'He exemplifies what this uniform is': Red Sox pay tribute to Wakefield in season finale

October 2nd, 2023

BALTIMORE -- If you looked into the visitor’s dugout at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, every member of the Red Sox was in their jersey top.

There were no hoodies, no pullovers or other types of accessories.

This was one way the team chose to honor the life of Red Sox Hall of Famer Tim Wakefield, the news of whose passing came shortly before the club’s 6-1 victory over the Orioles in Game No. 162.

“He was what a Boston Red Sox should look like,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his former teammate. “I don't know if you guys noticed, but everybody had their jerseys on in the dugout. It was a tribute to him, because of all the guys I played with, nobody wore his jersey with more pride than Tim Wakefield. It's a tough day for all of us.”

Wakefield, who was battling brain cancer, died at the age of 57, the Red Sox announced approximately 35 minutes prior to Sunday’s season finale.

While it was a tough day for everyone affiliated with the Red Sox, the news of Wakefield’s passing was particularly gut-wrenching for game planning coordinator Jason Varitek.

The two men were teammates with Boston from 1998-2011. Fittingly, they retired within days of each other in Spring Training of ‘12. Varitek and Wakefield had a close friendship that endured for decades.

Varitek broke down in tears as he talked about his late friend following Sunday’s game.

“I mean, it's horrible,” Varitek said. “Horrible for his wife [Stacy], [daughter] Bri, [son] Trevor, his family and his friends. I mean, [he was] a young man.”

Asked what insight he could offer on Wakefield as a teammate and friend, Varitek had an appropriate response.

“I don't know if I have to tell you anything, I think I'm showing it,” Varitek said. “Wake, he exemplifies what this uniform is. And it's not just the name on the back. It's the name on the front. It's what he's done in the community, what he's represented. He exemplifies what it means to be a Red Sox and what it means to be a professional. Wonderful dad, great husband.”

Appropriately, Cora spoke exclusively about Wakefield rather than discuss the final game of the season.

“Tough day for us,” said Cora. “We lost a brother, a teammate, a family member. Stacy and the kids, you know, my condolences. We're here for them. But like I was telling the [players], this guy, he was one of the best teammates I ever had. This guy was there for us all the time. He was accountable.”

The last time Cora spoke with Wakefield was the day before the 200-game winner underwent surgery for his brain tumor.

“I saw him Sept. 14 and he went to my office and he was having his [surgery] the next day,” Cora said. “And he was just a regular guy, just talking to me, talking about baseball and he said, ‘I'll be fine. I'm going to be fine.’ We have a lot of stories. We have a history together. It's just a sad day for us, a sad day for the organization.”

Though the game was secondary, the Red Sox (78-84) were pleased to honor Wakefield with a win.

“I'm glad that we went out there and we played a clean game,” Cora said. “We pitched well. We kind of represented Wake today and it was, in that aspect, a fun day. I was very proud of this group to play all the way to the end. And that's something Wake did as a man, as a husband, as a father, as a player. He played all the way to the end.” 

Wakefield impacted the Red Sox and the city of Boston as much off the field as he did on it. He won the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award in 2010, which Boston DH Justin Turner won last season when he was with Los Angeles. Turner proudly had Clemente’s “21” stitched into his cap all season.

“I know who he is as a person and what he means to the community and the city of Boston, how great of a dad he was, how great of a husband he was,” Turner said. “He was just the entire package really, and it’s a tough day for all of Red Sox Nation. I want to send all my love and prayers to the Wakefield family and everyone who was close to him. He’s gonna be missed.”

Word of Wakefield’s passing trickled into other clubhouses throughout the final day of MLB’s regular season.

For retiring Guardians manager Terry Francona, who managed Wakefield all eight years he was in Boston, this was tough news to take on his final day in the dugout.

“It’s like getting kicked in the stomach,” Francona said. “I'm not saying it very good because there is no good way. It's just awful.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts played with Wakefield on the historic 2004 Red Sox team.

“He was a friend of mine, a teammate and I’m just really saddened,” Roberts said. “He cared. He was a great friend, great teammate and just a life cut too short. I know he’s resting peacefully now. I pray for his wife and his kids and there are a lot of people that loved him. Again, it’s just another reminder that the time we do have is not guaranteed and we all have to be grateful.”