BALTIMORE -- The name figured to come up in conversation Friday night, and David Ortiz was ready for it.
"You've seen Ted Williams and you've seen me," Ortiz joked to WBZ's Jonny Miller, the senior member of the Red Sox media corps. "Now you can die."
Miller took it in stride. "I saw Ted, when he was a year older than you, hit .388," said Miller, referring to the 1957 season in which Williams, then 38, hit .388 and won the fifth of his six batting titles.
Ortiz playfully muttered a curse. "If I hit .388 now," he said, "people would say I'm using something."
When Ortiz can jest about PEDs, given the scrutiny he has faced over the years, then you know he's feeling good about himself and his team. And why not? The Red Sox beat the Orioles 12-3 on Friday night to clinch no worse than a tie for the best overall record in the league, and in his final plate appearance of the night, in the eighth inning, Ortiz launched his 30th home run of the season, an opposite-field three-run shot that landed in the left-field seats.
The home run came off Mike Belfiore, a 24-year-old right-hander facing his first hitter in the majors.
"Welcome to the big leagues," Ortiz said.
Belfiore is a former No. 1 draft pick out of Boston College.
"I heard he's from Boston, too," Ortiz said. "My boy. Jeez. He already knows."
Ortiz didn't elaborate on the extent of Belfiore's knowledge, but presumably he meant that if the kid was on Chestnut Hill long enough, he was more than aware of the magnitude of the hitter he was facing.
The home run placed Ortiz in the Sox record books as the only player other than Williams to have seven seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. And here's something Ortiz has done that Williams didn't: At 37, he became the first Sox player ever, and the seventh in baseball history, to hit at least .300, with 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBIs. (Although, truth be told, it tells you more about Ted's team than his performance in '57 -- that even with a .388 average, 38 home runs, and a .731 slugging percentage, he drove in only 87 runs.)
"It's a huge honor for myself to be mentioned with one of the greatest that ever played the game in this organization," Ortiz said of being linked to Williams. "Got to keep the line moving, try to keep on producing for this ballclub."
As long as we're name-dropping Hall of Famers, here's another: Ortiz's home run was the 431st of his career, tying him for 45th on the all-time list with Cal Ripken Jr., an icon in these parts. Could there be a Cooperstown sighting one day for Ortiz? If so, chances are good that Jonny Miller will stick around for the occasion.
"In the minds of many, he's a Hall of Fame hitter," manager John Farrell said. "He's been a productive hitter throughout his whole career here, and to put himself in the company of Ted Williams is very rare."