Tim Wakefield, an iconic member of the Boston Red Sox who became one of baseball’s premier knuckleballers during his legendary tenure on the mound and his tireless humanitarian efforts, passed away after an extended battle against brain cancer at 57. His enduring impact will forever remain imprinted in baseball and beyond.
The Red Sox announced Wakefield’s death officially through a statement, paying tribute not only to his impressive baseball statistics but also his generous charitable efforts. Prior to that announcement by Curt Schilling on a podcast earlier in the week, his illness had caused an outpouring of support from both fans and fellow players; when confirmed by Red Sox staff they granted Wakefield his request for privacy while respecting Wakefield’s illness status.
Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner extended his condolences, noting, “Tim was both outstanding athlete and extraordinary human being; his presence made this world better.”
Wakefield’s passing has drawn deep condolences from across the baseball community, including baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, Players Association President Tony Clark, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, NCAA President Charlie Baker and numerous teams and players around the league. Seattle Mariners pitcher George Kirby even paid his respects by including Wakefield’s trademark knuckleball into his performance during a game against Texas Rangers – paying their due respects in this way.
Red Sox fans across social media expressed their appreciation for Wakefield with an emotional video tribute shared on social media by Boston manager Alex Cora, which saw former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek struggle to contain his tears while speaking to reporters. To show their respect and pride for Wakefield’s fallen teammate, all players wore jerseys without jackets or overshirts during Boston’s season finale against Baltimore Orioles as a show of respect.
Cora lamented Wakefield’s passing, noting his loss as one that devastated both family and teammates alike. Of all those I played with, no one wore their jersey with more pride than Tim Wakefield.
Wakefield’s baseball journey was just as remarkable as his trademark knuckleball pitch. Drafted as a first baseman by Pittsburgh Pirates, Wakefield transitioned into pitching once he learned how to master this obscure pitch in the minor leagues. Thanks to this unconventional pitch – with which he eventually won 200 Major League games (of which 186 in Boston Red Sox uniform alone!), an accomplishment which only has been equalled by Cy Young and Roger Clemens before in Red Sox history.
Wakefield was celebrated for his on-field achievements as well as his exceptional sportsmanship and community involvement. In 2010, he received the Roberto Clemente Award as well as being nominated seven times to represent the Red Sox at this award event. Additionally, Wakefield served as Jimmy Fund captain – raising funds and helping children battling cancer – and held honorary chairman status of Red Sox Foundation.
Wakefield cemented his place in baseball history through his exceptional contributions during the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry of the early 2000s. Wakefield made headlines after entering in Game 7 of the ALCS to allow New York Yankees’ dramatic comeback; upon entering, Wakefield famously allowed Aaron Boone’s walk-off homer, ending Boston’s season and lengthening their championship drought further.
Wakefield displayed his selflessness once more when, during Game 3 of the ALCS, he sacrificed his starting role to pitch relief instead and preserve their bullpen for future games in the series. This move proved essential as Red Sox rallied from an initial three game deficit to win four consecutive contests and claim their first World Series Championship since 86 years.
Tim Wakefield will long be remembered as an impactful presence both within the game, his community, and with teammates such as David Ortiz on social media: I cannot describe what you meant to me and my family… Rest in Peace my Brother.”
Terry Francona, manager of the Red Sox during their championship wins, expressed how many feel about Wakefield’s death: he stated “it feels like someone kicked me in the stomach”. Aaron Boone of the Yankees shared his condolences as well and expressed how influential Wakefield had been throughout baseball.
Wakefield earned his only All-Star selection in 2009 at age 45 – becoming only second oldest to ever do so, behind Satchel Paige. Additionally, he became baseball’s oldest player to achieve 200 career wins before his retirement later that month.
Tim Wakefield left behind an unforgettable legacy of sportsmanship, selflessness, and the knuckleball’s undying strength. His memory will live on in the hearts of baseball fans, his former teammates, and those touched by his charitable works.