Four Strikeout Inning
It was Monday, August 10, 1999, when legendary Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield accomplished one of the rarest events that occur in baseball. He managed to record four strikeouts in one inning, a feat only a select few have reached. How did this happen? Well, it may have plenty to do with his famous knuckleball.
It was the bottom of the 9th, with the Red Sox up 5-3 against the Royals as Wakefield stepped onto the mound. He went to work right away and struck out the first two batters he faced. As if that wasn’t enough, Wakefield struck out a third in Johnny Damon, then a left fielder for KC. However, as Damon swung and missed for the third strike, catcher Jason Varitek failed to catch the ball, resulting in a ruled passed ball. Damon reached first base before Varitek could locate the ball and throw it down the line. Damon is safe at first, and the inning continues even though Wakefield, officially, recorded three strikeouts.
After allowing a game-tying homerun, Wakefield closes the inning with his fourth strikeout, putting down Carlos Beltran. The Red Sox would eventually win the game after 10 innings, with a final score of 9-6. It was only fitting that Tim Wakefield would come out as the winning pitcher. He also ironically earned a blown-save after having coughed up that homerun in the 9th.
Tim Wakefield continues to play for the Red Sox till this day [September 9, 2011], making him the longest-serving player currently on the team. Now at age 45, he is also the oldest active player in the Majors. His 185 career wins with the Red Sox are the third-most in franchise history, behind Roger Clemens (192) and Cy Young (192). The ageless Tim Wakefield continues to master the knuckleball, the pitch that has kept him in the game for so long.
Tim Wakefield has won two World Series championships, both with the Boston Red Sox. A four strikeout inning has not occurred since Wakefield did it in 1999.
A Boston Globe reporter had amusingly stated about Wakefield's four strikeout inning: "Catcher Jason Varitek whiffed at the same time Johnny Damon of the Royals did."