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Knuckleball Specialist Tim Wakefield Calls it a Career 5

Posted on February 22, 2012 by Dan Flaherty

Tim Wakefield ended a great career in Boston last week.

The night was October 16, 2004 and a game, and another season was slipping away from the Boston Red Sox. Already trailing the New York Yankees two games to none in the American League Championship Series, the pitching in Game 3 was serving up batting practice fare to Yankee hitters. Tim Wakefield watched it unfold. He was scheduled to start Game 4, but stepped up and told manager Terry Francona that if need be, he (Wake) would give up his start and try and save the bullpen. Francona took him up on the offer.

Wakefield’s final line score showed that went 3 1/3 innings and gave up five runs in an 18-9 loss. A cynic might say his act of teamwork in giving up his start for a lost cause was pointless. But the innings he worked were the most of any Red Sox pitcher that night. It meant Francona got through the game without using Mike Timlin or Keith Foulke, while Alan Embree faced only a handful of batters. The core of the Sox bullpen was rested.

No one could have predicted what happened next. That not only would the Red Sox win the next four games in succession, but Games 4 & 5 would go a combined 26 innings, requiring every last bit of will from the bullpen and that Foulke would be needed again in Game 6, already running on fumes. But because Tim Wakefield put the interests of his team ahead of the interests of himself, even when it seemed like an act of futile martyrdom, the Red Sox were in position to pull off the miracle comeback. That’s why as he goes into retirement now, at age 45, that single act of selflessness should be his crowning memory.

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