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Papi: My Story

Review

Papi: My Story

David Ortiz, the recently retired Hall of Fame-bound star of the Boston Red Sox, pulls few punches as he reflects on his career in his latest memoir. He calls out sports journalists, managers, officials, teammates and opponents who he feels disrespected him and the sport itself, both early on as he sought to find his role in the game, and more recently, as age and injuries presented the opportunity by some to write him off. These comments, excerpted in the sports sections and online, were the source of the “big news,” but they are really just a small part of this often touching account. Ortiz actually spends the majority of the book praising those who helped him along the way, as well as teammates and opponents for whom he had much admiration and respect.

"What separates PAPI from the rest of the herd is that for a big, tough guy, Ortiz has a big, soft heart --- and it’s refreshing to read about it in a time when most memoirs focus on more salacious stories."

Ortiz struggled as an up-and-coming athlete, as did many young men coming from foreign countries. A native of the Dominican Republic, he felt like a stranger in a strange land, unsure of the language, the customs, and the increasingly higher levels of competition that made him question if he even belonged in the major leagues. That last part was the least of his concerns, however; Ortiz was confident that he could play, if only the Minnesota Twins, his first team, would give him a proper chance (he was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners but never played for them on the highest level). That opportunity came only after the Twins released him and he was signed by the Red Sox in early 2003. Over the next 14 seasons, Ortiz led the team to three World Series titles and was named an All-Star 10 times. Despite his impressive statistics, the closest he came to winning a Most Valuable Player award was a second-place finish in 2005.

Ortiz --- who previously released BIG PAPI: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits in 2007 right before the team’s second World Championship in three seasons --- has long been a fan favorite in “Red Sox Nation” with his long home runs and clutch hitting. But it was what he did with his words that solidified him in regional and even national history. Following the Boston Marathon terror attack in 2013, the Red Sox held a pre-game event at famed Fenway Park that featured a number of those who had been injured in the bombing. Ortiz gave a fairly impromptu speech in which he said, in effect, “This is our f***ing city. And nobody's going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” These remarks, perhaps rivaled only by Lou Gehrig’s farewell address in 1939 in terms of emotional impact, became the spirit behind “Boston Strong.”

PAPI is a most apt title as well as a nickname for a man who served as a big daddy to his teammates and fans. His narrative --- written with the help of Michael Holley, a journalist and co-host of WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” --- is fairly par for the course as far as sports memoirs go: tales of accomplishments, accolades for those he met along the way, umbrage over slights (especially accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that were practically de rigueur during his era). He expresses much devotion to his family: his hardworking parents, who sacrificed to keep their kids on the straight and narrow; his wife, Tiffany, with whom he admitted to having his ups and downs; and his own children.

What separates PAPI from the rest of the herd is that for a big, tough guy, Ortiz has a big, soft heart --- and it's refreshing to read about it in a time when most memoirs focus on more salacious stories.

Reviewed by Ron Kaplan on June 9, 2017

Papi: My Story
by David Ortiz with Michael Holley

  • Publication Date: May 16, 2017
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0544814614
  • ISBN-13: 9780544814615