Greenpoint, October, 2015

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tough Knuckles

The red socks, not the red hat
I had planned a post for today on the elevation of Archbishop Dolan to Cardinal with an analysis of the likely impact on the BQE (greater respect for the passing lane, use of turn signals, and so forth). But when I heard that Tim Wakefield retired, after the Red Sox refused to offer him a decent contract, I knew that would have to wait.

Tim Wakefield is the 45-year old knuckleballer who pitched for the Red Sox for 17 of his 19 seasons in the bigs. As the Boston Globe points out, only Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19), and Dwight Evans (19) played more years with the team. All of those great players retired without a World Series championship, Wakefield has two (2004 and 2007).

Wakefield has given us many, many great moments as a starter and as a reliever. None more dramatic and more crucial than the 5th game of the 2004 league championship series against the Yankees. The Sox were down 3 games to 1 at that point--fighting off elimination. He came on in the 11th inning with the score tied 4-4. The Sox had already used six pitchers in the game and needed to save something in the tank for the next two games--if there were to be more games. (Wakefield had volunteered to pitch mop up in the ugly 18-9 drubbing the Yankees gave the Red Sox in Game 3, in order to save the rest of the pitching staff.)

Heart of a knuckleballer
Francona asked Wakefield to give the team one more inning. Instead, he gave them three of the most harrowing innings I have ever endured. Not because Wakefield didn't have good stuff. He did, giving up just one hit and one base on balls. But because Jason Varitek, who didn't usually catch for Wakefield, was behind the plate. Varitek had about as much of an idea of where the ball was going as the Yankee batters did. Every pitch was an adventure. He gave up three passed balls over three innings, with both runners scampering into scoring position. Wake hung tough, and the Sox went on to win it on David Ortiz's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th. The rest is history.

Tomorrow: The Sox are making a big mistake in letting Wakefield go. And I'll prove it!

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