When Tim Wakefield retired this past week, he took the knuckle ball with him.

Yeah, Tim Wakefield wasn’t very good in his final seasons with the Red Sox as evidenced by his 11-18 record, 5.23 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, and 44 home runs allowed since 2010. He’d be a plug-in starter every 2-3 weeks, giving Beckett or Lester an extra day of rest. Nobody bought a Red Sox ticket and thought:

“Sweet! Wakefield’s on the mound!”

He couldn’t sneak his 77 mph fastball past a high school JV player, he was fairly predictable, he never showed emotion, he happens to be a part of one of the most dreadful moments in Red Sox history (Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run), and you could never watch a Wakefield at-bat without thinking ‘Golly, if A-Rod connects on that ball it’s never coming back.’

All of these things are true. It was time for Timmy to go. But Red Sox Nation will never forget Wakefield.

We were with him after he lost Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS. We watched his knuckle-ball get belted over so many fences. We watched Doug Mirabelli scamper after countless passed balls because he, like everyone else, had no idea where the knuckle-ball was going to land. We watched him flounder for seven starts without recording that elusive 200th victory. He got it, and we were there. We were loyal to Wakefield because he was loyal to us.

And the knuckle-ball. Today, pitchers are evaluated in high school. If they can blow fastballs past 17 year olds – who are more worried about handing in chemistry homework than that particular at-bat –  they have ‘potential’. They later develop a change up, a curveball, and probably another off speed pitch. Tim Wakefield did things the other way. He lulled you to sleep with his soft, fluttery, dead-spin pitch. He didn’t rely on sheer power and speed off his pitch, he relied on ground balls, fly outs, his defense, and the occasional swing-and-a-miss strikeout in which the batter can’t believe how he whiffed at such a meatball.

Tim Wakefield isn’t a hall of famer. Hell, many people outside of New England probably don’t know much about him. He’s that guy who throws the knuckle, right? To Red Sox fans, Wakefield was more than that. We loved him. Him retiring signals the end of a chapter in Sox history.

And the death of the knuckle ball.

 

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