Notes from the Sideline: Every night a Saturday night

  • Butch Plifka, here sitting inside his office at Kulick's Market in Winchester, N.H., has played in David Ortiz’s Celebrity Golf Classic for the past decade. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 6/11/2019 9:03:22 PM

David Ortiz wasn’t holding aces and eights on Sunday, but he was in a city as lawless as Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back playing cards.

“I saw the clip and thought, what the hell’s he doing in Santo Domingo?” said Butch Plifka. “I’ve been there and I wouldn’t want to go back. There’s too much crime. It’s very impoverished. It’s not a nice place. Every night’s a Saturday night down there.”

Plifka owns Kulick’s Market in Winchester, N.H., and golfs regularly with former major leaguers. Last week, he teed off with Jim Rice at Crumpin-Fox Club and this November will be the 10th year he’s played in Big Papi’s Celebrity Golf Classic.

The course where they’ll play is in Punta Cana on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, called the Coconut Coast for its 20 miles of beaches and palm trees. It’s a safe haven in a nation of desperate people, and Plifka learned quickly not to take risks. “One night my caddy Armando said I want you to go eat where I eat,” he said. “You’ll be safe as long as you’re with me. We walked in and I saw the fried chicken and beans and everyone looked at me. ‘Who’s this guy? American? Money?’ Then they saw Armando and went back to their business.”

According to multiple reports, the 43-year-old Ortiz was sitting with a friend outside a popular Santo Domingo nightclub when a man on a motor scooter drove up and his passenger got off and shot Ortiz in the lower back. The make and caliber wasn’t reported, but the shooter used both hands to hold the weapon.

The bullet missed the 250-pound Ortiz’s spine and heart, but surgeons needed to remove his gallbladder and parts of his intestine and liver. The Red Sox flew him to Boston where he underwent explorative surgery at Mass. General on Monday night, and at this writing he was in serious but stable condition.

“I would hate to get sick down there because the medical treatment is not good,” said Plifka, but Ortiz may have needed to get out of the country to avoid further harm. The New York Post’s Larry Celona and Kate Sheehy quoted Ortiz’s agent saying it was “an act of hired killers” and the Daily Mail reported Ortiz was “shot by two cops hired by a drug lord who believed Ortiz was having an affair with his wife.”

Ortiz made $159 million playing baseball. He hit 548 home runs and was a nine-time All Star. “David is God down there,” said Plifka. “Pedro is God, Robinson Cano is God, saviors so to speak. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to shoot the man, but you only need to make one person angry.”

In “Papi, My Story” written with Michael Holley, Ortiz said he was born and raised 30 miles from Santo Domingo. One day when he was on an errand to the bodega for his mother, he saw a man murdered. “Right in front of my eyes,” said Ortiz. “I’m a ghetto boy who made it out.”

Indeed, and going back nearly cost him his life. 

BASEBALL NOTES: NESN’s Dave O’Brien said during the Tampa Bay series that Terry Francona loves to kid Rays skipper Kevin Cash about his .188 career batting average. “In fact, whenever Tampa Bay plays Cleveland, Tito makes sure to put the average up on the big board so the whole world can see it.” … Red Sox fans hope Alex Cora’s tenure won’t parallel John Farrell’s first two years with the club. Farrell was 97-65 and won the World Series his first year, and finished 20 games under .500 his second season. … Matt Barnes was booed off the mound after he coughed up the lead in the ninth inning on Monday night. It’s time for the Red Sox to find a closer. … Entering last night’s game, Rafael Devers was in an 0-for-19 slump and batting under .300, and Eduardo Nunez was 0-for-15 and batting .216. … In his six-plus seasons managing the Cardinals, Mike Matheny was 117 games over .500. Reports said he was fired last year because he couldn’t connect with the millennials. This year, the Cardinals are 32-32, and it might not be Matheny’s fault after all. … Bleacher seats on StubHub were selling for $6 to this afternoon’s Red Sox game against the Rangers. Meanwhile seats to the first-ever seventh game of a Stanley Cup final in the Hub started at $1,585. … Whole Lotta Whiffing Going On: After Chris Sale’s 14th start he has 120 strikeouts; after Jim Lonborg’s 14th start in 1967 he had 98 K’s and led the league. … NESN analyst Jerry Remy on batters’ walk-up songs: “I didn’t care about a walk-up song, all I was thinking about was surviving at the plate. I gotta run-out song for after the game’s over.”


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