Update, Oct. 1, 2:41 p.m.: Tim Wakefield, former Red Sox knuckleballer who won two World Series, dies at 57
Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, whose life off the diamond has been marked by controversy, sparked outrage again Thursday after publicizing that former teammate Tim Wakefield and his wife are both battling cancer, a disclosure made without the couple’s permission.
“[Expletive] you Curt Schilling, that wasn’t your place!” wrote Catherine Varitek, wife of former Red Sox catcher and current coach Jason Varitek, in a posting Thursday on X, the social media platform once known as Twitter.
Schilling had earlier this week broken the news of the Wakefields’ health diagnoses during an episode of his podcast. By Friday morning, Catherine Varitek’s post had been viewed 3.4 million times and liked by more than 26,000 people.
After Schilling’s disclosure, the Red Sox released a statement Thursday that said Wakefield and his wife Stacy, “unfortunately” had their diagnoses 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,” the team said. “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.”
After the team’s statement, Schilling, who was Tim Wakfield’s teammate from 2004 to 2007, was widely denounced for divulging deeply personal information.
He “keeps doing racist, illegal, immoral and heinously inappropriate things,” wrote actor Billy Baldwin on X. “This time disrespecting former Red Sox teammate Tim Wakefield. Perhaps we have found Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate?”
Author Kevin Pereau, a native Vermonter, called Schilling “just flat out vile.”
“I would call @gehrig38 out but the coward does this to anyone not in his validation chamber,” Pereau wrote, noting that Schilling had blocked him on X.
The controversy was the latest in a string of largely self-inflicted scandals for Schilling, who became a Red Sox legend when he won Game Six of the American League Championship Series against the loathed New York Yankees while hobbled with an injury that caused blood to seep into his sock.
But after he retired in 2009, he found himself embroiled in a series of controversies.
In August 2015, ESPN suspended him for a month from his broadcasting job for posting a social media comment that compared radical Muslims to Nazis, and the network fired him in April 2016 after he shared a Facebook post widely viewed as hostile to the transgender community.
On April 18, 2016, he shared a Facebook image that depicted a scantily clad heavy-set man along with the caption: “LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to DIE!!!”
Soon after the firing, he told “The Dan Patrick Show” that ESPN was being disingenuous.
“The only irony in all of this for me is that a company that is outwardly bigoted and intolerant is calling itself inclusive,” Schilling said. “I’m sad that it ended, because of the people I worked with, but other than that, I guess it was kind of meant to be.”
Two years later, Schilling found himself sparring online with New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, after she posted on Twitter that she was being unfairly subjected to “suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud.”
The voluble Schilling soon entered the chat, replying, “You are being scrutinized and treated with suspicion because every time you speak you say something more stupid than the last time you spoke. You are a college graduate and likely the most unintelligent person, man or woman, in our government.”
Schilling’s most tumultous scandal came more than a decade ago with the infamous 38 Studios debacle in Rhode Island.
In 2011, Schilling moved 38 Studios to Providence from Maynard after Rhode Island guaranteed the video game company a $75 million loan in exchange for a pledge from the company to create 450 jobs in the state.
The company laid off its entire staff in May 2012 and filed for bankruptcy that June.
Schilling was among the parties who entered into the settlements, along with other 38 Studios executives, lawyers, and companies that worked on the deal, and officials at the state’s economic development agency. No company officials admitted liability.
On Thursday, another former Red Sox star, Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs, was unwittingly drawn into the furor when he posted a message of support to Wakefield before learning Schilling had broken the news without permission.
“At the time I posted my tweet I was unaware that Tim’s condition was not supposed to be public my apologies to Tim and his family,” Boggs wrote in a follow-up message.
At the time I posted my tweet I was unaware that Tim’s condition was not supposed to be public my apologies to Tim and his family 🙏— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) September 28, 2023
Schilling hadn’t responded to the criticism on X as of Friday morning and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“This is not a message that Tim has shared and I don’t even know if he wants it shared,” Schilling had said on his podcast, according to Awful Announcing, an outlet chronicling the foibles of sports media personalities. “But as a Christian and a man of faith, I have seen prayer work and so I’m going to talk about it.”
Taylor Twellman, a former New England Revolution star who now works as a soccer analyst for Apple TV, denounced Schilling for the unauthorized disclosure.
“This is NOT your place @gehrig38,” Twellman wrote. “It wasn’t your news to share. BS.”
Football commentator Albert Breer also blasted Schilling.
“What a despicable, awful act by Curt Schilling,” Breer tweeted. “Unthinkable.”
What a despicable, awful act by Curt Schilling. Unthinkable.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 28, 2023
Mike Abadir, an NFL agent and commentator, tweeted that Schilling shouldn’t have disclosed the Wakefields’ diagnoses but also pushed back against those mocking the former pitcher for mentioning his Christian faith in connection with the couple’s health issues.
“One who claims to be a Christian doesn’t claim to be perfect, sin free, or mistake free,” Abadir tweeted. “Even the most faithful will do questionable things many times during their lifetime.”
“I took it to be related to his appeal for prayers,” he added. “I mean ultimately, that was his stated goal, right? He wants to see his brother defeat this and is appealing to believers to pray for Wake.”
I took it to be related to his appeal for prayers. I mean ultimately, that was his stated goal, right? He wants to see his brother defeat this and is appealing to believers to pray for Wake.— Mike Abadir (@mikeabadir) September 28, 2023
But sports writer Jeff Pearlman described Schilling as “the most hated among his fellow ballplayers.”
“Truly never met someone who liked him,” he wrote on X. “Which is a trick.”
I covered some true assholes in my career. John Rocker, Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle. Guys who were mean for sport. But @gehrig38 was, truly, the most hated among his fellow ballplayers. Truly never met someone who liked him. Which is a trick. https://t.co/OCraibuqsq— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) September 28, 2023
Material from the Associated Press and from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.