Monday, July 1, 2013

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #37 TIM WAKEFIELD


HIS FALL FROM GRACE WITH THE BUCS WAS SUDDEN.




HIS EIGHT WINS CAME IN ONLY 13 STARTS.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Tim Wakefield was the Swiss Army Knife of the Red Sox pitching staff for 17 years. Called upon to start and relieve, plugging gaps wherever needed, he was vastly under-appreciated because he threw the most misunderstood and fickle pitch of all-time: the knuckleball. He rode that uneven pitch to an even 200 victories in a 19-year career that followed the path of one of those knucklers: unpredictably up and down.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • After tossing a complete-game five-hitter in Game 3 of the 1992 NLCS against the Braves, Wakefield allowed four earned runs in another complete-game victory in Game 6 on Oct. 13. The Pirates' rookie sensation came back on three days' rest to save the Pirates' season. In both NLCS victories, he outdueled future Hall of Famer #87 Tom Glavine.

DEFINING SEASON

  • The '95 season had to be one to savor for Wakefield. The Pirates released him on April 20 after losing his rotation spot in '93 and spending time in the minors. He regained command of the knuckleball after joining the Red Sox on April 26. He made 27 starts and went 16-8 with a career-best 2.95 ERA. He finished third in the AL Cy Young race and 13th in the MVP voting.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Seventh all-time in victories among knuckleball pitchers; Phil Niekro leads with 318.
  2. Was in line to be named '92 NLCS MVP before the Braves staged their Francisco Cabrera-Sid Bream ninth-inning Game 7 magic.
  3. Ditto in the '03 ALCS, when he bested the Yankees' #157 Mike Mussina in winning Games 1 and 4. Then came the Yankees' rally from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth inning of Game 7. Wakefield would've been the starter for Game 1 of the World Series but was called upon to relieve in the 10th. In the 11th, he gave up Aaron Boone's series-clinching homer.
  4. It took eight tries to get that elusive 200th victory, coming on Sept. 13, 2011, in his final season.
  5. Third all-time in victories for the Red Sox (186), trailing Cy Young and #104 Roger Clemens, who both have 192. 

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