Tim Wakefield, stalwart knuckleballer for the Boston Red Sox, has passed away at 57. A notable figure in the American Major League Baseball, Wakefield’s career saw a rejuvenation when he added the near-obsolete knuckleball pitch to his arsenal, a move that also brought fresh triumphs to the Red Sox.
Wakefield, an indispensable part of the Red Sox pitching lineup, emerged from the shadow of a disappointing 2003 playoffs game against the Yankees, where he gave up a season-ending home run. With renewed vigor, he helped Boston break its long-standing World Series jinx the subsequent year.
His death was announced by the Red Sox on a somber Sunday, the announcement highlighting not just his outstanding career statistics but the numerous philanthropic activities he was involved in throughout his career. Wakefield was privately battling brain cancer, a fact divulged by his ex-colleague Curt Schilling on a podcast unleashing an influx of support for the late Wakefield.
“Tim Wakefield was both an exceptional athlete and an extraordinary human,” testified Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. “His existence made the world a better place.”
The outpouring of condolence messages upon the news of Wakefield’s death was overwhelming. It garnered responses from personalities as diverse as Rob Manfred, baseball commissioner, Tony Clark, a former teammate, Massachusetts’ current Governor Maura Healey, and her predecessor, Charlie Baker, and teams and players from around the majors.
In tribute to Wakefield, the Red Sox released a heartfelt video on X, while ex-catcher Jason Varitek held back tears as he reminisced his fallen comrade. In honor of the departed soul, Boston manager Alex Cora mandated that all team members appear in the dugout wearing their jerseys with pride, sans any jackets or overshirts.
To Cora, Wakefield was nothing short of family. “He wore his jersey with more pride than anyone else I played with,” he solemnly stated.
Resurrecting his career as a pitcher after being drafted as a first baseman by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wakefield made history by winning 200 major league games. The highlight of his career, apart from his stellar track record as a player, included numerous acts of sportsmanship and community involvement, earning him the Roberto Clemente award in 2010.
Florida-born Wakefield’s role in the intense Boston Red Sox-Yankees rivalry brought him not only critical appreciation but also the love and respect of fans across and beyond America.
Wakefield, who was the oldest player in baseball at 45 to achieve his 200th win, chose to draw curtains on his career the following spring training, only seven wins short of breaking a franchise record, valuing the good of the Red Sox and his family over personal glory.
Despite retiring, he remained an active part of the baseball community, serving as an analyst for Red Sox broadcasts and holding the honorary chairmanship of the Red Sox Foundation.
Reflecting on Wakefield’s contributions, Red Sox owner John Henry praised him fervently. “A rare athlete whose legacy extends beyond mere numbers. He was real, warm, spirited, and an inspiration to all – the true embodiment of greatness,” said Henry.