A lot of cool things happened last night. AGon kept his hitting streak going, Papi hit his 24th and 25th homeruns of the season, Manny got his 2000th hit…but what I want to focus on is Tim Wakefield.
Last night, he got his 150th career win and he made his 300th start with the Red Sox (the latter he didn’t even realize until a reporter told him during post-game interviews). People outside of Red Sox Nation (okay, maybe outside the American League East) really have no idea how important he is to us.
I wrote about him earlier this year when folks on the Red Sox Fan Forum started a movement to get his photo put on the banner of RedSox.com (which was successful!). Wake is one of those players other fan bases probably don’t give much thought to, but he’s really the backbone of the Red Sox. He’s a quiet leader in the clubhouse and he’s done amazing things for the community. For example, when the team is home, every Tuesday, regardless of whether or not he’s pitching that night, he meets with "Wake’s Warriors", patients from the Franciscan Hospital for Children (who also get to watch batting practice). He’s also very active with fundraising for the Jimmy Fund.
This guy never blames his teammates when he loses (his record this season is 6-8 with a 3.90 era – in games he’s pitched, the Sox scored 7 runs for him in April, 34 runs in May, and 28 in June. They weren’t going out of their way to help him) Not once did he call them out. Even when he pitched a complete game (that the Sox lost because of lack of run support) he shouldered the responsibility.
Here’s a guy who the Pirates threw away, a guy who was considered, at one point, good for nothing but mop up duty…and he has helped this team win a World Series and is considered the gentleman of the Red Sox organization. I defy you to find someone who has something bad to say about this man. Do we worry when his knuckleball isn’t working? Sometimes…but not for long. Wake does everything he can to help this team – and our community. No one in "The Nation" will forget what he did in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. Faced with depleting our bullpen while the Yankees went on a hitting spree, he volunteered to step in and eat up innings (knowing he was forfeiting his own start in the series). We all know how the 2004 ALCS worked out.
Red Sox haters will point to game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, and the homerun he gave up to Aaron Boone as a sign of Wake not being the man we say he is. Forgetting that Wakefield owned the Yankees that season and that he should have never been put in that position. The reaction of Red Sox Nation when Wake came home surprised many – but not Red Sox fans. We knew it wasn’t his fault and we appreciated how much he did for us in 2003.
Wake has been with the team since 1995 and has said that he wants to continue playing at least until his son is old enough to be able to see him pitch at Fenway (and remember it!). In another post I dedicated to Tim, I mentioned how he took a lesser contract than he would have received somewhere else after 2004 to stay with the Red Sox. I give you, again, one of my favorite blurbs from that time:
Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, told the knuckleballer during this
past offseason that, given age and productivity, he might command $6
million from some club at the end of the season.
"He said, `Is that club the Red Sox?’ " Meister said. "I said, `No,
might not be.’ He said, `If you said the Red Sox, that’s one thing.’
"He waved me off and said, `Money is important, but it’s kind of down
the list for me. My desire is to be in Boston and be a Red Sox. That’s
just who I am now.’ "
So on this lovely summer morning, when the Red Sox are playing so well and giving Wake the run support he deserves, I think he also deserves a mention here. Probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve dedicated a post to him…I know it won’t be the last. Even Alex Gonzalez, new to the Sox this year, knows what kind of teammate Tim Wakefield is. In regard to Gonzalez making an error behind him last night, AGon had this to say:
"When I gripped the ball, I got it on the end of my fingers and didn’t have a good grip," Gonzalez said. "But [Tim] Wakefield said, `I’ve got your back,’ and they didn’t score again that inning. He did it."
"He did it"…as he usually does.
Photo of Wake, taken by me last July at yet another charity event he attended.
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