Curt-ain Call

11.4.08 6:15PM

Curt Schilling ends a remarkable 17-year career
Potential Hall of Famer???

In his most recent blog stating why he is voting for John McCain, Curt Schilling drew the curtain on a storied 17-year career. Schilling missed all of 2008 due to a degenerative right shoulder condition that forced him to eventually have the surgery, two months into the season, that he should have in Spring Training.

We are three weeks away from Thanksgiving 2008 so let us travel back in time five years when Theo Epstein sat down at the Schilling’s dinner table for Thanksgiving Day dinner and wooed Curt to wave his no-trade clause and come to Boston. Since that time the Red Sox have won two World Series Championships and have become the model franchise of Major League Baseball, most of it because of Schilling. Sox fans will remember their former Ace from his heroic performance, “Bloody Sock” in Game Six of the 2004.

After having a surgical procedure to temporarily repair his injured ankle – which he actually sustained in the ALDS – Schilling went back out for Game 1 of the ALCS, where he was slapped around by Yankee hitters. At that point fans thought they saw the last of Schilling, his season was over, but they had not seen this stoic man in the post-season. He did not get his reputation of being a post-season hero by being timid. Schilling had the procedure done and returned to the mound October 19. He pitched seven strong innings of four hit ball while allowing one run and striking out four Yankee batters on a sutured ankle that was undeniably painful.

Fans should remember Schilling for doing what many former Red Sox players could not do: he followed through on his World Series promise. When he took the mound on that Tuesday, cool October night with the Sox down 3-2 in the series, Schilling knew that he was putting the rest of his career in jeopardy but he was still willing to go out and pitch. That says a lot about the man. To put your career on the line for a team you have been with for one season and teammates you have known for only a year takes a lot of guts. It should be how Sox fans remember him not for his boisterous, out-spoken and, sometimes, ill-timed comments but for the sacrifices he made for the organization.

It is unfortunate his magnificent career had to come to a close in the way it did. After being drafted by the Red Sox in 1986 then traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Boddicker, Schilling played for three other teams and made it to the playoffs five times. In his illustruous career, he has a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA in 3,261 innings of work and is a member of the 3,000 strike out club ranking 14th in most strike outs – 86 ahead of Pedro Martinez.

Schilling’s post-season numbers are equally impressive with a 19-19 record, a 2.23 ERA and 120 strike outs in 133.1 innings of work. In the 2001 World Series, he earned co-World Series MVP honors, with teammate Randy Johnson, with a 1-0 record in three starts, 26 strike outs and a 1.69 ERA. Schilling played best when the weather cold down and there was something at stake, very similar to a fellow Boston athlete. Tedy Bruschi and his favorite day of the year: “Hat and Tee-Shirt Day?”

Although he only played in the post-season five times, he made the most of his opportunities to play in October, partially because he understood how hard it is just to get to the playoffs. Schilling’s worst series was the championship series where his record would still make any Major League pitcher jealous, 3-1 with a 3.47 ERA and 44 strike outs in four appearances. His best series was the Division Series where opponents he was most feared with a 4-0 record, 33 strike outs and an ERA under one (0.93). In four trips to the Fall Classic and with the rest of the country watching, Schilling was on top of his game. Against the Blue Jays (’93), Yankees (’01), Cardinals (’04) and Rockies (’07), the right hander combined for a 4-1 record with 43 strike outs and a 2.06 ERA in 48 innings pitched.

Many believe Schilling is not Hall of Fame caliber but there are strong reasons for why he belongs in Cooperstown and maybe in 2013 some of the baseball writers who might have been spurned by the pitcher will come to terms and vote him into the Hall of Fame.

Schilling sacrificed a lot for the Red Sox organization and even if you abhor his out-spoken-ness or disagree with his politics, you still have to appreciate what he did for Boston.

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