By Zachary Winn
Subtly, like everything else he did, Tim Wakefield announced his retirement on Friday. The knuckleballer was never the ace of the Sox staff. He never seemed to be anyone’s favorite player. But he was always reliable.
After a two-year stint with the Pirates, Wakefield joined the club when I was 3 years old in 1995. From there, he went on to throw 150+ innings in twelve of the seventeen seasons he pitched for the Red Sox, including last season, when he turned 45 in August.
He could probably be the fifth starter on half of the teams in the league, but that never really seemed like Wakefield’s style. Yes, he was 45, but you never got the feeling he was clinging onto the league.
He’d come out every fifth day with that easy release and let it fly. Some days it moved, other days it didn’t. But he would battle through innings with a veteran resolve that never made you mad at him. If they kept a stat for how many standing ovations a pitcher got after allowing four runs or more, you’d have to think Wakefield would rank first.
There may not have been a C on his chest, but Wakefield was a leader to this team. A perfect model for the young guys. Never seeming to be upset with the club or yelling at any one else. At a time when the roster has guys like hot head John Lackey tied up until 2015, we need more Tim Wakefileds.
There was more to it than baseball, of course. Wakefield was the quintessential ‘nice guy’. As someone who shamelessly chased autographs like my life depended on it for the better part of my childhood (and, lets face it, well into my teen years), I’d like to think I had a good idea of the character of a lot of these guys. I must have 5 Wakefield autographs. It seemed like every ball he signed he did with a smile on his face.
But don’t just take it from me, an obviously biased source. Take it from the Red Sox, who nominated Wakefield eight times for the Roberto Clemente Award for charitable contributions. Or take it from the kids at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston, a place Wakefield frequented.
So goodbye Tim Wakefield. Your announcement barely made headlines outside of Boston, but baseball will remember you for representing the league with class. At a time when most athletes come off as unruly and spoiled, you always seemed friendly and humble. And when Lackeys elbow starts acting up in July, we’ll have your number..I’m only half kidding.