When the MLB's All-Star teams were announced last Sunday, one pitcher who has never graced an All-Star roster before was delighted to find he had been place on the team.
Tim Wakefield is in his 17th major league season, and this will be the first time he has ever been to an All-Star game.
A thrilled Wakefield was announced as the sixth and final Red Sox All-Star at Fenway Park to a sterling ovation.
While he certainly hasn't been dominating, the award serves essentially as a lifetime achievement award of sorts. He is 10-3 with a 4.30 ERA. Not staggering numbers, but solid.
I'm not a big proponent of lifetime achievement awards as All-Star roster spots. But considering it all, and while the move has garnered many complaints (especially by Yankee fans), it think this is one time where an exception is acceptable.
Throughout his long career, Wakefield has never made one before, and this was likely his last chance to do so. The 42 year old will be the second oldest player to ever be in an All-Star game. The oldest was Satchel Paige, who played in one at the ripe old age of 46 way back in 1952.
Wakefield will also be the first knuckleballer on an All-Star team since Charlie Hough represented Texas in the 1986 Midsummer classic.
For Red Sox fans, this should be exciting. Even if Wakefield is only introduced and doesn't get to pitch (a likely possibility), it will be nice to see him there watching the Homerun Derby and honored as an All-Star.
Wakefield has been with the Red Sox organization for 14 years now. He was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1995 and picked up by the Red Sox six days later.
That year was the closest he’s ever come to being an All-Star. He was 7-1 with a 1.61 ERA but he'd started only 10 games at the time of the 1995 All-Star game.
Ever since being picked up by the Red Sox, he has been a solid pitcher on the field and a class act off it, and most importantly, a model teammate.
He has been a starter, closer, and reliever, always willing to work for the Sox wherever and whenever they may need him to pitch.
He was often swung back and forth between the rotation and bullpen by Jimmy Williams and Joe Kerrigan, but never complained despite his lack of job security.
In 2003 Wakefield was huge in the 2003 ALCS where he out dueled Mike Mussina in both game one and game four to help force a game seven. After a managing blunder by Grady Little, he gave up the series losing homerun to Aaron Boone in the bottom of the 11th.
A crushed Wakefield apologized to Red Sox fans after the game, accepting the blame for a series in which he should have been the MVP.
The next year, again pitted against the Yankees in the ALCS, the Red Sox were being pounded in game three, already down 2-0 in the series.
Wakefield offered his rubber arm to eat up innings and save the bullpen, sacrificing his scheduled start the next day to keep the bullpen fresh. The bullpen performed well in game four, helping to turn the series around.
Wakefield pitched three shut-out innings in extra the innings of game five, earning the win and helping the Red Sox win the series as the first team ever to come back after trailing 3-0 in a best of seven series.
One of the most emotional moments of the season was watching Wakefield on the Yankee Stadium mound after the Red Sox came back to win game seven. It was the same mound from which he had given up the Home run to Boone the year before.
In 2007, Wakefield won 17 games in the regular season but suffered debilitating pain in his shoulder during the playoffs. As he realized that he hurt his team’s chances at winning against Colorado in the World Series, Wakefield again contributed to a championship winning team.
This time, he did it by putting the team first and respectfully taking his leave from the World Series roster. He supported replacement Jon Lester by saying, "Maybe it's Jonny Lester's time to shine." Lester would go on to pitch well in the series clinching game four.
His generosity can be seen off the field as well.
For one thing, his starting pitcher contract is only $4 million, cheap for a 200 inning workhorse. His contract is structured so that the Sox have him at this price until they basically don't want him anymore. He will forever be signed to a $4 million club option.
Wakefield is also a charity workhorse. He has partnered with the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston to help bring sick children to Fenway to enjoy a day at the ballpark. He contributes to the Pitching in for Kids organization annually by hosting an All-Star Celebrity Golf Tournament and also works with the Touch 'Em All Foundation.
Wakefield is third on the Red Sox all time win-list with 174, 18 wins shy of Roger Clemens’s and Cy Young's franchise record 192 wins apiece.
Wakefield will likely surpass the two next season, and become the all-time Red Sox leader in wins.
Along with his two World Series rings and his likely Red Sox record, the All-Star game will be a meaningful event to a classy, quality person who has poured in years of service both on the playing field and in the community.
"It's a pretty proud moment for me and my family. ...I feel very honored and humbled," was all Wakefield had to say.
Pride. Honor. Humility. Traits to describe a class act. Traits to describe Tim Wakefield.
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