Tuesday, October 28, 2008

#167 Bill Wakefield

Bill Wakefield by you.
Don't look now, but here comes Bill Wakefield, which is the name that Tim McCarver often uses to refer to current Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in his frequent moments of senility. Also appearing on the card, just over Bill's right shoulder, is an unidentified Mets teammate. This is just one of the mysteries concerning our featured player.

Bill Wakefield grew up in Kansas City, and even worked for the Athletics as an office boy in high school. The Cardinals enticed him away from Stanford University in 1961 with a $60,000 signing bonus. After three years in the St. Louis organization, the righty was traded to the Mets with outfielder George Altman in exchange for Roger Craig, who had the dubious honor of being the losingest pitcher in the National League for two years running. As a 23-year-old, Wakefield made the Mets roster. Though he claims that his promotion was happenstance (apparently Casey Stengel chose him because he was a fellow Kansas City native and because his father was a doctor!), the rookie had a pretty good 1964. He set a Mets record with 62 appearances (broken in 1977 by Skip Lockwood), all but four in relief. He won three, lost five, and saved two. His 3.61 ERA was near league average, and among the best on the club. He could have had better control, though - he walked as many batters as he struck out.

The mystery is that Wakefield never pitched again in the majors. By his own account, he was sent to AAA Buffalo in 1965 partially to make room for another bonus baby, future closer Tug McGraw. Even after a trade to the Cubs, Bill couldn't crack the big leagues. So he hung up his spikes in 1967, but claims to harbor no ill will. His bonus money enabled him to finish his education at Stanford, and he has great memories of pitching for the famed Stengel in New York at brand new Shea Stadium. He became a successful businessman, selling things ranging from sporting goods to the Hacky Sack. Bill's son Eddie is an aspiring baseball player, according to this 2006 article. Indeed, further research shows the younger Wakefield to be a pitcher for the University of Portland.

Fun fact: Bill's first career win came on June 2, 1964 against the Houston Colt .45s. Mets starter Tracy Stallard was terrible, allowing five straight hits after retiring the leadoff batter. Wakefield entered with runners on the corners and one out in the first, already down 3-0. He walked Rusty Staub and gave up a sacrifice fly to Jerry Grote, but proceeded to blank Houston through the seventh inning. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh, as New York took advantage of two Colt errors and two bases-loaded hit-by-pitches to score five runs and take a 7-4 lead.
Bill Wakefield (back) by you.


  1. This is GREAT stuff! I often wondered why Wakefield never pitched again after that season. It seemed, from the stats, that he was one of the better hurlers on that staff. Thank you!

  2. This is great stuff!!!!I love collecting cards of one year wonders