10 Years Later, Boston is Still Strong


This past Saturday was the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. Tomorrow, April 20, 2023 will mark a decade since the 2013 Boston Red Sox began to help the city heal from the immense suffering the tragedy caused. In doing so, the bearded band of ballplayers became one of sports’ greatest stories.

The first home game at Fenway Park after the bombing is largely remembered for Hall of Famer David Ortiz’s pregame speech. As the slugger took the microphone while wearing a jersey that simply said “Boston,” he spoke directly to the city as more than just a distant figure.

“All right, all right, Boston. This jersey that we wear today. It doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” said Ortiz. “We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor [Deval] Patrick and the whole police department for the great job they did this past week. This is our f*****g city, and nobody’s gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”

The events of the April 20 contest against the Kansas City Royals were capped off by a 4-3 Red Sox win, but “Big Papi’s” fiery proclamation stole the day and encapsulated a mentality that would propel the 2013 Sox to a World Series Championship and remain in the hearts of New Englanders to this day.

Overall, that year’s team finished with a 97-65 record across the regular season and was baseball’s best in terms of slugging percentage, RBIs, doubles and on-base percentage. Ortiz and players such as Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes led an offensive attack that was second to none while growing beards that rivaled those seen on the TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

In terms of pitching, seasoned veterans such as Jon Lester and John Lackey headlined a rotation that while not dominant, consistently kept the Red Sox in ball games. By the late innings, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and others were normally stabilizing who handed it over to the high-five master, Koji Uehara, for the save.

The World Series run that ensued was one for the ages. They defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and then outdueled the Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander-led Detroit Tigers, in a six-game ALCS after a dramatic game-tying grand slam from Ortiz in Game 2 of the series that swung momentum in Boston’s favor. Each game of the 2013 season and postseason presented a chance for the club to play for a cause greater than themselves.

“We visited with the first responders, the nurses, the doctors,” former Red Sox catcher David Ross told the Athletic. “We walked in rooms and people were missing limbs. How excited they were to see Red Sox players walk in that room, it gave me chills. I’ll never forget what a sense of responsibility I felt from then on out … The sense of responsibility that we were playing for a city, more than just the team, was very real.”

There was a feeling of destiny when the Sox faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 Fall Classic. After all that Boston had been through, it seemed as though the only proper end to the season included a parade of Duck Boats. The player who spoke to Boston with such vigor six months earlier delivered a timeless October performance to ensure a fitting conclusion to a trying campaign. Ortiz finished World Series play with a .688 batting average, two home runs and six runs batted in.

The Red Sox clinched their eighth title with a 6-1 Game 6 victory over the Cardinals at Fenway Park. It was the first time since 1918 that the team had clinched a championship in Boston. One of that year’s marathon runners, Dave Fortier, suffered shrapnel wounds and hearing loss as a result of the attack, and acknowledged that the Red Sox success held special significance given the team’s relationship to the city.

“The Celtics, the Bruins, I think there are connections there for sure,” Fortier told The Athletic. “But there’s nothing like the Sox. I don’t know the answer to (why there’s a greater connection), but I do know the feeling for it, and I felt it right away.”

The phrase “Boston Strong” was a rallying cry for the 2013 Red Sox. Known as a blue-collared city that scraps, grinds and works for their lot in life, Boston is stronger than ever 10 years later.