Sunday, March 29, 2009

Schill: An Appreciation

Well, as we all know, Curt Schilling brought his 20-year baseball career to an official end earlier this week. He put up some good numbers in his career, such as 216 total wins, 3,116 strikeouts and three 20-win seasons. But it will be the postseason heroics for which he will forever be remembered.

He was on three World Series winners, and had the best winning percentage (11-2) of any pitcher in postseason history. (Of course, you have to also remember he's played in an era with three rounds of playoffs, and many great hurlers only got to play in one in some postseasons.) He is the only pitcher in history to win a World Series game with three teams. Schilling was a money pitcher, and a guy who wanted the ball when the pressure was at its greatest. He always came up big when it mattered most, and that I believe will put him in the Hall of Fame one day.

Schilling's crowning moment was of course, the 2004 postseason. After further exacerbating an ankle injury during the 2004 ALDS against Anaheim, he got whacked in Game 1 of the ALCS in New York, and it appeared as if his 2004 season was over. But in the middle of the greatest comeback in sports history, Schilling pulled off his own miracle and returned to beat New York in Game 6, on an ankle that had been surgically worked on just hours earlier. And he repeated it once again when the Red Sox made it to the World Series, in Game 2. He pitched both of those games on sheer will and guts, and forever etched his name in Boston baseball lore.

But as we all know, Schilling is a complex individual, and enjoys letting the world know what he thinks. He's done a lot of good with all the money he's raised in support of fighting ALS. But his outspoken opinions have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, not only opponents but teammates and fans of his own team. I'll never forget after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. Schilling came out and fully gave his support to President George Bush, who was running for re-election, with the vote coming just days after the Series. Despite the fact that Schilling was one of the main reasons the Red Sox had finally won, I will never forget the vitriol thrown his way by many Red Sox fans I know (most of whom are Democrats). For me, I could care less what Schilling feels about politics, but it really brought out the hate in many people I knew, and I was stunned at how vicious it was. (I've always felt that if celebrities want to come out and talk about politics, I have no problem with it, as long as it is done in the proper venue.)

Schilling also got the ire of many sportswriters, as he started his own blog, "38Pitches." This was Curt getting around the middleman and going directly to the fans. Of course, writers hate that, as they can't twist his words around and make themselves part of the story. (I think you know who I'm driving at here.) There is no doubt that Schilling loves the limelight, and has made many enemies along the way because of it.

But for me as a Red Sox fan, he came to Boston with a mission and saw it through to the finish, and forever earned my respect. Schilling knew that going to New York to try to win a ring wouldn't cement his legacy, but getting one in Boston would be something far more special and remembered. He basically spit at stupid, media-created nonsense like "curses" and brought the title to Boston.

Schilling doesn't have overwhelming numbers, but what he accomplished in the postseason should put him in the Hall of Fame, which he is eligible for in 2013. I honestly don't believe he will make it on the first-ballot, as I'm sure there are writers who won't vote for him in his first year of eligibility, for all sorts of reasons. But I think his reputation as a guy you'd want to pitch in any deciding game should put him in.

But it's interesting to see how loony some people can be on the subject of Schilling, especially Yankee fans. From a letter in the New York Post's "Sound Off Column" of March 29:

For two or three days earlier this week, the only thing sports talk hosts could find to discuss was whether or not this pompous big-mouth will get into the Hall of Fame. Schilling's not even eligible for another five years! Who cares? I'm not sure who's more pathetic: Mr. Fake Bloody Sock or the sports media suckers he continuously reels in.

No, some of these Yankee fans still haven't come to terms with the Yankees immortal Choke of 2004 and Schilling's role in it. Maybe this guy should go to the Hall of Fame and see The Sock up close, as when blood dries it turns brown, and the sock is covered in that color. (That doesn't happen with ketchup or red dye, pal.) And maybe also this guy should know that once a player like Schilling, who is not a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, retires, the debate will rage for as long as Schilling isn't in the Hall of Fame.

But for me, Schilling is a Hall of Famer. He spent four seasons in a Red Sox uniform, and was an integral part of not just one, but two Red Sox championships. Schilling talked big, and sure as hell backed it up. He will always have my respect for what he did for the fans of New England.

Enjoy retirement, Curt. See you in Cooperstown, some time in the next decade.

1 comment:

Jere said...

I'm shocked it's even a debate--he seems first ballot to me.

As for the blogging--I loved that he came out and talked to fans directly. I was just disappointed that he took the blog to WEEI. He had the audience he needed and he has the money he needs. Why not keep the blog independent of the very media he tried to avoid by starting it.