There’s nothing that’s particularly Jewish about Tim Wakefield.
In fact, I can’t even come up with a tenuous connection except that I know a nice Jewish family that lived in Wakefield until they moved to Lexington.
But there is a lot that Red Sox fans and the Jewish people have in common, including something about suffering and being a little defensive about ourselves.
Having just watched Tim Wakefield come painfully close to his 200th career win tonight in Minnesota (curse you, Alfredo Aceves, for blowing the lead in the 8th inning ), though, it’s worth noting that I will always associate Tim Wakefield with my first trip to Israel in 1995.
Sixteen years ago this summer I went to Israel for the first time with Camp Ramah. It was, for me, a transformative experience. As a kid I had bought the Zionist narrative hook, line, and sinker, and every square inch of desert and Jerusalem stone that I saw was miraculous.
In these days of old, before WiFi, iPod touches, Skype, FaceTime, Gmail Chat, or even reading newspapers online, the only link for us New Englanders to the Olde Towne Team was the sports page of the English-language Jerusalem Post, which featured two-day old baseball scores from the States.
In 1995, together with my old friend Zev Young, we would scrounge around for the Post each day to check the Red Sox score, and even from 3500 miles away, we followed the remarkable season than Tim Wakefield was having. It was an absurdly magical run- Wakefield went 14-1 in his first 17 games with an era of 1.65, pitching six complete games in that span. Those numbers are, in a word, historic, and reading the blurbs every five days about Wakefield’s brilliance was a part of our daily ritual.
That trip gets farther and farther away every year, but my memories of orange Kinley soda, the Goldstein Youth Village, the thrill of cab rides through Jerusalem, and the newness of each place and each experience are burned into my memory. And, curiously, right alongside those images will always be one of Tim Wakefield, mowing down American League batters all through July and August.