BALTIMORE — Tim Wakefield, who used his knuckleball to become the third-best pitcher in Red Sox history, died of brain cancer at age 57 on Sunday, the Red Sox announced.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Wakefield, one of the most outstanding pitchers of his generation and a key part of the most successful era in Boston Red Sox history,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. Tim’s football allowed him to excel as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. In 1995, he began a 17-year tenure in Boston, where he left a mark that will forever be remembered. Tim was more than just a versatile and reliable All-Star, a highly respected teammate, and a two-time World Series champion. In 2010, Tim was selected to win the Roberto Clemente Award for the dedicated work he and his family have done serving New England communities.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Tim’s family, friends, teammates, and Red Sox fans everywhere. We will continue to support our partners in the Stand Up to Cancer campaign in memory of Tim and all those fighting this disease.”
“Tim’s kindness and indomitable spirit were as legendary as his football,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said. “Not only did he captivate us on the field, he was the rare athlete whose legacy extended far beyond the record books to countless lives he touched with his warmth and genuine spirit. He had an incredible ability to uplift, inspire and connect with others in a way that showed us the true definition of greatness. He embodied the best of what it means to be a member of the Boston Red Sox, and his loss is deeply felt by all of us.”
News emerged that Wakefield was suffering from brain cancer just three days before his death.
A few weeks ago, Wakefield underwent surgery to fight the aggressive form of cancer he was dealing with.
“It’s one thing to be an outstanding athlete; it’s another thing to be an extraordinary human being. Tim was both,” Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner said. “He was a role model on and off the field, giving endlessly to the Red Sox organization.” He was a force for good to everyone he met. I felt fortunate to consider him a close friend, and along with all of us at Red Sox Nation, I know the world is a better place because he was in it.
Wakefield, a key member of Boston’s two World Series teams, is survived by his wife Stacy, son Trevor and daughter Brianna.
A winner of 200 games in the major leagues, Wakefield earned 186 of those victories for Boston, putting him behind only Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who had 192 for the Red Sox.
Wakefield was known as a selfless teammate and consummate professional and was an active member of the community in his playing days as well as after his retirement from baseball in the spring of 2012.
“It is a rare thing that the extraordinary character of a two-time World Series champion shines brighter than his illustrious career,” said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox president and CEO. “Tim was without a doubt an exceptional pitcher, but what really set him apart was the ease with which he connected with people. He was an exceptional pitcher, a great broadcaster, and someone who embodied every human quality in the dictionary. I will miss my friend more than anything, and I can only aspire to live authentically.” And such an honor.
He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2016, and it was amazing to see all of Wakefield’s accomplishments considering where he was in his career when he signed with the team.
The righty, who starred for the Pirates in the 1992 National League Championship Series against the Braves, was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 20, 1995. He could have been picked up by any team.
The Red Sox, led by general manager Dan Duquette, signed him six days later. After getting his groove back in the minor leagues for a few months, Wakefield began his tenure with the Red Sox with one of the most impressive innings in team history.
In his first 17 games with Boston, Wakefield went 14-1 with a 1.65 ERA for a team that won the American League East. He showed he was a different breed right out of the gate, pitching seven impressive innings in his first appearance with the team in Anaheim, then coming back for 7 1/3 in Oakland just three days later.
Wakefield pitched 19 major league seasons, 17 of them for the Red Sox.
In 2009, Wakefield became an All-Star for the first time when he was selected to the team by then-Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Wakefield was a member of nine postseason teams during his time with the Red Sox, most notably with the 2004 and 2007 World Series champions.
While the historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 AL Championship Series against the Yankees will always be remembered for Dave Roberts’ Game 4 steal and sustained heroics from David Ortiz, manager Terry Francona has always said the comeback began with a selfless act by Wakefield.
As the Red Sox were in the midst of a 19-8 defeat in Game 3, Wakefield dutifully put his studs in and gave up his scheduled start in Game 4 to preserve the rest of the bullpen.
Two days later, Wakefield came out of the bullpen in a high-leverage position and pitched the Yankees in the final three innings of a 14-inning classic to earn the victory as Boston took the series back to New York by a score of 5-4. Wins.
While celebrating Boston’s upset victory in Game 7, Wakefield was instructed by some teammates to return to the Yankee Stadium mound and take over. One year earlier, Wakefield had given up Aaron Boone’s homer in Game 7 of the ALCS that sent the Yankees to the World Series.
“Tim was a great player of his time and a man who was greatly respected, loved and admired throughout the baseball world and our baseball fraternity,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said two days ago when Wakefield’s diagnosis came to light.
When Wakefield made his first public appearance following a Bone homer at the annual Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in Boston in January, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Upon his election to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2016, Wakefield said, “It’s a huge honor. I’m very excited about it.”
After starting his professional career as a light-hitting starter in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system, Wakefield developed the knuckleball.
The pitch saved Wakefield’s career.
Thanks to the sponsorship of some of the best footballers in history, including Charlie Hough and the Necro Brothers (Phil and Joe), Wakefield benefited from the unique stadium to a memorable career.
Aside from his heroics on the field, Wakefield was also a pillar of strength in the community, both during his playing career and in retirement.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Red Sox player who has dipped into Jimmy’s Cancer Fund more than Wakefield. Upon retirement, he was Chairman Emeritus of the Red Sox Foundation.
Wakefield has been nominated by the Red Sox eight times for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award and won in 2010. This award is given annually to the MLB player who best represents baseball through exceptional character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both at the state and local levels. Out of the field.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”