Schilling earns strikeout No. 3,000
Right-hander becomes 14th member of exclusive club
OAKLAND -- Red Sox ace Curt Schilling achieved perhaps the most significant personal milestone of his illustrious career on Wednesday, becoming the 14th pitcher in Major League history to reach 3,000 strikeouts.
Needing just one to reach the magic number, Schilling fanned Nick Swisher with his signature pitch -- a splitter -- in the bottom of the first. Schilling earned a standing ovation from the McAfee Coliseum crowd.
"Hats off to the organization, the Oakland A's, for recognizing it," said Schilling. "I'm very humbled by the fact that their fans recognized it and the Sox fans that were here. You certainly don't expect it on the road. It's kind of uncomfortable because there's a game going on and ... you want to acknowledge the people but you don't want to make it bigger than the situation. I was very humbled by it. I was very honored that they did that. I thought it was a very, very classy thing to do."
Schilling joins a who's who list of former and current greats that includes Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, Phil Niekro, Ferguson Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Bob Gibson.
The fact that Schilling didn't pitch well (5 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six runs) and lost by a score of 7-2 to the Athletics made the moment bittersweet for the right-hander.
"The situation we're in now and what we've been going through, this was definitely a day when this team needed its ace to step up, and I didn't," Schilling said. "I'm very proud of it. Like I said before, there's 14 people in the history of the game that have done it. That makes me very proud to have achieved it."
Former Red Sox ace and current New York Met Pedro Martinez will soon join Schilling in the distinguished club as he has 2,986.
Though it was during the heat of trying to win the game, Schilling at least allowed himself a brief instant to take in the moment, with his wife, Shonda, and four children (Gehrig, Gabriella, Grant and Garrison) cheering from the first row behind the Boston dugout. Gehrig had a Red Sox jersey with the numeral "3" on it, while the other three kids had "0" on their shirts, signifying the 3,000.
"They had a runner on second with nobody out and we got out of the inning," said Schilling. "Like I said, I felt good, I felt strong. I was trying to stay in my [zone]. Shonda and my kids were sitting right above the dugout. So getting a chance to see them was cool, very cool. But I was trying to stay focused and stay in the game. I felt good. I felt very good about what we were doing and how I felt, trying to get a win and all that stuff. So I was trying to stay in that."
Manager Terry Francona embraced Schilling between innings.
"Tito and I have been through a lot together," said Schilling. "It was kind of a neat moment."
Curt Schilling's milestone strikeouts
The Red Sox put together an expansive list chronicling Schilling's road to 3,000. Who has K'd the most against Schilling? Rich Aurilia, Andres Galarraga and Marquis Grissom at 22 each. Todd Hollandsworth and Sammy Sosa were strikeout victims of Schilling 21 times.
"That's unreal, it's unbelievable," said A's ace Barry Zito of Schilling's accomplishment. "He's been a staple in Major League Baseball for the past 15 years."
A classic power pitcher, Schilling always has been able to reach back for that little extra when he's needed it. Even now, at the age of 39, he can still dial it up.
"I always felt like it was something I could always get," Schilling said. "I always felt like it could get me a huge advantage in a game, the ability to go after a strikeout in a strikeout situation and get it. I've always thrived on that."
He's done it without sacrificing his control, issuing just 684 walks in his career.
"That's huge; that's bigger," said Schilling. "I don't know where I'll fall on that scale as far as how many walks people have when they got to 3,000, but I'd imagine I'll be close up there. That's what kind of pitcher I tried to become. Someone that threw a lot of strikes and got a lot of strikeouts and had command of the baseball.
"Earlier in my career, the two guys I wanted to emulate were Clemens and Maddux," continued Schilling. "I wanted Clemens' power with Maddux's control. I never quite got to either one of them, but I felt like I was kind of a mishmash of the two in some cases."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.