The last time Bard had faced such scrutiny was back during his brief Red Sox career.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time on the field where I feel as embarrassed as I felt there,” Bard said. “It’s not because of myself, but because of all the prep that had gone into it with my teammates and Wake and all the group. When you feel like you’re letting your teammates down, that’s a hard deal.”
Said Wakefield: “The work ethic was definitely there. We played catch every single day. I felt bad for him because I knew he put the work in.”
As stunning as the trade was – Bard’s wife was eight months pregnant – it did Bard some good. He had the best year of his 10-year career, batting .338 with the Padres and helping them to the National League West title, the only time Bard reached the playoffs as a player. And the next season, when the Red Sox visited San Diego, he hit a home run and a double off Wakefield, driving in three runs in the Padres victory.
When David Ortiz came to the plate late in the game, he looked down at Bard behind the plate and smiled. “Can’t catch him,” Ortiz told him. “But you sure can hit him.”
If it was a redemptive moment for Bard, it carried nowhere near the weight of Boone’s home run, which left much of New England crushed, rendered moot how well Wakefield had pitched in that series (he beat the Yankees in Games 1 and 4), and left the two players as inextricably linked as Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca.
If Boone has come to embrace his part, so too has Wakefield.
He and Boone hugged and chatted during spring training when Wakefield was broadcasting one of their games. Wakefield wished him good luck.
“We haven’t exchanged numbers, but when I see him it’s very cordial,” said Wakefield, who won two World Series rings – something Boone did not. “I have no hard feelings at all. This is the greatest rivalry in sports and it was an honor to be playing in it when it was at its peak in my generation.”
It is, though, beginning to warm up again. A new generation of talent has reinvigorated both franchises and a long-awaited playoff series has offered a tableau, with Boone, Bard and Wakefield in new stations, ready to either witness a new chapter or possibly write it.