Since 1995, there has been one consistent presence in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse: pitcher Tim Wakefield, who currently stands as the longest tenured player in the organization. Oddly enough, he might never have seen a big league diamond if it weren’t for his ability to throw the knuckleball, a pitch that has almost no spin in flight, which causes it to float erratically from the pitcher’s hand into the catcher’s mitt. Drafted as an infielder by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988, a scout pulled him aside and told him that he didn’t have what it took to be a positional player above Double-A ball. Determined to play in the majors, Wakefield eventually punched his ticket as a mound jockey, pitching the ball in the same manner as Hall-of-Fame pitchers Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil Niekro, and Jesse Haines. After enjoying moderate success with the Pirates, struggles on the mound eventually led to his release; less than a week later, just as the strike-shortened 1995 season began, he signed as a free agent with Boston, where he has remained for 14 seasons, now the longest tenure of any pitcher in franchise history.
Through his last start Friday night against Toronto, an eventual 7-0 win over the Blue Jays, Wakefield has a record of 163-144 with an ERA of 4.32 and 1681 strikeouts in 364 career starts and 501 total appearances as a pitcher in Boston. He also owns 22 saves, including 15 he collected in 1999 after then-closer Tom Gordon went down with an injury at mid-season and before Derek Lowe was moved to that role by manager Jimy Williams. His win total puts him third in franchise history behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young, both with 192, and his total appearances ranks him second behind Bob Stanley, who had 637 trips to the mound over 13 seasons with the club. He is also third in innings pitched (2568-1/3), second in strikeouts with 1786, and second in games started with 364. Unfortunately, he also owns some less-desirable marks with the club, including the most home runs allowed (342), walks allowed (961), losses (144), and wild pitches (95).