Don’t ask me why I remember this. I have a vague recollection of a day with my family at Hampton Beach in the summer of 1995 and I’m confident I can give you an exact date. I believe it was August 13, 1995 where my parent, my sisters, my cousins, aunt uncle and myself grabbed a spot in the sand near a group of people with a radio. It was a Sunday, the Red Sox were playing a day game, and Tim Wakefield was spinning another gem. While we enjoyed a hot August day, Tim Wakefield provided the background noise as the knuckleballer, pitching in his first season with the Red Sox, won his 10th start in a row dropping his ERA to a jaw dropping 1.65. Even at age 11 I was a nerd and a stat head, so I was fully aware of how impressive this feat was for a guy I had never heard of a few months earlier.
Here we are just over 16 years to the day, and Wakefield is gunning for win number 200.
I’m not going to beat around the bush. Here it is, I think the Red Sox should retire Tim Wakefield’s number 49 after he retires (which might not be for another 12-15 years). 185 of his 199 wins are in a Red Sox uniform. If he gets 8 more (and it’s looking like an increasingly big IF) to knock Roger Clemens and Cy Young off the all time franchise win list, they NEED to retire his number
For a long time, the Red Sox had certain requirements for player’s numbers to be retired.
1. You had to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
2. You had to play at least 10 years with the Red Sox
3. You had to finish your career with the Red Sox
Tim Wakefield has endeared himself to the people of Boston for nearly two decades, but with only right around 200 wins and a career ERA north of 4, he will not get any consideration for the Cooperstown. Exceptions have been made! The Red Sox abolished the third stipulation and posted Carlton Fisk’s number on the façade. They made an exception for Pesky who never made it to the Hall. Things change! I’m not about to suggest, that Wakefield’s contributions over 17 years to the franchise can nearly match what Pesky has done in the last 70, but retiring number 6 was long overdue
I realize that having your number retired is supposed to mean something. Celtic and Yankee players will be using three digit numbers before we know it, but Tim Wakefield is in a different category. No he didn’t dominate like Manny, Ortiz or Pedro, he didn’t have a legendary post season like Schilling, he didn’t throw a no-no like Lester, but in a an era where almost nobody stays in one place for more than 5 years, Wakefield has not only been in Boston, but he’s been a pillar of everything that fans can appreciate in an athlete. He represents loyalty, hard work, reliability and a team-first attitude. He has pitched in every role the team has ever asked him to do and he hasn’t complained. He was a valuable part of the team that broke an 86 year old curse, and if he can get 9 more wins in a Red Sox uniform, he’ll erase the name of one of the biggest liars and cheaters ever to wear the uniform from the top of the team’s most coveted pitching record.
If he does that…if he becomes the winningest pitcher in the history of a franchise that’s been around for over a century, don’t we owe him that much? Doesn’t he deserve to be remembered with the all time great Red Sox? Not necessarily just the greatest players to represent Boston baseball, but the ones who best embody the spirit of the city?
Maybe this opens a pandora’s box of good players who were fan favorites in another decade…aside from Dwight Evans, I can’t think of any who were around nearly as long as Wakefield. Lonborg, Monboquette, Tiant and Foxx all spent less than a decade in the Hub.
Or maybe as I head into my late 20s, I can’t help but be enamored with the career of a man who has been a constant for me since I began to seriously follow the team, but when I think of the reasons to retire a number, I think about players that you want your fan base to think of when they talk about a team’s history 20, 30, or even 50 years from now. Players who were a part of the big moments and players that a city could rally behind. Tim Wakefield is one of those players that I hope gets that well deserved tribute for fans to remember 20, 30 or even 50 years from now…unless of course he’s still pitching