Varitek and Wakefield lead 2016 Red Sox Hall of Fame Class

Feb 21, 2014; Ft Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox special assistants to the general manager Jason Varitek (33) heads towards the practice field during spring training at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2014; Ft Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox special assistants to the general manager Jason Varitek (33) heads towards the practice field during spring training at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Two time Red Sox World Champions Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield lead a Red Sox Hall of Fame Class that also includes former team President Larry Lucchino and standout 1920s outfielder Ira Flagstead

The Red Sox will be honoring the 2016 Red Sox Hall of Fame class before a game at Fenway Park on May 19.  This year’s class is Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Larry Lucchino and Ira Flagstead.  The part that the readers are likely curious about is “who is Ira Flagstead”?  We will talk about that first as we summarize each Red Sox notable’s career.

Ira Flagstead was an outfielder who patrolled center field at Fenway park from 1923 to 1929. Flagstead was a solid hitter for the Detroit Tigers but could not find regular playing time in the crowded Tigers lineup of future Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, and Heinie Manush and three time American League RBI leader Bobby Veach. In five of Flagstead’s seasons in Boston, he received MVP votes and was perhaps the most popular player on the team. Flagstead twice lead the American League in outfield assists during his tenure in Boston. He boasted a .295 career average for Boston, but was slowed toward the end of his career by a beaning in the days before batting helmets. His induction will be a mystery to most fans as it was to this writer, but if you do your homework you can see that he was deserving of the honor as an outstanding player in his time.

Tim Wakefield is the third winningest pitcher in team history with 186 wins for the team, part of his overall 200 wins for his career. Picked up as a free agent in 1995 after his early success for the Pittsburgh Pirates went south, “Wake” posted a 16-8 record with a 2.95 ERA (third in American League Cy Young voting) for a Red Sox staff that won the American League East that season. Though not spectacular by any means, Wake was a stalwart for his 17 seasons in Boston, setting franchise records for starts (430) and innings (3006), even closing for part of a season (1999) while notching 22 career saves for the club. In 2004’s American League championship series he both ate innings (three frames in the disastrous Game 3 blow out) and performed spectacularly (three innings of one hit relief notching the victory in the 14 inning epic Game 5) to propel the team to their first World Series in 86 years. Perhaps the only blemish is the continued quest in 2011 to get him his 200th win may have played a small part in the team’s collapse as the team may have left him in on a few occasions in order to notch that elusive final win. It is but a blip on a long list of accomplishments for one of the team’s most beloved players.

Jason Varitek is the greatest catcher in the history of the Boston Red Sox, setting a team record with 1546 games caught for the team. The three-time All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner posted a .776 career OPS but it was his leadership and toughness that was a vital cog in the 2004 and 2007 World Championship teams. He was behind the plate for a record four no-hitters during his time with the Red Sox. “Tek” also has the distinction to be part of the greatest trade in the history of the Red Sox, coming over from the Seattle Mariners to the Red Sox with Derek Lowe in 1997 for closer Heathcliff Slocumb. It is no coincidence that the Red Sox embarked on the most successful run in their history, appearing in the postseason eight times in Varitek’s fifteen years with the Red Sox. It is only appropriate Varitek go in to the Red Sox Hall with Wakefield as they retired within days of each other in 2012.  .

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Larry Lucchino is the recently retired former President/CEO for the Red Sox.  After an illustrious career with in sports with the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres, Lucchino was a member of the partnership group that took over the Red Sox ownership in 2002 along with Principal Owner John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner. After helping keep the Padres in San Diego and overseeing the construction of Camden Yards, Lucchino supervised the renovations of the park including the Green Monster Seats which are among the most coveted seats in the park. Professional soccer matches as well as professional and amateur hockey were also brought to Fenway under his watch. Former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein was a protégé of Lucchino’s from his San Diego days before hiring up in Boston a year prior to their first championship run of 2004. Lucchino is also known for popularizing the characterization of the Yankees as the Evil Empire (in reference to the Star Wars movies) when the Yankees outbid the Red Sox in 2002 for the services of Cuban pitching sensation Jose Contreras. Lucchino’s departure from the day to day operations in August led to the hiring of current President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.