Tim Wakefield Retires from Boston Red Sox – MLB BaseballSunday, February 19, 2012 23:10
Thoughts on Tim Wakefield’s retirement from baseball and his special place with the Boston Red Sox.
Thank You, Tim Wakefield
One of the good guys has hung up his cleats for the last time.
Tim Wakefield has always been and always will be one of my favorite players.
I lived in Pittsburgh when he burst upon the scene for the Pirates in 1992, helping pitch the Bucs to a division title. I was even in the stands when he pitched a beautiful 3-2 complete game victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS.
Shortly after, of course, he struggled, resurfacing a couple years later with my beloved Red Sox. Needless to say I watched Wake pitch many a time since; indeed, it seemed that almost every Red Sox-Angels game I attended in Anaheim Wakefield was on the mound.
I can’t claim not to feel nervous almost every time he pitched, but such is the case with any knuckleballer taking the ball. The efficacy of baseball’s most beguiling pitch often has little to do with the efficacy of the pitcher throwing it, subject to the capricious whims of the tiniest of air currents. That does not mean, of course, that the knuckleball pitcher is never to blame for his bad nights, just that unpredictability rules at every level of the knuckleballer’s game, his success, his failure.
Wakefield was an absolute fan favorite in Red Sox Nation. Off the field, he was well-known for his charitable works in both Boston and his native Melbourne, Florida, eventually winning the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010. On the field, few players in recent years have been more humble. Wakefield did everything the Red Sox asked of him, never questioning his ever-changing role on the club.
No example shines more than Game 3 of the ALCS. On a day when Wake was truly having a terrible night, Terry Francona asked Wakefield to keep on pitching, inning after inning, as the Yankees hammered him around Fenway Park. Knuckleballers, with the relative lack of stress on their pitching arms, can be innings eaters. Francona had Wakefield rack up the innings last night to rest Boston’s beleaguered bullpen.
The rest, of course, is history.
For many years Wakefield also had one of the more unique contracts in baseball, with a mutual option that automatically rolled over to another option for the subsequent season each year it was picked up. No contract negotiations, no strife, just loyalty and respect.
In the wake of Wake’s retirement, I am glad to see that the same love that exists for Wakefield in Boston is spread far and wide in the overall baseball fandom. In the usually caustic comments of Yahoo! Sports, almost nobody had a negative thing to say–and that included Yankees fans, who were as effusive in their appreciation as Sox fans.
The Red Sox have two requirements for a number to be retired: A) Election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame; B) At least 10 years played with the Red Sox (Wakefield has 17). At 200 wins, Wake will not make it to Cooperstown, but his has been the most special relationship of any player with the club in the last thirty years. If any Red Sox player of recent vintage deserves to have that first requirement waved, it is Tim Wakefield. His importance to the Red Sox truly goes far beyond just the numbers.
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