For those of you living in a cave, Tim Wakefield became the oldest and only active player in baseball, to record 200 career wins on Tuesday night in front of a very dedicated and patient crowd at Fenway Park. The key word in that run-on sentence is patient. Red Sox Nation waited for this monumental win since the end of July (47 days to be exact). It certainly gives meaning to the phrase, “long time coming.” Wakefield is the 2nd oldest pitcher (turned 45 August 2nd) in history to accomplish this feat and it was quite a roller coaster ride waiting for it to happen.
July 24, Tim Wakefield won his 199th game. Since then, it took him nine attempts (I can’t for the life of me figure out why everyone is saying it took him eight) to get that coveted 200th win. Let me tell you, as a fan, it was exhausting showing up at Fenway (three times) thinking “this is going to be the night it happens.”
If it was exhausting for me, I can only imagine the toll it took on Wake, the team and the shaky bullpen. Speaking of shaky, out of the 8 blown attempts, Wakefield left the game four times with at least a 1-run lead and each time he came up empty handed.
Tuesday night, the knuckleballer finally reached the milestone in an 18-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the most runs scored since Aug. 2, 2009 against Baltimore. As the game was coming to an end in the top of the ninth, I was one of the 38,020 fans in attendance standing just rows behind the Sox dugout chanting, “Wakefield, Wakefield, Wakefield.”
A few minutes after the game ended Wakefield returned to the field to acknowledge the fans with all of his teammates in the dugout looking on.
“I’m very grateful that it’s over with and it was able to happen here at Fenway Park in front of our home crowd,” Wakefield said. “I’m kind of speechless but I’m very grateful I’ve been able to wear this uniform for as long as I have and reach a milestone I thought I’d never reach. I’m very grateful.”
Long Distinguished Career:
Over 19 seasons, he has played 625 games and has a record of 200-178.
It is interesting to compare his home and road records. It just goes to show he is Mr. Consistent.
Home: 107-80 Record, 4.32 ERA, 231 Starts, 210 Home Runs, 1,077 Strikeouts
Road: 93-98 Record, 4.51 ERA, 230 Starts, 207 Home Runs, 1,070 Strikeouts
Wakefield became the 108th pitcher to win 200 games, the 89th since 1900. He is the 5th in Red Sox history and joins Lefty Grove, Ferguson Jenkins, Luis Tiant and Curt Schilling in the Red Sox record books. His career dates back to 1992 when he began his 19 seasons in the big leagues. He played two years for the Pittsburgh Pirates and notched his first major league win on July 31, 1992, with a complete game shutout against the Cardinals.
When Peter Gammons asked Wakefield how many messages he received from friends and family Tuesday night, he said he got over 100 texts and 25 voice mails but the phone call that meant the most to him came from Jim Leyland. Leyland was Wakefield’s manager while with the Pirates and he said he was quite emotional on the phone.
Let’s put things into perspective. Jose Iglesias, who was called up from the minors Tuesday night, was 16 months old when Wakefield won his first game for the Pirates. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was just finishing first grade. Terry Francona was just beginning as a minor league manager in South Bend, Indiana. Oh and that guy that determines Wakefield’s pay checks, Theo Epstein was just finishing his freshman year at Yale. Speaking of general managers, Wakefield is very thankful that back in 1995, Dan Duquette took a chance on a guy who was released by the Pirates after a 5-15 season in the minors.
This began his 17 year career as a Boston Red Sox and he hasn’t looked back since. Only three players have played for the Red Sox longer than Wakefield: Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19). During this era, ball players don’t last as long as they used to so it is quite astonishing he is still going strong. If you disagree, let me put it this way. John Valentin, who began the same year Wakefield did, retired NINE years ago!
Wakefield has played for five different managers as a Red Sox:
- Kevin Kennedy 1995-1996
- Jimmy Williams 1997-2001
- Joe Kerrigan 2001
- Grady Litle 2002-2003
- Terry Francona 2004-present
Managers vs. Wake
Wakefield also has quite the list of players (13) who have faced him that have gone on to become major league managers:
- Bud Black
- Don Mattingly
- Mike Scioscia
- Willie Randolph
- Kirk Gibson (I can’t type his name without imagining the famous “arm pump”)
- Alan Trammell
- Tony Pena
- A.J. Hinch
- Joe Girardi
- Ozzie Guillen
- Juan Samuel
- Dale Sveum
- Gary Varsho
But He is not finished
Wake now has 186 wins as a Red Sox. He is just 6 wins shy of tying the All time Red Sox wins record (192) held by Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He is 7-6 this season so if we can get him signed another year we will all be pulling for him to erase Clemens from that title.
Beyond the Stats
Is it amazing a 45-year old knuckleballer has succeeded for 19 years? YES. 200 wins is an amazing accomplishment but what makes Tim Wakefield an accomplished man is his character and loyalty to his team. Of course he wants these records but he will put the team before his personal accolades any time.
Back in 1999, Tim STARTED 17 games that season (3 of them on 2 days rest), and he SAVED 15 games but was not on the playoff roster. That was hard for him to swallow. How could he be good enough to get them to the playoffs but not good enough on the playoff roster? But he sucked it up and accepted whatever was best for the team. He could have thrown in the towel and expected his career to tank, but he did what was asked of him, as he continues to do. As a result of his dedication and loyalty, for 16 years the Red Sox front office has reciprocated that loyalty.
Terry Francona spoke of his favorite Wakefield moment. A moment most fans don’t even realize happened. Game 3 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, Francona needed a body to save the bullpen. Wakefield, a starter in those days, raised his hand and volunteered to pitch in relief in a game the Red Sox lost to the Yankees 19-8. A game Sox fans will NEVER forget.
“I sacrificed my start and got a chance to save the bullpen,’’ remembered Wakefield. “That night maybe helped us get some momentum for the greatest comeback in the history of sports. That’s why that ring is so special to me.’’
He set up Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling for the final four games, all wins. Nobody knew at the time that Wakefield’s pitching saved the staff and he played the role of the silent hero setting the stage for the historic comeback that was to follow.
Francona never fails to recognize Tim’s sacrifice that night. “You look back at that — that’s as special to me as anything,” Francona said. “You’ve got to have a ton of talent to get 200 wins, but it’s those other things that stick with us.”
Tim is always ready to bail out the team. He has taken any assignment given to him over the years whether it was as a starter, a closer, bullpen duty or being left off the playoff roster. He even left money on the table in 2009 when they renegotiated his contract essentially giving him a lifetime contract with the Sox. It is very important to him to retire as a Red Sox and if it means taking less money that’s what he’ll do.
Compared to Bill Buckner?
Remember that dreadful home run Wakefield gave up to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees? (another game Sox fans will NEVER forget). Tom Caron reminisced about getting off the plane after that game and Wakefield asked, “Am I going to be the new Bill Buckner?” For months after, he feared he would be doomed to a lifetime in Buckner’s hell. Luckily that sentence belonged to someone else: Grady Little
Wakefield spoke with Gammons about what it takes to be a good knuckleballer. There is one quote that has stuck with him over the years. “You need the mind of a Zen Buddhist - and the finger tips of a safe-cracker.”
What Happened to the Sox?
I think the Zen Buddhist is glad to have the monkey off his back along with the rest of the team. I don’t know if it is a coincedence but the bullpen has been terrible and since that July 24th game, the Red Sox have gone 24-24. In the month of September, they are 3-11!!!!! Their playoff hopes took a serious hit thanks to their most recent 1-6 road trip. Things were getting so bad, that Jim Rice had to break the snuggie back out!
The pennant race is clearly heating up. Five weeks ago they had a 2.5 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East and a 11-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card standings. Tonight, the Red Sox began a very important 4-game series against the Rays and suffered a tough loss dropping them 4.5 games behind the Yankees and narrowed their Wild Card lead to just 3 games. This weekend series is crucial to their playoff hopes. They have 14 remaining games and all of them are against the AL East, 3 of them against Tampa and 3 against New York.
Tune in…it should be a wild ride. Here’s hoping these guys right the ship and don’t finish the season the way they started.
Congrats to Marco Scutaro who had two hits Tuesday, reaching the 1,000 hit mark on his career.
Dustin Pedroia’s two-homer game Tuesday night gave him 20 HR in a season for the first time in his career. He and Jacoby Ellsbury both have 20 HR and 25 steals, marking the first time in club history two players have done that in the same season.
About the Author
Written by "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek
I was born a sports fan. Playing soccer, basketball and softball in high school, then moving on to play Div. II softball at Keene State on partial scholarship. In 2003, our team was inducted into the Keene State Hall of Fame. GO OWLS! I am a die hard Red Sox, Patriots and UNC Tar Heel hoop fan. Most of my friends call me Baseball Brenda because when it comes to ranking my priorities in life, the Red Sox always are first on the list. I average about 40 games a year and I have attended every home playoff game since moving back to MA in 2005. I am super competitive and excel at anything you can win at :) Horseshoes, ping pong, darts, pool, cornhole, and bowling. Always love a good challenge. I play a lot of golf in the summer and a lot of fantasy sports. I am always looking to meet local Sox fans so look me up on Facebook.