Every year players retire from baseball. Every year there's at least one or two noticeable retirements. As of three days ago, Tim Wakefield announced his retirement.
His story is as unique as his pitching style.
Coming up from Melbourne, Florida. Wakefield attended Eau Gallie High School and later Florida Tech. Coming up as a first baseman for the team, and would be named team MVP in his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida Tech(Florida Tech would later retire his number 3).
He would later be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988.
In the Pirates system, a scout had mentioned that he wouldn't make it far with his skill set. It was then, that he started to work with the pitch that would define his career, the knuckleball.
Wakefield would play throughout the Pirates minor league system, and eventually made his debut with the Pirates in 1992. Though going up and down the system with them, and was eventually released in 1995.
Then the moment came where Wakefield's life would be changed forever. Six days after being released by the Pirates, he would sing a contract with the Boston Red Sox. Where he would eventually spend the rest of his career.
He would go on to enlist the help of the Niekro Brothers, Joe and Phil. Phil being the only knuckleballer in Cooperstown. They helped Wakefield further develop his knuckleball.
When first coming up with the Red Sox, he went on an unheard of stretch of going 14-1 with a 1.65 ERA. During that stretch Wakefield stymied opposing hitters, letting the knuckleball dance and drop. He would eventually get six complete games during that stretch as well and was a huge reason as to why the Sox took the division in 1995. He would also win the Comeback Player of the Year that season.
Every player goes through on the field struggles, Wakefield was no exception to this. He would bounce around the starting rotation and the bullpen. In 1999, then manager Jimy Williams tapped Wakefield to become the closer due to injuries at the position. Wakefield would respond, recording 15 saves before going back into the rotation.
Wakefield's postseason performances were remarkable. In 2003 he would allow 3 runs in 13 innings against the Yankees, though eventually giving up the famous home run to Aaron Boone. In 2004, he would gain the win in a fourteen inning Game 5. Going for three shutout innings, and getting the win in the pivotal game for the Sox.
He would be there to break the famed "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004, and again in 2007. Unlike 2004, he wouldn't get the opportunity to pitch in the 2007 World Series due to a shoulder injury.
It wasn't just his on the field work that made him so likable. He has donated to charities, made appearances at hospitals, and has even taken the time out to help special needs students near his Florida home. His humanitarianism has nominated him eight times for the Roberto Clemente award, and eventually winning the award in 2010.
To a man with an unlikely career, a unique style, and a heart of gold. Thank you, Tim Wakefield for a remarkable career. You'll always be remembered for being one of the classiest men to ever grace Yawkey Way and a Red Sox uniform. We'll always remember #49.