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Tim Wakefield, Pitcher Who Helped Boston Break the Curse, Dies at 57

Tim Wakefield, a right-handed knuckleball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who in 2004 played a critical late-innings relief role in the team’s winning its first World Series championship in 86 years, died on Sunday. He was 57.

The Red Sox announced his death and said the cause was brain cancer.

“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,” John W. Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox, said in a statement.

In 2010, near the end of his career, Wakefield won Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes a player’s community and charitable work.

Wakefield was part of a small tribe of pitchers — Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and R.A. Dickey, among them — who had long careers throwing the knuckleball, which, when thrown properly, takes a slow, darting, fluttery path to home plate.

The Red Sox went on to win the series (peeling off four in a row), then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, the team’s first since 1918.

“They may sign him as a free agent,” he said. “There’s always that doubt, because of the nature of the pitch, and I felt like I had to prove myself year after year.”

He joined NESN as an analyst for Red Sox games in 2012 and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame four years later.

Last week, the former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling revealed on his podcast that Wakefield and his wife, Stacy, had cancer. The Red Sox issued a statement saying, “Unfortunately, this information has been shared publicly, without their permission.

“Their health is a deeply personal matter they needed to keep private as they navigate treatment and work to tackle this disease.”

In addition to his wife, Wakefield’s survivors include his children, Trevor and Brianna.

Wakefield said he learned to throw the knuckleball from his father.

“Dad comes home from work, and I’m, you know, ‘Lets go play catch,’” he told The New Yorker. “He was tired, and he wanted to go inside. So the knuckleball was his way of trying to tire me out, ’cause I didn’t want to have to catch it — it’d go by me and I’d have to go pick it up. It was kind of a subtle way of Dad saying, ‘Time to go, let’s quit.’”

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