Major League Baseball has lost a respected veteran of the sport.
Tim Wakefield, a retired knuckleballing pitcher who in 2004 helped the Boston Red Sox make it to the World Series and cinch their first title in 86 years, died Oct. 1 of brain cancer, the MLB reported.
"The Boston Red Sox mourn the loss of Red Sox Hall of Famer Tim Wakefield, who passed away this morning at the age of 57," the team said in a statement posted on their website. "The honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation, Wakefield spent 29 years in the organization as a player, special assistant, and broadcaster."
Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry added, "Tim's kindness and indomitable spirit were as legendary as his knuckleball. 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."
Wakefield is survived by his wife Stacy, son Trevor and daughter Brianna.
Boston-based ABC TV affiliate WCVB reported that Wakefield was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this month and underwent surgery for it days later.
His former Red Sox teammate Curt Schilling was the first to publicly disclosed the late player's illness. On the Sept. 26 episode of his podcast, The Curt Schilling Baseball Show, the former pitcher said, "This is not a message that Tim has asked anyone to share, and I don't even know if he wants it shared, but as a Christian, and as a man of faith, I have seen prayer work, so I am going to talk about it."
Schilling also alleged that Wakefield's wife was battling pancreatic cancer," adding, "and my wife has talked with her and they're communicating and they're going through an incredibly difficult time with Stacy, and I wanted them to know that we're obviously all thinking about them and praying for her."
Two days later, the Red Sox said in a statement, "We are aware of the statements and inquiries about the health of Tim and Stacy Wakefield. Unfortunately, this information has been shared publicly without their permission. Their health is a deeply personal matter they intended to keep private as they navigate treatment and work to tackle this disease. Tim and Stacy are appreciative of the support and love that has always been extended to them and respectfully ask for privacy at this time."
Wakefield, a native of Melbourne, Fla., began his professional baseball career in the '80s. The Pittsburgh Pirates originally selected him as a first baseman in the 1998 draft. He later became a pitcher, developing and perfecting the rarely thrown knuckleball, and played for two minor league teams until he was called up to the majors as a pitcher for the Pirates in 1992.
Three years later, he was released and signed as a free agent with the Red Sox, for whom he pitched for 17 seasons until he retired at age 45 as the oldest active player in the MLB at the time.
During his time with the Red Sox, the team won two World Series, most recently in 2007. In 2004, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the championship, marking their first World Series victory since 1918 and breaking what fans called the "Curse of the Bambino," named after MLB legend Babe Ruth, who was traded from Boston to the team's arch rival, New York Yankees.
Wakefield, a 2009 All-Star with the Red Sox, was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2016.
In addition to his athletic achievements, Wakefield was also known for his philanthropy. He was involved in the annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, which has raised more than $60 million for cancer research, as well as with the New England non-profit organization Pitching in for Kids, the Red Sox said. In addition, his "Wakefield Warriors" program allowed patients from the Franciscan Hospital for Children and the Jimmy Fund in Boston to meet him and watch him at batting practice at Fenway Park.
In 2010, the MLB honored Wakefield with the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable contributions.
""On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Tim's family, his friends and teammates across the game, and Red Sox fans everywhere," Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said in a statement shared by the MLB. 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."
"Tim embodied the finest qualities as a teammate, a competitor, and a caring man," the MLB tweeted. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wakefield family and all who knew and loved Tim."