February 17, 2012 - 4:51 PM
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who burst on the scene in 1992 with the Bisons and then the NL East champion Pittsburgh Pirates, announced his retirement Friday afternoon at the Red Sox spring camp in Fort Myers, Fla.
Wakefield, 45, won 200 games with the Red Sox -- third in team history behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens. His career, of course, began with the Pirates and he helped them get within an out of the World Series in 1992. Wakefield was 10-3 in Buffalo under Marc Bombard in 1992 (right) before getting called up but his career then quickly flamed out.
By 1994, Wakefield was back in Buffalo and posted one of the worst seasons in franchise history -- 5-15 in 29 starts that saw the team go 7-22, a 5.84 ERA, 98 walks, 16 wild pitches and only 83 strikeouts in 175 2/3 innings. The team went 55-89 as it never posted more than a four-game winning streak, with Wakefield representing a new term for the word stopper.
Wakefield went to Boston the next season and turned his career around by going 16-8 and pitching for the Red Sox in the postseason against the Indians. He won 17 games in 1998 and again in 2007 as the Sox won their second World Series in four years. In the knuckleball world, Wakefield is right there with Wilbur Wood, Charlie Hough, Hoyt Wilhelm and his mentors, the Niekros.
But Wakefield's knuckler lost its bite last season (7-8, 5.12) and it was arduous for him to just get to 200. He wanted to return to go for the club victory record but the Red Sox apparently declined to offer him a contract.
Click here for Wakefield's major- and minor-league stats from The Baseball Cube.
Wakefield is a pillar in the community service world in both Boston and his native Florida. His career is a fascinating study of someone making a lot out of nothing, as his career as an infielder was not getting out of Class A ball. He's not going to make the Hall of Fame but he's certainly going to always have his unique place in the history of the game.
Photo: Wakefield with the Bisons in 1992/Buffalo News files