Aaron Boone chokes up as he speaks on Tim Wakefield’s death

Tim Wakefield is with Aaron Boone in 2018.

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Aaron Boone’s voice quivered with emotion as he spoke on former rival Tim Wakefield, the renowned knuckleballer from the Boston Red Sox, who lost his battle to brain cancer on Sunday.

In the moments leading up to Sunday’s matchup against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium, the Yankees skipper received the somber news of Tim Wakefield’s passing at the age of 57. Aaron Boone expressed deep sadness and a sense of heartbreak at the loss of a player forever intertwined with his own baseball history, notably for the pivotal home run that sealed a pennant.

The Yankees manager expressed his sympathy for the family, mentioning that his heart went out to them. Aaron Boone noted that Tim Wakefield’s wife was battling cancer herself and had children, which made the situation even more heart-wrenching. He shared these sentiments after the final regular season game.

Aaron Boone and Tim Wakefield created a memory

Two decades ago, during this very month, Aaron Boone etched his name into baseball history with an unforgettable 11th-inning home run. It was a momentous blast that came off one of Tim Wakefield’s elusive knuckleballs, and it occurred at the old Yankee Stadium. This iconic swing of the bat propelled the Yankees to the 2003 World Series, leaving the Red Sox and their fans in bitter disappointment.

Aaron Boone conveyed his concern for the family and expressed his thoughts for the Red Sox organization and the broader baseball community. He mentioned that he was praying for their family and acknowledged Tim Wakefield’s beloved status within the baseball community.

News about Tim Wakefield’s battle with brain cancer became public knowledge just three days before his untimely passing. A mere couple of weeks ago, he underwent a procedure to combat the aggressive form of cancer that had taken hold.

tim-wakefield
Matt Stone/Boston Herald

Tim Wakefield’s greatness shines

Survived by his loving wife Stacy, son Trevor, and daughter Brianna, Tim Wakefield was more than just a gifted athlete. His impressive career saw him amass 200 Major League wins, with an astonishing 186 of those victories achieved while donning the Boston Red Sox uniform. This places him in elite company, trailing only the likes of Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who managed 192 wins apiece for the Red Sox.

Beyond his impressive on-field accomplishments, Tim Wakefield was renowned for his selflessness as a teammate and his unwavering professionalism. He was deeply engaged in his community during his playing days, a commitment he continued after retiring from baseball in the spring of 2012.

Inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2016, Tim Wakefield’s journey from where he stood in his career when joining the team to his remarkable achievements is nothing short of astonishing.

The right-handed pitcher, celebrated for his standout performance with the Pirates in the 1992 National League Championship Series against the Braves, found himself without a team when the Pittsburgh Pirates released him on April 20, 1995. At that time, any ballclub had the opportunity to acquire his services.

Upon his arrival in Boston, Tim Wakefield wasted no time making an indelible mark. In his initial 17 starts for the Red Sox, he delivered a stellar 14-1 record accompanied by an impressive 1.65 ERA. His distinctive talent was evident from the get-go, as he pitched seven superb innings in his inaugural appearance for the team in Anaheim. Just three days later, he followed up with a brilliant 7 1/3 shutout inning against Oakland.

Tim Wakefield enjoyed a remarkable 19-season career in Major League Baseball, with an astounding 17 of those seasons spent in the Red Sox uniform. In 2009, he earned his first All-Star selection, receiving the honor from then-Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Throughout his tenure with the Red Sox, Tim Wakefield contributed to nine postseason appearances, most notably as part of the championship-winning squads in 2004 and 2007. While the unforgettable 2004 AL Championship Series comeback, rallying from a daunting 3-0 deficit against the Yankees, will always be etched in baseball lore for Dave Roberts’ pivotal steal in Game 4 and the heroic exploits of David Ortiz, manager Terry Francona credits the turnaround to a selfless act by Wakefield.

In the midst of a lopsided 19-8 thrashing the Red Sox suffered in Game 3, Tim Wakefield unhesitatingly laced up his spikes and forfeited his scheduled Game 4 start to preserve the bullpen.

Two days later, Wakefield emerged from the bullpen in a high-stakes situation, pitching three scoreless innings during a 14-inning epic. His stellar performance secured the win, breathing life into the Red Sox’s championship aspirations as they headed back to New York with a thrilling 5-4 victory.

Amid the jubilation following Boston’s resounding Game 7 triumph, some of Wakefield’s teammates urged him to return to the Yankee Stadium mound, encouraging him to savor the moment. Just one year earlier, Wakefield had surrendered a walk-off home run to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the ALCS, which propelled the Yankees to the World Series.

tim-wakefield
mlb.com

A couple of days ago, when Tim Wakefield’s diagnosis was made public, Yankees manager Aaron Boone commented that Tim had been a highly regarded and popular figure during his playing career. Boone noted that Tim was a great player in his era and was held in high esteem within the baseball community and the fraternity of baseball.

At the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in January, when Tim Wakefield made his initial public appearance after Boone’s fateful home run, the audience erupted in a boisterous standing ovation.

Elected into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2016, Tim Wakefield expressed his immense delight, stating, “It’s a monumental honor. I’m absolutely thrilled about it.” Starting his professional career as a modest-hitting first baseman in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, he made a pivotal transition by developing his knuckleball.

This remarkable pitch became Tim Wakefield’s salvation, ultimately defining his career. Under the guidance of renowned knuckleballers like Charlie Hough and the Niekro brothers (Phil and Joe), he harnessed the unique pitch to craft an unforgettable legacy.

Beyond his on-field accomplishments, Tim Wakefield stood as a stalwart figure in his community, both during his playing days and in retirement. It would be challenging to discover a Red Sox player who immersed himself more deeply into the cancer-fighting Jimmy Fund than Wakefield. In his post-retirement years, he served as the honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.

Tim Wakefield received eight nominations from the Red Sox for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award and secured the honor in 2010. This distinguished accolade is presented annually to the MLB player who exemplifies the spirit of baseball through exceptional character, extensive community engagement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field.

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