Big Papi's big night: Red Sox retire David Ortiz's number 34

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David Ortiz helped bring the Red Sox three MLB World Series championships and is one of the most beloved sports figures in Boston history.

How can the Red Sox ever repay the player nicknamed "Big Papi"? Answer: They cannot.

But the team gave the beloved slugger the ultimate honour at Fenway Park on Friday, retiring his number 34 before Boston's game against the Los Angeles Angels.

"I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I had ... It's an honour to get to see my number right next to all those legends," Ortiz said. 

"I remember taking batting practice on this field, I was always trying to hit those numbers. But I never thought about having my number up there, because I look at them with so much respect."

Ortiz helped Boston win the 2004 World Series, the team's first championship in 86 years, and he led them to titles again in 2007 and 2013.

He represented the team in 10 All-Star games, and hit 483 of his 541 career home runs in a Boston uniform. Beyond that, he was a standout figure off the field as well, donating generous time and money to charities and other causes.

Ortiz thanked everyone from his family and Red Sox owners to former team-mates, his agents, and even the team's batboy.

"My wife and kids, I want to thank you guys so much for putting up with all this," Ortiz said. "I know I'm not a piece of cake, but thank you so much for, on my darkest days, bring happiness to my life."

After paying tribute to his father, Enrique, and giving him a hug, Ortiz had one final group to thank.

"And finally, I want to thank you guys, the fans," he said. "Look, there was not going to be any way for me to take my performance to the highest level without the love and support you showed me every day. ... I love you Boston, thank you."

The city of Boston and the Red Sox had already honoured Ortiz with a couple of other special events this week.

Thursday, the city dedicated David Ortiz Drive near Fenway.