This article is courtesy of our friends at BoSox Banter
Tim Wakefield loved pitching for the Red Sox.
He was so fond of his 17-year tenure in Boston that he chose to retire rather than wear
another team’s uniform.
In response to yesterday’s press conference where Wakefield’s formally announced his
retirement and delivered a speech that demonstrated his passion for what it meant to him to
play for the ballclub, former teammates, managers and coaches have talked to the media
about the knuckleballer.
The common theme is what we have long known about Wakefield. He is a true professional
on the field, the textbook definition of what a teammate should be and a big-hearted person
My favorite Wakefield story is one shared by Terry Francona. It’s a story that is widely known
in Red Sox Nation. Game Three of the 2004 American League Championship Series. The
Red Sox are down 2-0 in the series and have fallen behind 10-6 with one out in the fourth
“He came to me in the fourth inning and asked what he could do. He pitched more than
three innings that game, sacrificing his start the next day for the good of the team,”
Francona told the Boston Globe. “A lot of what he did went under the radar. I wish him
congratulations on a wonderful career and hope his second career is as good as his first.”
On that night in Game Three, Wakefield was knocked around for five runs and five hits in 3.1
innings. Yet what he did was save the bullpen in what finished as a 19-8 rout at the hands of
What followed was one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of professional
sports. Derek Lowe made the start originally planned for Wakefield in Game Four, which
culminated in “The Walk” by Kevin Millar, “The Steal” by pinch-runner Dave Roberts and a
game-tying base hit from Bill Mueller off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. David
Ortiz belted a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th to keep the Red Sox alive.
Wakefield stepped forward yet again Game Five, tossing three shutout innings in the 12th,
13th and 14th frames and earning the win in a 5-4 Boston victory.
Without Wakefield, there would not have been a 2004 ALCS title, and thus the 2004 World
Series championship would not have been possible.
At times, Wakefield was frustrating to watch. Most knuckleballers evoke that reaction. After
all, if that knuckler isn’t dancing, it is going to get slapped around like batting practice. Yet,
for most of his career, Wakefield seemed to rebound from tough stretches.
After two seasons in Pittsburgh, Wakefield arrived in Boston in 1995 and was 16-8 with a
2.95 ERA on a team that reached the playoffs. In the years that followed, he was a
successful starting pitcher (winning 16 games twice and 17 games twice during his Red
Sox tenure) and a valuable reliever (registering 15 saves in 1999; another playoff season for
the Sox, and serving as a long reliever and spot starter in other seasons).
In 2007, Wakefield was 17-12 and filled a key role in the starting rotation during a season
when the Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS against Cleveland to win the pennant
and then the World Series against Colorado.
Though his effectiveness started to decline in 2008, he still won 10 games in 30 starts that
year (when the Sox reached the ALCS) and 11 games in 21 starts in 2009. The last two
years, Wakefield could no longer consistently get batters out. He logged a 5.34 ERA in 32
games in 2010 and a 5.12 ERA in 33 games last season.
Wakefield finished his 19-year career with a 200-180 record and a 4.41 ERA. He served as
a positive influence on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community, donating extensive
time with his charitable efforts.
It is difficult for a team’s front office and on-field staff, the fans and the player himself when a
legendary figure like Wakefield reaches the end of a storied career. The Sox are still facing
that Jason Varitek, who ideally will follow in Wakefield’s footsteps and gracefully retire.
With all Wakefield accomplished in his professional baseball career, it is fitting the moment
that most aptly describes who he was as a teammate is an outing where he was clubbed
around for five runs in 3.1 innings. Yet it is that selflessness – a willingness to fill whatever
role that was needed to help the team – that will forever define Wakefield’s time with the