000, 2001, and 2003. His teams were 24-8 in these five events, only falling short in 2000 to the Santurce Crabbers. Some of Ortiz’s Caribbean Series highlights follow.

February 2-8, 1999, San Juan, PR

Licey (4-2 W-L) faced off against Mayagüez in a tie-breaker at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The Lara Cardinals (2-4) and Mexicali Eagles (2-4) were eliminated. Ortiz’s two-run homer gave Licey an early lead in the tie-breaker, but a Wilfredo Cordero homer in the ninth tied it. Boi Rodríguez gave Mayagüez a short-lived lead in the 12th, before Ortiz cracked a walk-off two-run single to left-field off Miguel Alicea, with the bases loaded, to score Luis Castillo and Ronnie Belliard with the tying and winning runs. This gave Ortiz a series-leading 9 RBIs. Boi Rodríguez was selected at 1B, on the Series All-Star Team. Licey’s shortstop Neifi Pérez was Series MVP.

February 2-8, 2000, Santo Domingo, DR

Santurce (6-0) overpowered the opposition in Santo Domingo, led by Armando Ríos, Eduardo Pérez, José Vidro and Series MVP José “Cheito” Cruz Jr., who drove in 10. The Crabbers had a scare in Game Six versus AC, managed by Tony Peña, but scored three times in the 11th to win it. Ríos mentioned that “there was a fair amount of ‘trash talking’ between Santurce and AC players, a competitive, yet friendly on-field rivalry.” Ríos, then, played for San Francisco; Ortiz was with Minnesota. Julio Valera (1-0 for Santurce) reiterated the “pride factor” in representing his country in this event. Santurce’s hitting was so dominant that it had a .368 team AVG, .427 OBP, .573 SLG, and 1.000 OPS. The 2000 Caribbean Series All-Star Team is Table V.

Table V: 2000 Caribbean Series All-Stars

PlayerCountryPOS
Héctor CastañedaMXC
David OrtizDR1B
Marco ScutaroVZA2B
Edwards GuzmánPR3B
Jose ValentínPRSS
Luis PoloniaDRLF
José Cruz Jr.PRCF
Armando RíosPRRF
Alonzo PowellPRDH
Luis VizcaínoDRRHP
Stevenson AgostoPRLHP
Antonio AlfonsecaDRRelief
Mako OliverasPRMGR

Source: 2000 Caribbean Series summary.

February 1-6, 2001, Culiacán, MX

Skipper Félix Fermín counted on Big Papi’s 8-for-21 performance, a .381 AVG, with a .571 SLG, to help AC win four of six games, to outpace Hermosillo Orange Growers (3-3), Venezuela’s Lara Cardinals (3-3), and Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos (2-4). Vinny Castilla slugged two homers and drove in six for the Orange Growers, while switch-hitter Carlos Beltrán reinforced Caguas, with a .409 AVG, .773 SLG and 7 RBIs. Coincidentally, a 41-year old Fernando Valenzuela (1.90 ERA) made his final Caribbean Series appearance with Hermosillo.

February 2-8, 2003, Carolina, PR

Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium in Carolina was the venue for an exciting Caribbean Series featuring two Puerto Rico teams—Mayagüez and Caguas—plus AC and Los Mochis Sugar Cane Growers, from Mexico. Orlando Merced’s three homers for Caguas deprived Big Papi of the trifecta. Caguas (2-4) and Los Mochis (0-6) trailed AC (6-1) and Mayagüez (5-2), in a series with a tie-breaker for first. (Venezuela did not participate due to a curtailed season and protests against the Chávez regime.) Ortiz won two-thirds of the Triple Crown with a .462 AVG and 11 RBIs.

Ortiz went 9-for-11 in his last three games, en route to a .885 SLG. Per historian Jorge Colón Delgado, Ortiz propelled AC to a crucial 6-0 win over undefeated Mayagüez in Game Six, with the Dominican team (4-1) needing a win to tie the series. Big Papi’s first-inning double drove in Luis Polonia and Miguel Tejada with all the runs required. The AC then won Game Seven on Saturday, February 8, 2003. Ortiz was Series MVP. The All-Star Team is Table VI. During a February 5, 2020, press conference at Bithorn Stadium, 17 years later, Ortiz affirmed: “These are precious memories; when you play in front of Caribbean fans, it is special and helpful. I came through in key situations, and I’m very appreciative of the Caribbean Series and winter ball.”

Table VI: 2003 Caribbean Series All-Stars

PlayerCountryPOS
Héctor OrtizPR-CagC
David OrtizDR1B
Rafael FurcalDR2B
Ramón OrantesMX3B
Miguel TejadaDRSS
Luis PoloniaDRLF
Tony ValentínPRCF
Orlando MercedPR-CagRF
Luis LópezPR-MayDH
Kiko CaleroPR-MayRHP
Angel MirandaPR-CagLHP
Hipólito PichardoDRRelief
Nick LeyvaPR-MayMGR

Source: 2003 Caribbean Series summary.

February 1-6, 2004, Santo Domingo, DR and Caribbean Series Legacy

When Licey (5-1) copped the 2004 Caribbean Series, ahead of Culiacán (4-2), Aragua (3-3), and Ponce (0-6), it gave Ortiz his fourth title, two with Licey and two with AC. He was selected at DH, with a .300 batting average, on the All-Star Team, a position he held with the Boston Red Sox through 2016. Perhaps Ortiz’s most significant legacy, 1970-2021 Caribbean Series, Phase II, is him slotting in with the fourth-best AVG (.355) and third-best SLG (.579). In 32 Caribbean Series games, he had 43 hits in 121 at-bats, with 12 doubles, five homers, and 29 RBIs. Table VII chronicles the top AVG and SLG.

Table VII: Highest AVG and SLG, Caribbean Series Phase II (1970-2021) 

PlayerCountryABHAVGPlayerCountryABTBSLG
Tony PérezPR8534.400Armando RíosPR/MX9763.649
Armando RíosPR/MX9737.381Carmelo MartínezPR11266.589
Manny MotaDR10538.362David OrtizDR12170.579
David OrtizDR12143.355Tony PérezPR8549.576
Juan GonzálezPR7526.347Candy MaldonadoPR7543.573
Neifi PérezDR9432.340Juan GonzálezPR7542.560
Candy MaldonadoPR7525.333Miguel TejadaDR270151.559
Darryl BrinkleyMX11839.331Miguel FloresMX8446.548
Alfonso H. JiménezDR10033.330Héctor VillanuevaPR12467.540
José OffermanDR8628.326Jesús AlfaroVZA8043.538
Jesús AlfaroVZA8026.325     

Source: Tony Piña Campora, Historia de la Confederación, 2014.

Post-Script

Just four big leaguers have over 500 career MLB homers and at least three World Series rings:

  • David Ortiz, 541 and three rings  (2004, 2007 and 2013)
  • Reggie Jackson, 563 and five rings (1972-1974, 1977-1978)
  • Mickey Mantle, 536 and seven rings (1951-1953, 1956, 1958, 1961-1962)
  • Babe Ruth, 714 and seven rings (1915-1916, 1918, 1923, 1927-1928, 1932).

Ortiz’s 20-year MLB career with Minnesota (1997-2002) and Boston (2003-2016) included:

  • Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 55.3
  • OPS+ of 141 and 10 AL All-Star selections
  • Seven Silver Slugger Awards
  • .286/.380/.552 regular season slash line and .931 OPS (2,408 games)
  • .270/.388/.513 ALDS slash line and .902 OPS (32 games)
  • .255/.357/.490 ALCS slash line and .846 OPS (39 games)
  • .455/.576/.795 World Series slash line and astronomic 1.372 OPS (14 games)
  • MLB post-season .289/.404/.543 slash line and .947 OPS (85 games)
  • Weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .392—quite close to excellent!

https://www.fangraphs.com/players/david-ortiz/745/stats?position=DH

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/ortizda01.shtml

Special thanks to Tony Piña Campora, for posting Ortiz’s Caribbean Series stats. To David Ortiz, for sharing memories of his Caribbean Series exploits. To Armando Ríos and Julio Valera, for insights on the February 2000 Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo. To Jorge Colón Delgado, who did the editing and photo layout.

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