Baseball base

March 12, 1979

Mention “Papi” in the same sentence with “Red Sox” and anyone remotely familiar with baseball in New England conjures a bear of a man walking to the left-hand batters box, addresses the pitcher with a withering glare, and ends the ballgame with one swing.

Hall of Famer David Ortiz did that a time or two.

Mention “Papi” 45 years ago and it conjures vision of a dazed and confused ballplayer who became a baseball pariah for nothing beyond his presence,

Stan Papi was traded to the Red Sox from the Montreal Expos, who received left-handed pitcher and popular iconoclast Bill Lee in return.

By the end of the 1978 season it was clear that Lee and manager Don Zimmer could not co-exist. Lee considered Zimmer a dugout fossil borne from a generation that demanded unwavering obedience.

Zimmer later said Lee was the only man he met during his half-century in the game that he would not allowed into his home,

So, Papi (first name Stan) arrived at Winter Haven, Fla., hoping he could at least slide into the shadows and not be jeered by simply poking his head out of the dugout..

He hadn’t been at training camp for more than a couple of weeks before it was determined that he needed surgery on his ailing left knee. He was injured playing winter ball in Venezuela, and the Red Sox flew him to Boston to have cartilage removed.

On the bright side, he was given a 10-12 week reprieve from serving as the fans’ rhetorical punching bag.