VIDEO: Eau Gallie Grad Tim Wakefield Is World Series Champion, Master of the Knuckleball
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // January 21, 2017
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Tim Wakefield, a 1984 graduate of Eau Gallie High School, enrolled at Brevard Community College but never played a game for the Titans. He then transferred to Florida Tech, where he played first base for coach Les Hall, and was Tech’s MVP in 1987 and 1988.
TIM WAKEFIELD –2012 INDUCTEE
• Florida Tech Career HR Leader
• Two Worlds Series Rings
• Roberto Clemente Award Winner
EAU GALLIE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE
Tim Wakefield, a 1984 graduate of Eau Gallie High School, enrolled at Brevard Community College but never played a game for the Titans. He then transferred to Florida Tech, where he played first base for coach Les Hall, and was Tech’s MVP in 1987 and 1988.
In 1987, he hit a school-record 22 home runs with 71 RBI, and established a career school record of 40 home runs.
Wakefield was inducted into the Florida Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame in 1998. He was named to the SSC Silver Anniversary Team in 2002.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Wakefield in the eighth round of the 1988 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, but as fate would have it, Wakefield struggled to hit in the minor leagues and he nearly was released.
KNUCKLEBALL TICKET TO STARDOM
Fortunately, minor league manager Woody Huyke saw Wakefield throwing a knuckleball during warm-ups during spring training in 1989. His career as an infielder came to an abrupt end as the Pirates made him a pitcher.
In 1991, Wakefield compiled a 15-8 record with an ERA of 2.90 for Double-A Carolina. In 1992, after going 10-3 with an ERA of 3.06 for Triple-A Buffalo, the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted Wakefield to the major leagues where he went 8-1 with an ERA of 2.15 as the Pirates won the National League East. Wakefield won both of his starts in the NLCS and he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.
Wakefield struggled in 1993 and split his time between the Pirates and their Double-A club.
The struggles continued in 1994 as he did not pitch for the Pirates during the strike-marred season. Pittsburgh released Wakefield during the offseason and the Boston Red Sox shrewdly signed him to a minor-league deal.
He rewarded the Red Sox with a 16-8 record and an ERA of 2.95 as Boston ran away with the American League East title – and Wakefield finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award.
REVERSING ‘CURSE OF THE BAMBINO’
Among the high points of his career was 2004 when he helped the Red Sox win the ALCS against the Yankees, and then went on to pitch Game One of the World Series, as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals for their first Series title in 86 years.
Three years later, Boston won another World Series in a sweep over the Colorado Rockies. Wakefield’s 17-12 record during the regular season helped propel the Red Sox to the postseason.
Wakefield won his 200th career game last September – with 186 of his victories coming as a member of the Red Sox. That put him third in franchise history behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
At age 45, he became the oldest player to ever play a game for the Red Sox. Wakefield pitched a career 3,226.1 innings, struck out 2,156 and walked 1,205. His best years for the Sox were 1995, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2009 when he was named to the All-Star team.
In 1998, he was 17-8 with an ERA of 4.58. In 2002, he had an 11-5 record and an ERA of 2.81. In 2005, he was 16-12 with an ERA of 4.15. During the 2007 season, Wakefield was 17-12 with an ERA of 4.76. And, in the the All-Star season of 2009 when he struggled with fatigue during the second half of the season, he was 11-5 with an ERA of 4.58.
Although he made his mark as an athlete, Wakefield has made his biggest impact as a generous humanitarian.
Well known throughout the Major Leagues (and locally) as one of its most charitable players, he was nominated eight times by the Red Sox for the Roberto Clemente Award, which was bestowed upon him in 2010.
He has given his time and money to the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston, New England’s Pitching in for Kids and the Touch ‘Em All Foundation founded by Garth Brooks.
Locally, he has been a driving force for the Space Coast Early Intervention Center. In 2010, he was named a Space Coast Humanitarian by Space Coast Medicine magazine.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
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