Tim Wakefield, a pitcher known for delivering masterfully placed knuckleballs and using that skill to help the Red Sox break their 86-year World Series drought, has died.
He was 57 years old.
It was learned last week that Wakefield had been suffering from brain cancer after former teammate Curt Schilling revealed the news in a podcast.
According to friends, Wakefield succumbed to a seizure brought on by the brain cancer.
The Red Sox issued a statement lamenting the passing of their longtime franchise player and friend.
“Tim’s kindness and indomitable spirit were as legendary as his knuckleball,” Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry said. “He not only captivated us on the field but was the rare athlete whose legacy extended beyond the record books to the countless lives he touched with his warmth and genuine spirit.
“He had a remarkable ability to uplift, inspire, and connect with others in a way that showed us the true definition of greatness. He embodied the very best of what it means to be a member of the Boston Red Sox, and his loss is felt deeply by all of us.”
Wakefield spent 17 of his 19 MLB seasons in Boston, a record number of years for a Red Sox pitcher. Initially, the Pirates drafted him into the majors with the idea that he would be an infielder. However, Wakefield used a sting in the minor leagues to focus on developing the signature knuckleball that would propel him to MLB stardom and 186 career victories.
The knuckleballer also set records for starts (430) and strikeouts (3,006).
Among his many accomplishments, he is noted for bouncing back after giving up the game-winning home run to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS and delivering three scoreless extra innings in a pivotal Game 5 before David Ortiz came on and won it for Boston in the 14th inning.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Wakefield, one of the most unique pitchers of his generation and a key part of the most successful era in the history of the Boston Red Sox,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said.
“I extend my deepest condolences to Tim’s family, his friends and teammates across the game, and Red Sox fans everywhere.”
Ultimately, Wakefield would win two World Series titles with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.
But, Wakefield’s time with the Red Sox would not end when his playing career did, at the end of the 2011 season. Instead, the veteran remained with the franchise as honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.
Tim Wakefield is survived by his wife and their two children.