Watch CBS News

Roche: Tim Wakefield a Boston Red Sox legend on and off the field

Dan Roche says Tim Wakefield was "beyond a good player and man"
Dan Roche says Tim Wakefield was "beyond a good player and man" 01:13

BOSTON – Sunday was stunning and painful for Boston sports fans.

We lost Chris Snow to that awful disease ALS. Chris, his wife Kelsie, and their family lived a courageous life. They battled with strength, unity, passion and boundless energy. As we've seen with Pete Frates, Boston College SID Dick Kelley, and Sharon Timlin (mother of former Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin), it ends lives way too soon.

We also lost former Patriots tight end Russ Francis in a plane crash Sunday. For those of us that watched him play, we all saw Ben Coates and Gronk before there was Coates and Gronk. Off the field, Russ was a life-loving man, who flew planes, surfed and loved his family and friends.

And we lost Tim Wakefield.

Wake was a great story of second chances in the game of baseball.

He was drafted as a first baseman by the Pirates, but hit under .200 in his first year of minor league baseball. He quickly realized that his only way to get to the big leagues was to try to master a knuckleball that he fooled around with for years. Wakefield did just that, through many highs and lows just like his famous pitch.

After nearly pitching the Pirates to the World Series in the 1992 NLCS, he was eventually released. And that was because of how hard it was to master that one pitch.

Dan Duquette quickly signed him and introduced him to the knuckleballing Niekro brothers Phil and Joe. Wake exploded as he went 14-1 to start his Sox career.

Wake was a workhorse for his 17-year career with Boston. The ultimate teammate, taking the ball whenever needed.

You would walk into the Sox clubhouse back then and it just didn't look or feel right if you didn't see Wake working on a crossword puzzle. He did them every day. It was passion. He was always there for teammates too. A friend to everyone.

Wakefield represented the rollercoaster emotion of Boston and the "Curse of the Bambino" better than anyone. Because Grady Little ran out of pitchers in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, Wakefield surrendered the game-winning home run to Aaron Boone. A devastating loss. I'll never forget going into that clubhouse and just standing there as the players sat at their lockers, the floor, all over the room. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Wake stood up in front of his locker and answered every question while shedding tears. Heartbreaking.

One year later … redemption. The Red Sox rallied from an 3-0 deficit, thanks to Wake taking one for the team in a Game 3 rout and then with a stellar three shutout innings in their Game 5 14-inning win. When the Sox finished off the Bronx Bombers in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, the entire team and organization made sure Wake knew what he meant to them. He was showered with champagne and appreciation. It was beautiful.

But what Tim Wakefield - a two-time World Series Champion - accomplished off the field was his greatest work. He seemingly worked harder mastering his community work than he did his knuckleball. He helped so many kids and families through his charity work.

He was honored as the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, given to an MLB player, who best represents the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their clubs. Amazing!

Wakefield was the honorary Chairman of the Red Sox Foundation and the first Red Sox Captain of the Jimmy Fund. He worked tirelessly with the "Pitching in for Kids" non-profit organization as well as his "Wakefield Warriors." He hosted golf tournaments, fundraisers and spent countless hours visiting with kids.

And he was a family man. His wife Stacy and their kids meant the world to him. When I saw him at Fenway, it was always the first thing we talked about - our kids and how they were doing.

This one hurts. We'll all miss Tim Wakefield and everything he represented to the Boston sports community.

RIP Tim and thank you for what you did for all of us.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.