The young sportswriter and the knuckleballer
This isn’t really Padres related, but on the day that veteran pitcher Tim Wakefield retired about 19 seasons, I thought I would relay a story about a young, hopeful sportswriter (hint: me) who saw Wakefield get shelled during a rare bad night in the Kingdome in 1995.
I’m not entirely sure how many Mariners games I had covered for my old newspaper, The News Tribune in Tacoma, by the time the Red Sox rolled into the Kingdome on August 18 with Wakefield looking like second coming of Cy Young. He was 14-1 with a 1.23 ERA to that point in what was his first season in Boston.
The Red Sox, if you remember, were loaded that season. They went 86-58 under Kevin Kennedy and won the American League East before being swept by the Indians in the ALDS in three games. Mo Vaughn hit 39 bombs that season, Jose Canseco hit 24 home runs and Roger Clemens had a 4.18 ERA two seasons before the Red Sox decided he couldn’t pitch anymore. Spoiler alert: He could.
Anyway, the Mariners — who won the AL West that season before losing to the Indians in the ALCS — tortured Wakefield on this night in the climate-controlled confines of the Kingdome. He allowed seven earned runs and four walks in three innings as his ERA ballooned from 1.23 to 2.08. He opened the game with walk, strikeout looking, walk, walk, fly ball center field. The Blowers grand slam came with two outs.
Mike Blowers hit a first inning grand slam off Wakefield and later added a three-run home run in the third inning in what was easily Wakefield’s worst start of 1995 (he went on to win 16 games). The Mariners won the game, 9-3.
As for me, young sportswriter who was trying to impress his bosses and give my mother something to be proud of, I probably pushed deadline more than I needed to by writing something about how Wakefield’s knuckleball didn’t knuckle much in the Kingdome. I’m sure I labored over that bad boy far too long before sending it in with my TRS-80 laptop via modem. And I’m sure I was proud of myself just as sure that I would cringe if I ever saw a copy of that story now.
Anyway, I would like to think that we (you know, Wakefield and myself) went on to bigger better things. He made close to $56 million in his career, made an All-Star team and won a World Series ring. I no longer have to watch or cover games in the Kingdome. Seems pretty fair to me.
Bonus coverage: Padres manager Bud Black was 0-for-3 at a batter with one strikeout against Wakefield. Impress your friends with that one. You can thank me later.
Corey Brock, MLB.com