In what was the first official act in Jet Blue Park, the Boston Red Sox new spring facility in Fort Myers Florida, the Fenway Faithful said goodbye to Tim Wakefield.
Before his family, friends, and teammates he fought through tears saying he reached the decision early in the week and it was in the best interest of “me, my family and the Boston Red Sox.”
In the same manner of dignity in which he conducted his baseball career he thanked everyone from former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette for “giving me a shot” to the clubhouse attendants.
Tim Wakefield acknowledges the Fenway Faithful following his 200th, and last, win on September 13, 2011.
“Wake’s” story is that baseball story that just loves to be told. A minor league first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988 and 89, his batting average was hovering in the .200 range and he was about to be released. His manager Woody Huyke saw him playing catch and throwing a knuckleball, brought him into the bullpen to throw off the mound and told the Pirate brass that before they released him they should send him to the Instructional League to pitch.
By 1992 he was in Pittsburgh where he went 8-1 and beat the Braves twice in the playoffs with two complete games. He struggled the following year and the Pirates gave up on him giving him his unconditional release. Thinking his career was over, he received a call from Dan Duquette of the Red Sox and the rest, as they say, is history.
What Tim Wakefield did in 17 years on the field for the Red Sox was everything he was asked. He started, he closed, he threw middle and long relief, he ate innings. His Fenway Park legacy can be measured in the numbers: 186 wins, second to Cy Young and Roger Clemens, first all time in starts (430) and innings pitched (3006), only behind Roger Clemens in strikeouts (2046) and his 590 appearances is second all time in Red Sox history.
Tek and Wake.
He was beloved by his teammates because all he cared about was winning and he would do anything in his power to make his team better. And it was that attitude and committment to his team that played a part in his decision to retire. ” All I ever wanted to do was win…..And in retiring I’m giving them a better chance to do that.”
His legacy away from the field simply cannot be measured.
A tireless champion of charity work and ‘giving back” to his community, Tim was everywhere.
At the bedside of a cancer patient at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute.
Visiting his alma mater Florida Tech.
And in 2010 Major League Baseball recognized his efforts and he was named the winner of the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award.
So Tim Wakefield will no longer be calling Fenway Park his home. He will forever be etched in its collective memory, his place in its history solidified by his performance. But off the field, he’s just begun for there are more lives to be touched and his most important job remains. Asked by a reporter how he wanted his kids to remember him, he smiled and said, “as a great dad, a good husband, a good man”.
I think he’ll do just fine! So long Wake and thanks, thanks for showing us how it should be done, on and off the field!
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, February 18, 2012.