Former Boston pitcher Tim Wakefield, a two-time World Series champion whose unique knuckleball style baffled Major League Baseball batters for 19 seasons, died from brain cancer on Sunday. He was 57.
The Red Sox announced Wakefield’s passing before their final game of the 2023 season, the American right-hander having retired in 2012 with 200 career wins. He ranked third on Boston’s all-time win list.
“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, who also served as a broadcaster for Red Sox games, began his MLB career with Pittsburgh in 1992 and was signed by Boston six days after being dropped by the Pirates in April 1995.
After struggling as a first baseman in the minor leagues, Wakefield learned how to throw a knuckleball from some of the best to ever hurl the pitch, thrown to minimize the spin in flight and make the ball unpredictable for batters but much trickier for pitchers to control.
Wakefield’s 186 wins for the Red Sox trail only the club record 192 wins set by Cy Young and matched by Roger Clemens.
In his first 17 Red Sox starts, Wakefield went 14-1 with a 1.65 earned-run average.
Wakefield was part of Boston’s 2004 World Series sweep of St. Louis, giving the Red Sox their first MLB crown since 1918, and the club that won the 2007 World Series title over Colorado.