Monday, July 25, 2011

"You'll be a bust, be a bust, be a bust/In the Hall of Fame."

The Song: "We Welcome You to Munchkinland," original cast members. Words & music by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen. Track 5 of The Wizard of Oz, original motion picture soundtrack, 1939.
How/when acquired: This is a cheat, as I don't actually own this track. I did once, on vinyl, as a tiny child; years later I did again, on a floppy disk, as part of a screensaver package. But this track I found on Spotify, which I just got and love like a new pet.
Listen/watch here.

Yesterday I went to Fenway Park for the very first time, to see the Red Sox clobber the Mariners and Tim Wakefield pitch his 2,000th career strikeout (and the 2001st, too). It was Maine Appreciation Day; thanks to my friend Richard for bringing me along.

Tim Wakefield turns 45 next week, and has been pitching for the Red Sox since 1995. He is currently the oldest active player in Major League Baseball, and yesterday marked his sixth win of the season, bringing his record to 6-3 for the year. Last year he won the Roberto Clemente Award (after being nominated eight times) as the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

What makes Wakefield's performance even more remarkable is that he didn't start out as a pitcher at all. He came to the majors (after being told he never would) as a first baseman, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988. He decided to try to learn to pitch, and worked his way back up from the Carolina League (single-A ball, if you remember Bull Durham). He spent most of the first half of the 1990s in the minor leagues, eventually being released from the Pirates and winding up with the Red Sox in 1995 basically because he and they didn't have many other choices. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tim Wakefield just wanted to keep playing, and has found a way to do it for 23 years. Whether or not he ever gets elected to the official Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he's already a Hall of Fame player, and I'm so very glad that I got to watch him play. It makes me want to work on a knuckleball of my own.

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