Red Sox Legend: SP Tim Wakefield
The Number: 49
Tim Wakefield was never even supposed to be in this discussion. A first baseman in college who flamed out in Double-A, Wakefield reinvented himself as a knuckleballer with the Pirates. He made the improbable climb to Pittsburgh and became a folk hero with his performance in the 1992 NLCS, going the distance in two wins, albeit in a losing effort. Despite his heroics, Wakefield was released in 1995 before being picked up with the Red Sox.
It was in Boston where Wakefield would become a hero. No, he was never considered a top starter in baseball, as he had just one All-Star team and had only two seasons with an ERA under 4.00. But much like his one-of-a-kind knuckleball, Wakefield carved out a unique role with the Red Sox. He did whatever the Red Sox asked him to do, as he topped 30 starts in seven seasons and made more than 25 relief appearances in four others.
All those innings eventually added up, and Wakefield finds himself atop many of the Red Sox all-time leaderboards. Only longtime reliever Bob Stanley appeared in more games, while only Roger Clemens and Cy Young won more games.
Wakefield was also a crucial part of nine playoff teams, a feat no other player in team history can match. Even if he didn’t put up the most eye-popping numbers, no pitcher in team history could match his resume.
Since his retirement in 2011, Wakefield’s number 49 has not been given out. Besides Jackie Robinson’s 42, It is the only number between 40 and 65 that can say that. The Red Sox are withholding the number as a way to honor Wakefield, but if they really wanted to commemorate their longtime stalwart, they would officially retire number 49 for good.