When it comes to baseball, you can’t get much bigger than Big Papi.
Former Red Sox star and Boston legend David “Big Papi” Ortiz was shot Sunday night in his native Dominican Republic. Ortiz is in stable condition and “out of danger,” the Dominican National Police said. But you can bet every sports fan and New Englander on this planet will be lighting a prayer candle for the beloved slugger.
If you’re somehow not familiar with Big Papi, here’s what you need to know to understand why everyone is so shaken up by the news.
He’s one of the best in baseball – ever
Sure, everyone thinks Ortiz is a great guy, but don’t let that distract you from the fact he was also a really, really great baseball player.
Ortiz, 43, played for 20 seasons in the MLB, which is an eternity in baseball time. He’s best known for the 14 years he spent with the Boston Red Sox, where he helped end the so-called Curse of the Bambino by winning the World Series in 2004.
He nabbed two other World Series rings in 2007 and 2013, and was named the 2013 World Series MVP. He retired in 2016, and will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame at the end of 2021 (spoiler alert: He’s gonna make it) .
During his storied career, Ortiz hit 541 home runs, landing him at No. 17 on the list of all-time home run leaders. Because of his powerful left-handed swing and his reputation as a true sports folk hero, Ortiz is often compared to Babe Ruth.
He was there for Boston in one of its darkest hours
Given his stats, it’s no surprise Ortiz is a legend among legends in Boston and the region. But his connection to the city runs deeper than dingers and rings.
In 2013, months before the Red Sox made their push for World Series glory, the city was shaken by the Boston Marathon bombings. Before playing at Fenway Park for the first time after the tragedy, Ortiz took the field and delivered an ad hoc speech that’s already gone down in Boston history.
“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say ‘Red Sox.’ It says ‘Boston,’” he told the crowd, before thanking city officials for their work in the difficult aftermath of the attack.
“This is our f***ing city. And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
He has one of the most enduring nicknames in sports
When you say Big Papi, everyone knows exactly who you’re talking about. Even fellow New England sports great Tom Brady doesn’t have that kind of singular recognition.
There are a few theories as to how he got such an enduring moniker, but Ortiz himself told Stephen Colbert that it was because, well, he’s not very good at remembering names.
“I meet so many people every day, it’s hard for me to keep up with their names,” he told “The Late Show” host in 2017. “So, I just ‘Papi’ people.”
In other words, Ortiz just calls everyone “Papi,” in keeping with a Dominican custom, he said.
People just started calling him Papi back, Ortiz said, and it stuck.
He’s a proud native of the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a big baseball country (more than 100 current MLB players reportedly hail from the Caribbean nation), and Ortiz is one of its most high-profile native sons.
He has close friendships with several Dominican players, and fellow MLB star Nelson Cruz once called Ortiz “a role model for all the Dominican players.”
Ortiz is known for giving back to his Dominican home, and his charity, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, helps children in the Dominican and New England get critical cardiac services.
Ortiz, a married father of three, became an American citizen in 2008.
He has a legendary sense of humor
Ortiz’s sense of humor and gap-toothed smile are almost as iconic as his nickname.
Whether it’s keeping up a friendly rivalry with Alex Rodriguez, going undercover as a Lyft driver to surprise Boston fans or doing a Dunkin’ Donuts music video with fellow Boston goofball Rob Gronkowski, the Big Papi gag reel is long and entertaining.
Recently, Ortiz teamed up with fellow beefy baseball greats Prince and Cecil Fielder for a very naked and very hilarious ad for Kingsford charcoal (Ortiz is known to enjoy a good lunch).
In his golden years (that’s in baseball terms, of course), Ortiz has also taken his talents to broadcasting as a studio analyst on Fox Sports.
CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to this report