Red Sox Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield Dead at 57

News the former pitcher had brain cancer broke last week
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
Red Sox Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield Has Died
Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield works in the second inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, June 27, 2009.   (AP Photo/John Bazemore file)

The knuckleballing workhorse of the Red Sox pitching staff who bounced back after giving up a season-ending home run to the Yankees in the 2003 playoffs to help Boston win its curse-busting World Series title the following year has died. Tim Wakefield was 57, reports the AP. The Red Sox announced his death in a statement Sunday. Wakefield had brain cancer, according to ex-teammate Curt Schilling, who outed the illness on a podcast last week—drawing an outpouring of support for Wakefield. The Red Sox confirmed an illness at the time but did not elaborate, saying Wakefield had requested privacy.

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

After New York rallied to tie Game 7 of the '03 AL Championship Series, Wakefield came on in relief in the 11th inning and Aaron Boone hit his first pitch for a walkoff home run to end Boston's season and extend a World Series drought that stretched back to 1918. The following October, with the Red Sox 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 three-games-to-none deficit and then sweep St. Louis in the World Series to claim their first championship in 86 years. The Red Sox, and Wakefield, won it all again in 2007.

story continues below

Wakefield was 11-3 when he made his only All-Star Game in 2009, becoming the second-oldest player—to Satchel Paige—ever selected to his first All-Star Game. Wakefield was the oldest player in baseball at 45 when he earned his 200th win in September, 2011, retiring his final six batters. He announced his retirement the following spring training, seven wins short of breaking the franchise record for wins held by Clemens and Young. "I'm still a competitor, but ultimately I think this is what's best for the Red Sox," he said at the time. "I think this is what's best for my family. And to be honest with you, seven wins isn't going to make me a different person or a better man. So, my family really needs me at home."

(More obituary stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.