Dan Shaughnessy

He was bloody good here

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / March 24, 2009
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Curt Schilling retired yesterday. Made it official on his blog,

It was a little confusing at first. Websites, radio broadcasts, and television stations treated the announcement as "breaking news," which seemed a little odd if you've been paying attention. I mean, would anybody consider it breaking news if George McGovern announced he's not running for president in 2012?

Schilling telling the world he's not going to pitch anymore is a little like Dick Van Dyke sending out a press release to tell us he's done his last sitcom. Thanks for all the great shows, Dick, but we pretty much knew you were done.

I'm going to miss the big lug. In the past 30 years in Boston sports, there haven't been many guys more fun to write about than Curt Schilling. And it's nice to know he's not really going away. The uber-blowhard still will be part of our lives in cyberspace, on the airwaves, and probably at every town meeting and polling place in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Norfolk counties.

There can be no argument about Schilling's place in Red Sox lore. More than any other athlete in the history of our community, he delivered on his promises. He came to town claiming he was here to break an 86-year-old curse and he got it done. Immediately. Schilling went 21-6 in 2004, and then there was a certain playoff game involving a bloody sock. Schilling beat the Yankees, then the Cardinals while bleeding into his sanitary hose. Stephen King should write a book about it.

Even more remarkable is what Schilling accomplished in the 2007 postseason, another World Series winner. By October of '07, injuries, old age, and conditioning complacency had diminished his skills. Still, Schilling could not be beaten in the playoffs. Armed with nothing more than an Al Nipper fastball, he beat the Angels, Indians, and Rockies.

At the end, Schilling was able to win on his smarts and his accuracy. He prepared better than any pitcher. To the finish, he was a strike machine who could beat you with his brain even after his shoulder gave out.

In a lot of ways, Schilling was the Bill Russell of pitchers. In 19 postseason starts with the Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. He was 4-0 in five "win-or-go-home" tournament games. His teams played in 12 October series, winning 10.

His accuracy may never be replicated. Among all major league pitchers with at least 1,500 innings, Schilling has the best walk/strikeout ratio since 1900 (4.38 strikeouts per walk). Think about that for a second. Best ever since the beginning of the 20th century.

He seemed destined to alter Red Sox history. In 1985, while pitching for Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz., Schilling was scouted by Boston's Ray Boone - the grandfather of Aaron Boone. Schilling was a Red Sox second-round pick in 1986, and in '88 he was traded to the Orioles, along with Brady Anderson, for Mike Boddicker, who helped deliver two division flags to Boston. In Philadelphia, he pitched for Terry Francona. He learned to compete against the Yankees when he teamed with Randy Johnson to end the New York Dynasty with the D-Backs in 2001. When the Sox acquired Schilling in November of 2003, Curt said, "I guess I hate the Yankees now."

For all of his championship success and infinite charitable deeds, Schilling managed to be a polarizing figure at every stop of his career. Some of it was politics, most of it persona. He could never outrun the remark of his general manager in Philadelphia (Ed Wade), who famously stated that Schilling was a horse every fifth day and a horse's ass the other four.

Things ended badly here. Schill might be the only athlete who could direct anger at a management team that paid him $8 million to throw zero pitches in 2008. The Sox always will thank him for the rings, but don't look for the club to stage a "Thanks, Curt" Day for 2009.

Listening to local commentators yesterday, it was tempting to suggest we dispense with due process and whisk Big Schill into Cooperstown tonight (is canonization too much?). Given his lights-out postseason performance, Schilling compares favorably with Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and Catfish Hunter, but he comes up shy of Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, and Luis Tiant, who thus far have been deemed not worthy. Also, postseason numbers of the last couple of decades are diluted. Until last year, Bernie Williams had more postseason homers than anyone in baseball history (Manny Ramírez went ahead of Bernie in '08). Rick Dempsey, Scott Brosius, and David Eckstein were World Series MVPs.

The Schilling Hall debate could rage for five, 10, or even 20 years. Today is a day to cut through the blogs, blurbs, blabs, and political agendas and remember that Curt Schilling was one heck of a major league pitcher, a guy who wanted the ball when it mattered most. His last appearance in the majors was a 2-1 victory over Colorado at Fenway in the second game of the 2007 World Series. He gave up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings. He went out on top.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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