BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles' lineup barely touched Curt Schilling in last night's 6-1 Red Sox win. In seven innings, he allowed one run, a home run by Miguel Tejada, which was not enough to overcome the damage the Sox inflicted on the Orioles' expensively renovated bullpen in a three-run seventh and two-run ninth.
But Schilling's reputation was the target of an attempted hit from, of all places, the Orioles' television broadcasting booth. Gary Thorne, who does play-by-play of Orioles games on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and has a solid national reputation, having done lots of work for ESPN, brought up the saga of Schilling's bloody sock during last night's telecast.
Thorne said on the air, while the Orioles were batting in the fifth, that he'd been told by Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli that was not blood, but paint, on the sock Schilling wore during Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. It was done for the public relations effect, Thorne said.
"The great story we were talking about the other night was that famous red stocking that he wore when they finally won, the blood on his stocking," Thorne said to broadcast partner Jim Palmer, the Hall of Fame pitcher, in a conversation that had begun with a discussion of Schilling's blog.
"Nah," Thorne said. "It was painted. Doug Mirabelli confessed up to it after. It was all for PR. Two-ball, two-strike count."
Palmer: "Yeah, that was the 2004 World Series [sic]." Thorne: "Yeah."
During a break two innings later, Thorne confirmed that's what he said, and that Mirabelli had told him so in a conversation "a couple of years ago."
"Go ask him [Mirabelli]," Thorne said.
Mirabelli was shocked, then angry, when relayed Thorne's comments.
"What? Are you kidding me? He's [expletive] lying. A straight lie," Mirabelli said. "I never said that. I know it was blood. Everybody knows it was blood."
Sox manager Terry Francona, when first told of Thorne's remarks, thought that perhaps Mirabelli had been having some fun with Thorne, that it was all a joke. But after Mirabelli angrily denied ever discussing the subject with Thorne -- "I honestly don't know who Gary Thorne is, that's a straight lie" -- Francona became agitated.
"What we're going through today as a nation, you hate to use a word like heroic on the field, but what Schill did that night on the sports field was one of the most incredible feats I ever witnessed," Francona said. "[Thorne's remarks] go so far past disappointing. Disrespectful to Schill, to his vocation. I'm stunned.
"I am just floored. Schill takes his share of shots, and this one is so far below the belt that I'm embarrassed and I wish somebody would have had the good conscience to ask me. I saw the leg. If that had been painted, I wouldn't have had my knuckles so white, and having so much anxiety."
Francona said Thorne had swung by his office before the game and they had chatted amiably.
"It gets stupider," Schilling said with a tone of resignation in his voice. "I got the 9-inch scar for you. You can see it.
"There are some bad people in your line of work, man."
The suggestion that the bloody sock was staged has been made in the past, perhaps most prominently by GQ magazine, which cited an anonymous Sox player as its source. But it has never been stated so matter-of-factly, and with a Sox player's name attached to the accusation. It has always been dismissed by the Sox and most notably Dr. Bill Morgan, who performed the innovative procedure on Schilling's ankle that allowed him to pitch, even as blood seeped through the sutures in his ankle.
The sock is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y .
"You're kidding me, right?" Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wrote in an e-mail last night. "I'm the GM of the team, not Jerry Springer. I couldn't give two [expletives] about what was on his sock, I care that we won the game. The rest, and Gary Thorne, is just noise."
Sox CEO Larry Lucchino also responded via e-mail.
"I have never heard any such thing internally, and I refuse to believe it now," Lucchino wrote. "It was a courageous moment for Curt Schilling and a glorious moment for the Red Sox, and it shouldn't be sullied with such speculation now."
Mirabelli quickly sought out Schilling in the clubhouse, and assured him he'd never said the things that were attributed to him. Schilling accepted his explanation.
All of this made for an unexpected back story to a game that evolved from a pitching duel between Schilling and Orioles righthander Daniel Cabrera -- each pitcher giving up a home run, Cabrera's to Alex Cora (11 for 18 against Cabrera) -- into the Sox seizing the opening given them when Cabrera walked Wily Mo Peña to open the seventh.
Cora bunted Pena over, and Cabrera temporarily kept the Sox at bay when Julio Lugo flied to right. But then Cabrera issued the last of his five walks, to Kevin Youkilis, and Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo went to his pen, which had been redone, at the tune of $41.5 million, with the signings of lefthander Jamie Walker, submariner Chad Bradford, and former Devil Rays closer Danys Baez.
Walker, who went to the World Series with the Tigers last season, got two quick strikes on Ortiz, but after running the count full with five two-strike fouls, Ortiz dumped a single into left-center, scoring Peña.
That brought in Bradford, who worked one summer (2005) for the Sox. He gave up an RBI single to Manny Ramírez, then walked J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell, forcing in a run.
The Sox scored twice more in the ninth on three singles and Ramírez's sacrifice fly, a ball that would have been extra bases except for a terrific catch by Corey Patterson in center field.
In the losers' clubhouse, Kevin Millar offered his take on the Schilling controversy.
"It was definitely blood," he said. "He had some stitches there. It was a hell of an injury at the time. So I think that was more [Mirabelli possibly] messing with Schilling.
"Like I said, I just saw blood and that was the bottom line and thank God we won that game. Blood or ink, it was a win. I mean, it was one of the single greatest performances I've ever been around.
"He couldn't walk and Dr. Morgan found a way to do something with his ankle and he manned up for us. It was a big performance at the time."
A Sox official said last night that the team may seek a retraction. Before he left, Mirabelli stopped by Francona's office to again register his anger with the broadcast.
Francona, who enjoys using Mirabelli as a foil, said: "What are you doing? Can you just play every five days and not talk?"
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.