Jason Varitek cried remembering Tim Wakefield.

The stoic, intense Varitek was the backbone of the greatest Red Sox teams in the franchise’s golden era. He carried himself in a no-nonsense way that demanded respect. He was Paul Bunyan in catcher’s gear.

The longtime catcher wore no mask Sunday, though, as he remembered his teammate and friend with tear-filled eyes just a few hours after the heartbreaking announcement of Wakefield’s death at age 57.

There are so many ways that so many people will remember Wakefield. The tributes and memorials are flooding in and show no signs of stopping. For Wakefield, the athlete and competitor, he would certainly be honored and humbled to see and hear what all his former teammates have had to say already. The greatest accomplishment you could have as an athlete isn’t a championship or a Hall of Fame nod, although Wakefield did have those on his resume. It’s being universally respected and admired by your teammates, and Wakefield had that in spades.

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He earned it, too, and two examples of Wakefield’s selflessness stand out above the rest.

The first came in 2004. That season obviously ended in glory for Wakefield and the Red Sox, but it wasn’t without its speedbumps. None was more bleak than Game 3 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Yankees pasted their rivals 19-8 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

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Wakefield was scheduled to pitch Game 4. He gave up that duty, though, volunteering to take it on the chin for the pitching-starved Sox. The Red Sox needed to keep Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke fresh if they wanted any chance of extending the series in Game 4, so Wakefield did what was needed.

“Halfway through Game 3, we were already thinking about Game 4,” Terry Francona recalled in his 2013 book. “When Wake came up the steps with his glove and volunteered to pitch, I was like, ‘Here we go. He’s going to eat up some innings, and we’re going to save our guys and be ready for Game 4.’ It kept me going. At that point, it was all about how we were going to move forward.”

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One night later, Foulke pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings, while Timlin kept the heart of the Yankees order at bay in Game 5, setting the stage for Boston’s eighth-inning comeback in an eventual 14-inning win.

“It was just one of those situations as a reliever, and I was taught by (knuckleballers) Phil (Niekro) and Charlie (Hough), to always have your spikes on,” Wakefield recalled, per a 10-year retrospective from Boston.com. “Because as a knuckleball pitcher, you’re so versatile that you can start one day and then two days later you can come in in relief, that was the nature of how we threw the ball, it didn’t tax our arms or anything.”

The second instance of selflessness came three years later ahead of another World Series championship, this one in 2007. Wakefield, who won 17 games that season, was banged up going into the Fall Classic. Tough decisions had to be made, and the club huddled with Wakefield and ultimately decided to leave him off the roster for the games that mattered most.

Francona and Wakefield even met with the media together ahead of the series to discuss the decision.

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“Dealing with this problem that I’ve had for the past two months, it seems like my recovery time is getting longer and longer and longer,” Wakefield said in the press conference, “and I just don’t think it’s fair to the other 24 guys on this team that I go out there and maybe I pitch well and maybe I don’t, and then I’m not available for the rest of the series. It’s not fair for the rest of the 24 guys in that clubhouse for me to put them through that.”

“The emotion, it wasn’t a lot of fun. That’s part of the reason Wake is sitting here now, because of our respect and regard for him, that it wasn’t just a move made on paper and we’ll go on,” Francona said that day. “Sometimes doing the right thing is certainly not the fun thing, but it comes back to having respect for the organization, for the team, and for the players, and that will never change.”

The Red Sox trampled the Colorado Rockies in four games. With the roster shuffle, youngster Jon Lester got the start in the clincher. He was sensational, and the Sox rolled.

After the clincher in Denver, Wakefield was talking with NESN on the field when Timlin came up behind him. Timlin was there in 2004 when Wakefield selflessly ate those innings and was by his side in ’07, the penultimate campaign of his own career. Timlin put his arm around Wakefield’s shoulder and delivered a message that resonates just as much today as it did that night.

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“I’m proud of this guy,” Timlin said, staring into the camera. “It’s the hardest thing to do, to take yourself out of the game for someone else. But he did it, and I’m proud of him.”

Then, with Wakefield on the verge of tears, Timlin wrapped him in a bear hug.

And these are just the high-profile instances that we were fortunate enough to see as fans. There undoubtedly were countless other examples of Wakefield doing the same sort of things albeit on a much smaller scale.

It’s pretty clear by how his teammates have already reacted to this sad news that those gestures — big or small — didn’t go unappreciated.

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Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images