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Tim Wakefield: ‘I can finally say it’s over’

02.17.12 at 7:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was one brief moment where Tim Wakefield lost it.

But like his major league career spanning 19 big league seasons – the final 17 with the Red Sox, he quickly regained composure and went about his business in a workmanlike fashion.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today,” Wakefield began before pausing to compose himself, “and I’m saddened to say I’ve decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball.”

Wakefield trembled with the final 15 words, words he’s had been preparing the last several hours, weeks and months since the end of the 2011 season.

Wakefield was surrounded by friends, family, agent Barry Meister and teammates – both present and former – as the sun set on jetBlue Park and the career of one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers in MLB history.

“I can finally say it’s over,” Wakefield said.

“For the past 17 years, all I ever wanted to do is what was best for our team and the organization, whether it was starting, closing or whatever I was asked to do. I always had my spikes on and was ready to go. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to wear this uniform and be a part of this historic franchise for as long as I have and I’ve enjoyed many successes along the way. But when it came down to it, I had to take a hard look at what I felt was best for me, my family and the Red Sox. There is nothing I want more than for this team to win and it’s hard sometimes to take yourself out of the decision process.

“But in my heart, I feel that by retiring, I’m giving them a better chance to do that. In saying that, I also feel this is what is best for my family to succeed as well. This a special time in my kids’ life and I’ve never wanted to regret not being there for them. Thank you to the Red Sox for giving me the greatest time in my life.”

Wakefield was offered a minor league contract and an invite to camp, which he declined, leading to Friday’s decision. Wakefield finished with a career record of 200-180 with 22 saves and a 4.41 ERA in 627 big league games, 463 as a starter. He finished third on the all-time Red Sox wins list six behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He goes into retirement as the franchise leader in innings pitched (3,006) and starts (430).

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner represented team ownership and paid tribute to Wakefield professionalism, longevity and success. He also thanked Wakefield for overcoming the 2003 disappointment of Aaron [bleeping] Boone and sacrificing himself in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. That sacrifice of the Game 4 start that season is widely credited with saving the pitching staff and paving the way for the Red Sox to pull off the most dramatic comeback in the sport’s history.

The Red Sox would win the World Series that year and again in 2007, and Wakefield was a key part of both.

“Thank you for the two parades,” Werner said.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, knuckleball, knuckleballer, MLB
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