ST. LOUIS -- When the World Series resumes Saturday evening in the state of Missouri, a living October legend will rest his fielding glove in an unfamiliar place.
"What can I say?" Big Papi laughed Friday, on the eve of Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. "Do I say, 'No, I don't want to play, because I've got to play first base?'"
Nope. Won't be saying that. So he packed his glove for the journey to St. Louis. And he wore it around the first-base bag during his team's workout at Busch Stadium.
And on Saturday night, he'll be wearing it again, in an actual World Series game, for the first time since Oct. 28, 2007, when he started at first at Coors Field, in Game 4 of the second World Series of his amazing October career.
And why will he be wearing it again Saturday? Because you know that team he plays for, the Red Sox? They have no choice, either. Not really. When you employ one of the greatest October hitters who ever lived, it's a little tough to play a World Series game without him.
"David has got a long career that we all lean on," said his manager, John Farrell, "and the success that he's having in this postseason [is something] to take advantage of."
Farrell hasn't committed to playing Ortiz in all three games in St. Louis, by the way. They're taking it day by day, the manager said. Which is understandable, considering that this man wore his glove in just six games all season, and has started three games in a row in the field only once since 2009.
But if you're wondering what would happen if the manager were to ask his living October legend whether he feels good enough to play first base in all three games in beautiful downtown St. Louis, Big Papi has already provided us a preview of what he'll say.
"If he asks me," Ortiz quipped, "I've got to be dead to say no. I'm telling you right now."
Well, we don't know what Farrell has in mind for these next three games. But if he sits down one of these nights and looks over the long list of October heroics that his new first baseman has provided over the last 11 years, how the heck can he keep Big Papi off his lineup card -- ever?
David's bat, at all costs, needs to be in the lineup. … David is a game-changer. He's as clutch as anybody I can remember playing with or against. It just seems like he has a flair for the dramatic. When the situation is the biggest, he's at his best.
"-- Jake Peavy, Boston's Game 3 starter
Certain men are built for these moments. Certain men are built for these games. Certain men are built to rise above the crowds and the tension and the autumn chill to achieve things that other men can't.
Is it safe to conclude that David Ortiz is one of those men? Yeah, you might say that.
He passed Babe Ruth on the all-time postseason home run list this week. He passed Reggie Jackson in career postseason total bases. He tied Rickey Henderson on the postseason runs-scored list. These are names that sound kind of familiar.
Big Papi also became the 12th player ever to homer in Games 1 and 2 of a World Series. So that was cool. Boog Powell is on that list. Jimmie Foxx is on that list. Johnny Mize is on that list. But no other player has done that in a Red Sox uniform. So there's that, too.
But when we measure Ortiz, the postseason monster, it isn't right to measure him only by what he's done.
In the case of this man, it's also about when he's done it.
His two home runs in this World Series give him 17 postseason homers altogether. We took a few minutes Friday to break them down. Now how about this:
Seven of those 17 homers have given his team a lead, including Thursday's stunning two-run bomb off the Cardinals' Michael Wacha.
Another two came with his team trailing and drew it to within one run.
Yet another enabled the Red Sox to turn a one-run lead into a two-run lead.
Two more transformed a two-run lead into a three-run lead.
So just three of those 17 homers came in situations when the game was out of hand either way. The other 14 all meant something. If not everything.
Six of those home runs came from the eighth inning on.
Nine came from the sixth inning on.
Three more came in his first trip to the plate, when he had a chance to put an immediate stamp on the game.
So peruse that list one more time, and what should you conclude? Um, you might just get the impression that there is something about this guy, apparently, that allows him to rise to one October moment after another, when his team needs him most.
And let's just say several other citizens of the universe have noticed that.
"Obviously, David's bat, at all costs, needs to be in the lineup," said Boston's Game 3 starter, Jake Peavy. "And I'm sure John will address that. David is a game-changer. He's as clutch as anybody I can remember playing with or against. It just seems like he has a flair for the dramatic. When the situation is the biggest, he's at his best. And I'm glad he's on our team."
Modern science has never quite defined what it is that allows some people to thrive on the October stage while others can't (or don't). And Ortiz has never quite defined what has allowed him to do that, either. But there's one thing he learned a long time ago, he says:
"October is special, man," he said.
As a young player, coming up in the Twins' system, he still remembers hearing people talk, he said, about "special players" who could put up numbers in the season but not in the postseason. Clearly, he was determined not to be one of them.
Then he found himself playing for the Red Sox, where October baseball was becoming an annual event. So he learned, early on, that he couldn't just prepare himself to play the season -- but also, "to play through October."
And "once we get to October," he went on, "I don't know if it's because I'm a DH, [but] I'm not tired at all. I feel good, I keep up with the things I do during the regular season. I'm not trying to put pressure on myself or try to overdo things."
Every once in a while, he hears the talk out there. He hears people referring to him as a modern-day "Mr. October" or "Senor Octubre." And he shakes his head.
"That ain't me," Big Papi said Friday, at his humble best. "They must be talking about Reggie Jackson."
But if they want to talk that talk about him, "it's an honor, man," he said. "People are letting you know that you got the job done, you know? And that's good, because not too many of us are capable to produce in October."
He knows, and we know, you have to be wary of going too overboard about what you see in October. Series are short. Samples are small. Human beings take the field. And a lot of what you see falls under the category of "Stuff Happens," not "Heroes Conquer."
Hey, it's hard to get to October, man. … So once you're here, man, it's like a dream come true. That's the way I see it. I mean, I'm here today. I don't have that much longer in my career left. I don't know when I'm gonna be back here.
"-- David Ortiz
But Ortiz has done this now in 17 different postseason series, spread out over eight different Octobers in an 12-year time frame. He's played 78 postseason games (69 of them with the Red Sox), and made 340 trips to home plate through all those years and all those series.
So after a while, when you begin to see a man do the same things over and over, you begin to understand what you're looking at. And in Ortiz's case, what we're looking at is greatness.
But this, he said, is no time for looking back at all those other moments over all those other years. This is a time to look at this World Series, tied at one game apiece, and what comes next, not what has come before it.
"Once you're in the playoffs, whatever you did in the past is over," Ortiz said, emphatically. "It's like the homer that I hit last night [off Wacha], it's not gonna help us on Saturday. So I don't think about it."
So what he thinks about instead is how special this is -- and how lucky he is to be playing where he's playing, mixed up in another epic October and even getting the chance to wear his first-base mitt one more time.
"Hey, it's hard to get to October, man," he said. "Especially in the division that we play in. Playing in October is the craziest thing to do. So once you're here, man, it's like a dream come true. That's the way I see it. I mean, I'm here today. I don't have that much longer in my career left. I don't know when I'm gonna be back here."
"So," said Ortiz, flashing a smile almost as wide as the Green Monster, "I'm definitely gonna enjoy this."