Initially buried in Pittsburgh’s farm system, Ortiz emerged as a capable reserve with a dependable bat. The bearded Puerto Rican backstop led the Eastern League in batting (.346) in 1980. Traded to the Mets in 1983, he was drafted back to Pittsburgh in 1984.
Playing behind quality catchers like Brian Harper, Mike LaValliere, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Ivan Rodriguez, Ortiz was happy in his backup roles, and was able to start a good deal in his two years with Cleveland because of Alomar’s frequent injuries. Ortiz himself suffered one of the more interesting injuries in history when he had to sit out a game after stepping on a papaya.
In August 1991, in the midst of a long slump, Ortiz changed his name to Joe, but changed his mind when his funk continued. He also named his son Junior, making him Junior, Jr.