Big Papi admits to being a little floppy on induction speech

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BOSTON — David Ortiz made a Hall of Fame career out of staring down pitchers with the game on the line.

Looking out at the Cooperstown crowd for his induction speech – that’s a whole different story.

“I can’t wait for it to be over with,” the longtime Red Sox slugger said this month as he looked ahead to his July 24 enshrinement ceremony. “I’m freaking out about the whole thing. Too much. Too much going on.”

A 10-time All-Star who helped Boston win three World Series championships, Ortiz became the 58th first-ballot Hall of Famer when he was the only player elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Era committee selections Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil will join him in the Class of 2022.

Ortiz batted .286 and hit 541 home runs with 1,768 RBIs in a 20-year career with the Red Sox and Twins. He also had a .289 average with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in nine postseasons — batting .688 to earn MVP honors in the 2013 World Series.

Among all those hits were game-winners that earned him a reputation as one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history, including back-to-back, extra-inning walk-offs in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 AL championship series against the Yankees, when the Red Sox became the first major league team to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. They went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first title since 1918.

To Ortiz, that was just part of being a ballplayer.

“I’m not saying it’s easy. But you get used to it,” he said. “I had a 20-year career. That was expected. You don’t expect to be on a podium being inducted into the Hall of Fame any day.”

Adding to the stress: He will be working the July 19 All-Star Game in Los Angeles for Fox.

“I’ve never had so much on my plate,” he said. “I’m a guy that’s good at handling things. But it’s a lot.”

Ortiz said he hadn’t made much progress on what he will say at the induction ceremony but that he mostly wanted to thank people who helped him along the way.

“My speech is not going to be anything crazy. It’s not going to be anything to take me three hours,” he said. “I have some significant people in my life and my career.”

The soon-to-be Hall of Famer spoke to The Associated Press to discuss his new eyeglass line. The Zenni glasses feature names like “Santo Domingo” and “PapiVision” and even “Gold Glove” for the player who never won one of those and spent more time as designated hitter than any previous Cooperstown inductee.


Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”