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Tim Wakefield vs. Derek Jeter: A matchup for the ages

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  June 8, 2011 10:05 AM

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NEW YORK Derek Jeter will dig in against Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the first inning tonight and we should all take a moment and appreciate the little slice of baseball history taking place.

Talk about old friends. Counting the postseason, Wakefield has faced Jeter 127 times in his career. That's the most Wakefield has faced any batter and the most Jeter has faced any pitcher.

Jeter is 33 of 119 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, and seven walks. Wakefield has struck him out 16 times.

Both men are probably satisfied to a degree. Jeter has hit .277 against the mystifying knuckleball, but that is 36 points below his career batting average. So Wake has that going for him.

They first met on July 15, 1996 at Fenway Park. Jeter, batting leadoff, doubled the first time he faced Wakefield. But Wakefield stuck around for five innings and got the win in an 8-6 Red Sox victory. Every other player who got in that game has retired.

The Red Sox lineup
Jeff Frye 2B
John Valentin SS
Mo Vaughn 1B
Jose Canseco DH
Tim Naehring 3B
Reggie Jefferson LF
Mike Stanley C
Troy O'Leary RF
Lee Tinsley CF
Tim Wakefield RHP

The Yankees lineup
Derek Jeter SS
Bernie Williams CF
Paul O'Neill RF
Darryl Strawberry DH
Tino Martinez 1B
Mariano Duncan 2B
Jim Leyritz C
Gerald Williams LF
Andy Fox 3B
Ramiro Mendoza RHP

Yankees manager Joe Girardi pinch hit in that game.

Wakefield is 44 now and Jeter 36. You're not supposed to still be pitching at 44 or playing everyday at shortstop at 36. Having been fortunate enough to cover both of them as a beat writer, I can tell you they share the the same pride at showing up every day to do their job.

Whether you are a fan of the Red Sox or the Yankees, I bet you admire the guy on the other team. Wakefield is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in is last three starts and has played a huge role in the resurgence of the Red Sox this season and is five wins away from 200 in his career. Meanwhile Jeter is closing in on 3,000 hits and remains a viable presence for the Yankees.

The next time either one of them does something to embarrass the team will be the first time. Both have won the Roberto Clemente Award for their community service

So take a moment to appreciate the history tonight. It'll be a long time before we see the likes of Tim Wakefield and Derek Jeter again.

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