BOSTON (WPRI) — Red Sox fans and former teammates are mourning the loss of beloved former pitcher Tim Wakefield, who died on Sunday.
The 57-year-old, known for his knuckleball that helped Boston win its curse-breaking World Series title in 2004, retired just 11 years ago and had been battling an illness, according to the Red Sox.
Wakefield is not only being remembered as a legendary pitcher, but also as a husband, father, beloved Boston sportscaster and philanthropist.
“Our hearts are broken with the loss of Tim Wakefield,” the Red Sox wrote in a social media post. “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 President Sam Kennedy described Sunday as being one of the saddest days in the franchise’s 123-year history.
“It’s a rare occurrence for a two-time World Series Champion’s extraordinary personality to shine even brighter than their illustrious career,” Kennedy said. “Tim was undeniably an exceptional pitcher, but what truly set him apart was the ease with which he connected with people.”
“He was an extraordinary pitcher, an incredible broadcaster, and someone who exemplified every humanitarian quality in the dictionary,” he continued. “I will miss my friend more than anything and can only aspire to live as genuinely and honorably as he did.”
Former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek fought back tears when asked about Wakefield’s legacy.
“I don’t know if I have to tell you anything,” he said. “I think I’m showing it.”
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Wakefield’s time with the Red Sox began when he was 28 years old, an would span 17 seasons as he went on the lead the franchise in games started and innings pitched. He also ranks third all-time for the Red Sox in wins, and second all-time in strikeouts.
“We lost a brother, a teammate, a family member,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
“Of all the guys I played with, nobody wore his jersey with more pride than Tim Wakefield,” he continued.
The knuckleball, Wakefield’s prolific pitch, remains a rarity on the diamond in today’s game, said to captivate a crowd with its erratic and unpredictable motion.
Despite his impressive stats, it was Wakefield’s impacts beyond baseball that fans will miss the most.
Not only did he serve as the honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation, he also became the team’s inaugural Jimmy Fund captain, alongside then-teammate Clay Buchholz. The Jimmy Fund was created to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Wakefield also left a lasting impact on the children he met through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“When Tim Wakefield first came to the Red Sox one of the first things he did was call our office and offer to help,” Make-A-Wish’s Kara Walker said. “He really wanted to make a difference and he did.”
From giving tours of Fenway Park to visiting children in the hospital, Walker said Wakefield did whatever he could to make a difference in the lives of others.
“To give hope to another person is the greatest gift a person can give,” Walker said. “He did that so many times over.”
“It really gives them a piece of their childhood that’s taken away from them due to their illness,” she added.
Mike Pacheco, a Red Sox fan whose wife died of cancer, tells 12 News he hopes to see Wakefield’s legacy live on through the charities he supported.
“You can’t take that away from him,” Swansea resident Mike Pacheco said. “He did all of that quietly. Most fans, I can guarantee you, didn’t know what he was doing behind the scenes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.