Tonight, Tim Wakefield surpassed Roger Clemens in innings pitched for the Red Sox. As SG has pointed out in the past, Wakefield is a bridge to the actual teams Clemens played for and the one taking the field in 2010, decades after the Rocket's first callup to the bigs. If baseball as a whole connects us with the past, Wakefield as an individual connects us with his former teammates.
You just can't replace an old friend -- someone who has known you through all your phases, someone who doesn't need to be caught up on the salient events of the past to know the significance of the present, someone whose face you can remember nearby during other milestone moments. The kind of person it's impossible to imagine being without. Tim Wakefield's presence with the Sox is like that.
Intellectually, I understand that there will come a time when Wakefield is no longer on the roster. But on a deeper, more irrational level, I can't comprehend it.
From the Projo Sox Blog:
If there's anything Wakefield wanted others to take away from this moment, it was the lesson that one should never give up on their dream, because goals can be reached in unexpected way.
"It's a tribute to just never giving up," he said. If I can pass on to somebody, that maybe is one of those people that is on the bubble, [to] never quit. I've never done that, regardless of how good I've pitched or how bad I've pitched. It's just keep striving to be better."
Screaming at the Shortstop takes an amusing look at just what a long damn time 16 years really is:
Sixteen seasons. Do you know how old I was when Tim joined the Red Sox? Nine. Since then, I've gone on to graduate high school and college, plodded my way almost through a master's degree (only a few months to go before I'm done!), had three different jobs, two different cars, and countless different friends. I've gone from listening to a cassette player, to a CD player, to an iPod. The walls in my room have been painted five times. When Tim started pitching, my TV weighed about 500 pounds (rough estimate), and the picture was grainy. Now it weighs about 20 pounds and we have HD. All these things have changed, and yet Tim stays the same. On he goes, with his 66 mph knuckleball dancing down the lane, and his 70 mph fastball somehow still confusing people.
I suppose this happens to everyone as they get older, but it still sometimes strikes me how utterly different my perception of time is from when I was a kid. Sometimes I suspect my brain is still stuck on an axis set at 1990, and it sometimes needs reminders that that was really 20 years ago. Before 1990, as a kid with an age in a single digits, waiting for an hour seemed like a truly barbaric idea. An hour was such a long time. Now two decades have come and gone and my adult brain is still going, "huh?" I can only imagine what it'll be like by the time Wake actually retires...