After 19 Major League Baseball seasons, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has announced his retirement.
Wakefield’s career began in 1988 when he was drafted as a first baseman by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After being told by one of the team’s scouts that he would not reach the big leagues as a position player, Wakefield converted to a pitcher and began throwing his signature knuckleball.
He made his major-league debut in 1992, going 8-1 in 13 starts with a 2.15 ERA. However, Wakefield’s second year with the Pirates was not as successful, and he was demoted to Double-A. After an equally disappointing year with Triple-A Buffalo in 1994, Pittsburgh released Wakefield.
He was signed by the Boston Red Sox less than a week later, and the rest is history.
In 17 seasons with Boston, Wakefield went 186-168 with a 4.43 ERA. He was instrumental in helping the Red Sox achieve eight postseason berths, including two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. 2009 marked his first trip to the All-Star game, after he started the season 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA. In what became his last major-league season in 2011, Wakefield reached several milestones:
May 11: Became the oldest player to appear in a game for the Red Sox (44 years, 282 days).
July 24: Registered 2,000th strikeout in a Boston uniform against the Seattle Mariners.
September 13: Recorded 200th career win against Toronto Blue Jays.
Will Jason Varitek follow Wakefield's example, or will he play at least one more year for the Sox?
He retires as the Red Sox franchise leader in several pitching categories, including starts and innings pitched, and he ranks third on the all-time wins list behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
"This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do," said Wakefield at his retirement press conference at JetBlue Park. "It’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today, and I’m saddened to say that I have decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball."
It is expected that the Red Sox will honor him at Fenway Park sometime during the regular season for his numerous contributions, many of which came off the field. Besides being a Boston sports icon for nearly two decades, Tim Wakefield built a reputation as being one of the most charitable figures in baseball.
An eight-time nominee and 2010 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, his philanthropic acts are well documented. In addition to hosting and participating in various community-driven events, he has become a staple at the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Wakefield is noted for being one of the Red Sox players who made frequent visits to young cancer patients on his own time, spending time with them and brightening their days.
Although his lengthy career has come to a close, fans are sure to see and hear more from him in the coming years. Whether it is at charity events in Boston or the alumni box at Fenway, Tim Wakefield will forever be a part of the Red Sox organization.
A native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Aashish is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics. He graduated Wellesley High School in 2008, and is currently a senior at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, New York. You can read more of his work at bostonsportsradio.net and can follow him on Twitter @aashish1989.