On Sunday, the baseball world mourned Tim Wakefield, who died after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Tributes from his former teammates and other Boston notables poured in.
One special nod to Wakefield came on the field, from a player who never met the beloved knuckleballer.
In the fourth inning of the Mariners’ 1-0 victory against the Rangers on Sunday, Seattle pitcher George Kirby threw a 73.2 mph pitch to Corey Seager, who swung and missed.
But this wasn’t just any pitch. It was a knuckleball, Wakefield’s signature. It was the first knuckleball Kirby had thrown at the major league level, and he did it in tribute to Wakefield.
“I loved watching that guy throw, even though he’s a Red Sox player and I’m a born Yankee fan,” Kirby told MLB.com. “But yeah, it was a great day to throw it and I’m glad Seager missed it and didn’t take it deep. So, yeah that was fun.”
Only a few players — including Wakefield — could master the knuckleball.
Kirby teased during spring training that he could throw one. Mariners manager Scott Servais said it was quite good.
“George is George. He is gifted. He can do a lot of different things,” Servais said. “He also has an extremely devastating knuckleball. And it didn’t surprise me that he threw it.”
Servais wasn’t surprised, but not because he knew how good Kirby is at throwing it. This particular pitch was called by catcher Cal Raleigh, who grew up a Red Sox fan.
“With the passing of Tim Wakefield today, who knows — baseball is a weird game that way,” Servais said. “I do believe in the baseball gods, and maybe that’s why it came out today.”