Longtime Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield died Sunday morning at age 57, the team announced in a news release.
No cause of death was provided, though the team issued a statement earlier this week acknowledging that the former pitcher was battling a “disease,” and requesting privacy for the Wakefield family.
“Our hearts are broken with the loss of Tim Wakefield,” the Red Sox posted on X on Sunday. “Wake embodied true goodness; a devoted husband, father, and teammate, beloved broadcaster, and the ultimate community leader. He gave so much to the game and all of Red Sox Nation.”
Red Sox legend and baseball Hall of Famer David Ortiz posted a photo on Instagram of him hugging Wakefield, writing, “I can’t describe what you mean to me and my family, my heart is broken right now because l will never be able to replace a brother and a friend like you.”
“He was real. He was CLASS. This is truly horrible news,” longtime Boston sportswriter Bob Ryan wrote on X.
Wakefield was drafted out of college as a first baseman but when his career stalled he turned to a rarely thrown pitch to make the majors. He became a right-handed starting pitcher famous for being one of the few big leaguers to feature a knuckleball and in his career he won 200 games,
Wakefield played two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before beginning a 17-year stint with the Red Sox. He won a pair of World Series championships with the Red Sox, including their win in 2004 after a historic rally in the American League Championship Series and their subsequent MLB title in 2007.
He was the recipient of the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award recognizing “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”
In 1995, Wakefield finished third in voting for the Cy Young Award and was selected as American League Comeback Player of the Year by the Sporting News.
His 186 victories in his Red Sox career are just six behind team record-setters Young and Roger Clemens. Wakefield’s 3,006 innings and 430 starts are club records.
At his retirement announcement in February 2012, Wakefield said all he ever wanted to do was to help the Red Sox be champions.
“There have been many ups and downs along the way, but one thing is for sure, every time I stepped on that field I gave everything I had. All I ever wanted to do was win. And the bigger goal was to win a World Series for this great city,” he said. “So, finally, after 86 years we were able to do that (in 2004) and the greatest thrill for me was to share it with all the players before us, but more importantly was sharing it with generations and generations of Red Sox fans.”
Following his 19-year career, Wakefield remained involved with the Red Sox organization, spending a total of 29 years with the club as a player, special assistant and broadcaster. Wakefield also served as the honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.
“Tim’s kindness and indomitable spirit were as legendary as his knuckleball,” said Red Sox owner John Henry. “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.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred called Wakefield a “respected teammate” and “one of the most unique pitchers of his generation.” His knuckleball was thrown with the tips of his index and middle fingers firmly planted on the leather cover and pushing the ball from his hands with the thumb and ring finger. That prevented the ball from spinning and made its path to the batter unpredictable and often bewildering.
Manfred sent condolences of behalf of major league officials to his family, former teammates and friends.
“We will continue to support our partners at Stand Up To Cancer in the memory of Tim and all those who are in the fight against this disease,” Manfred said in a statement.
The Pirates said of Wakefield, “He was a great man who will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”
Wakefield’s medical condition was not publicly known until Curt Schilling, a former teammate on the Red Sox, shared it on his podcast. Schilling was immediately and widely criticized for doing so, and the Red Sox released a statement clarifying that the information was “shared… without [the Wakefield family’s] permission.”
Wakefield is survived by his wife, Stacy, and their children, Trevor and Brianna.