Aaron Boone and Tim Wakefield chat before a spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida in March 2018.

Sweeny Murti/WFAN

Murti: 15 Years After The Homer, Respect Runs High Between Aaron Boone, Tim Wakefield

Both Ex-Players Back Working For Their Old Teams

Sweeny Murti
April 09, 2018 - 2:23 pm
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Mention Aaron Boone to a Red Sox fan or Tim Wakefield to a Yankees fan and the conversation ends up in the same place -- Oct. 16, 2003, Game 7 of the ALCS and Boone's pennant-winning home run off Wakefield.  

They've crossed paths over the years at the ballpark. Most recently it happened last month in Fort Myers, Florida, when the Yankees played the Red Sox in an exhibition game.  Boone, of course the manager of the Yankees now, walked by the dugout where Wakefield, now a Red Sox TV analyst, was taping a pregame segment.  They shared a handshake and a quick word -- even a photograph -- and then went about their business.  

"Everybody thinks we hate each other, but it's not the case," Wakefield told me earlier that morning. "People are like 'How can you talk to him? He hit that homer!' He's just doing his job, and I'm doing mine.  It's one of those things where we're respectful of each other, and I love talking to him. He's a very knowledgeable guy."

"We never talk about that!" Boone told me during a 2016 conversation about the home run that came at the height of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. "I've had a lot of great conversations with Tim actually over the years. It's as simple as two ex-players that have a respect for each other, that kind of lived the same life, that have some stuff in common."

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As Boone gets set to manage his first game at Fenway Park on Tuesday -- the first of 19 meetings against Boston this year -- there's a chance they will run into each other a little more often.  And the fan reaction when Boone's name is introduced will surely let you know that everyone there still remembers what happened 15 years ago.

Boone has actually lived the good life reliving his 11th-inning home run that came on the first pitch he saw from Wakefield and turned old Yankee Stadium into a madhouse. There is never a shortage of people wanting to talk to him about their memories of it.

"I'm always amazed at the stories that people will have tied to the moment -- intimate stories, personal stories on both sides of the aisle," Boone said. "That always blows me away.

"I don't have vivid memories at all of it," Boone continued. "It's very blurry to me. Most of the things I draw upon are stories people tell me. Or if I see it on video I'll watch and maybe pick out somebody in the crowd or pick out somebody on my team or a Red Sox player to try and watch a different reaction each time. The moment itself is not one of those photographic, clear pictures in my head. It's very fuzzy."

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"It's a blur to me, too," Wakefield told me.  

Wakefield isn't haunted by that one pitch because of what happened the next year, when at the end of another seven-game series, the Red Sox came out victorious with a history-making effort of their own, wiping out a 3-0 series deficit and winning the last two games in New York. A week later, they officially ended The Curse by sweeping St. Louis to win their first World Series in 86 years. 

"I think being able to celebrate us winning the ALCS in the same stadium that I had to walk off the field the previous year was a huge boost for me personally," Wakefield said of a healing process that actually began at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner in January of 2004.

"I got a standing ovation when they called my name," he said. "It was very emotional for me because I didn't know where I stood (with the fans). When the season was over, I went home to Florida in the offseason, and I don't know what's going on, whether it's talk radio or in the media and stuff.  But when I got back (to Boston) in January and felt the warmth from the fans, I knew I had been forgiven and I could move on. And then after we win, it's just a euphoric moment for me."

It was about that same time -- in January 2004 -- that Boone's Yankees playing career ended with the infamous knee injury he suffered in a pickup basketball game. That is a memory that is not fuzzy at all for Boone. In fact, there are times it is frighteningly vivid.

"It was painful. It was violent," Boone told me.  "Every now and then, I'll sit there, and my mind will wander, and I remember that feeling -- and it makes my skin crawl a little bit."

And the irony is Red Sox fans probably feel the same way when they think of Boone.

Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN