Former Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield died of brain cancer at the age of 57.

“Our hearts are broken with the loss of Tim Wakefield. 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. Our deepest love and thoughts are with Stacy, Trevor, Brianna, and the Wakefield family,” the Red Sox said in a statement Sunday.

The former All-Star won two World Series with the Red Sox, including its curse-busting 2004 World Series title against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Wakefield won his 200th career game on September 13, 2011, and he ranks third in career wins in Red Sox franchise history (186), behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens. He is second in all-time wins at Fenway Park with 97, behind Clemens’s 100, and is the all-time leader in innings pitched by a Red Sox pitcher, with 3,006, having surpassed Clemens’s total of 2,777 on June 8, 2010,” Wikipedia writes.

In addition to earning an All-Star selection in 2009, Wakefield won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010.

According to ESPN, Wakefield’s former teammate Curt Schilling publicly disclosed his illness on a podcast last month without permission.

“The Red Sox confirmed an illness at the time but did not elaborate, saying Wakefield had requested privacy,” ESPN wrote.

From ESPN:

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first baseman who set home run records in college, Wakefield converted to a pitcher after mastering the knuckleball in the minor leagues after learning the pitch from his father as a kid.

Wakefield told ESPN in 2011 that he learned the pitch as a boy from his father, Steve, when the two of them would play catch in the backyard at home in Melbourne, Florida.

“It was something to basically tire me out,” Wakefield said then.

Relying on the old-timey pitch that had largely fallen into disuse, he went on to win 200 major league games, including 186 with the Red Sox — behind only Cy Young and Roger Clemens in franchise history.

Wakefield won the Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship and community involvement in 2010 and was the Red Sox nominee seven other times. He was the team’s first Jimmy Fund captain, visiting with patients and raising funds for the childhood cancer charity, and the honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.

“He was a great man who will be dearly missed,” the Pirates said.

But it was Wakefield’s role in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry of the early 2000s that turned him into a fan favorite whose impact went far beyond his numbers.


After New York rallied to tie Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, Wakefield came on in relief in the 11th inning and Aaron Boone hit his first pitch for a walk-off home run to end Boston’s season and extend a World Series drought that stretched back to 1918.

Said Wakefield at the time: “I just became Bill Buckner.”

The following October, with Boston’s season again at risk against the Yankees in the ALCS, Wakefield got nine outs in extra innings of Game 5, setting up David Ortiz to win it in the 14th. The Red Sox went on to complete their comeback from a 3-0 series deficit and then sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series to claim their first championship in 86 years.

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