Bill Greene/Globe Staff
The Red Sox honored former pitcher Tim Wakefield before they played the Mariners on Tuesday at Fenway Park.
Former teammates -- including Mike Timlin and Mike Stanley -- along with relatives and friends of the recently retired knuckleballer turned out for “Thanks, Wake” Day.
NESN’s Don Orsillo was the emcee for the event, which featured a heartfelt speech by the Red Sox’s David Ortiz, and a touching moment when members of Tim Wakefield’s charity, Wakefield’s Warriors, emerged from center field and surrounded an emotional Wakefield.
Wakefield then gave a speech:
“I have to thank the Red Sox organization for giving me the best 17 years of my life. I have to thank my teammates, the former ones that I played with. You guys have always had my back and I’ll have yours forever. Thank you for your support. Last but not least the fans, like I said in February, every time I took this mound I gave everything I had and every time I walked off you guys always gave me a standing ovation and I will cherish the memories that we shared together from ’04-’07 and all the 17 years in between. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys and thanks for being here today.”
Orsillo announced to the crowd that Doug Mirabelli, who was scheduled to catch the game’s first pitch, wasn’t going to make it because his flight was delayed. It didn’t take long for the Sox faithful to catch on to Orsillo’s joke, as Mirabelli emerged from center field in a Boston police car, to the delight of the crowd.
Mirabelli famously arrived in a Massachusetts State Police car in May of 2006 after the Red Sox had reacquired the catcher to be Wakefield's personal catcher because Josh Bard had trouble catching Wakefield's knuckleballs. Mirabelli was delayed in transit the day the Sox traded for him, but he was needed because Wakefield was scheduled to start that day.
After Mirabellli's arrival on Tuesday, Wakefield then threw what may be his last pitch at Fenway Park, and his son and daughter shouted, “Play Ball!”
Prior to the game the Red Sox compiled several statements from former friends and teammates of Wakefield and distributed them to the press.
Here's a few of the highlights:
"I think Wake's career can be embodied by game three against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. With the team down, he came to me in the fourth inning and asked what he could do. He pitched more than three innings in that game, sacrificing his start the next day for the good of the team. A lot of what he did when under the radar. I wish him congratulations on a wonderful career and hope his second career is as good as his first."
"There is so much to say about Wake. He has been a part of so many things and he's meant so much to the game, the organization, the community, and personally as a friend and teammate for 14 years. He is a consummate professional with a one-of-a-kind talent that allowed his team flexibility, dependability, and endurance for 17 years. His competitiveness will be missed but his legacy and friendship will last a lifetime. It's sad to see it end but this will be an exciting new chapter for him in his life."
"It's truly been an honor to play with him for so many years. Every game he gave it his all, supported his teammates, and his professionalism was second to none. For me to play with him was an honor, but it's even a better honor to know him as a friend."
Mike Andrews, Dana-Farber Trustee and Former Chairman of the Jimmy Fund:
"To me, Tim is everything a professional athlete should be. He handled himself in such a professional way as far as his baseball career goes and he has done what i would hope and what most people would hope professional athletes would do off the field in his charitable endeavors. We he did for the Jimmy Fund is second to none. He is beloved by so many kids and adults alike at the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It's awesome what he did for the kids. I know he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do going forward."
Prior to the ceremony, current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine shared his thoughts on whether he believes baseball will ever see another knuckleballer be as successful and valuable to his team as Wake was for the Red Sox.
"[For anyone to ever be] as good as Tim would be very tough," said Valentine. "He was a real valuable type of pitcher. He was a great 'go-to' guy. A couple hundred wins, there's no diminishing the value of being out there when your team wins 200 times, extremely impressive."