Thorne says he was wrong about sock
Orioles announcer had claimed Schilling had paint on foot
BALTIMORE -- Every journalist's nightmare was played out Thursday for broadcaster Gary Thorne, who awoke to find out that he had become the story he had been trying to cover. Thorne, who calls games for the Mid Atlantic Sports Network, found himself in a controversy over comments he made about Curt Schilling during Wednesday's game between the Orioles and Red Sox.
Thorne said on the air that Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli had told him that the blood on Schilling's sock during the 2004 American League Championship Series was fake, more a publicity stunt than badge of courage. One day later -- after another chat with Mirabelli -- Thorne attempted to stifle the furor by admitting that he was wrong.
"He said one thing, and I heard something else," said Thorne of the earlier conversation, which happened a year or two ago. "I reported what I heard and what I honestly felt was said. Having talked with him today, there's no doubt in my mind that's not what he said [and] that's not what he meant.
"He explained why in the context of the sarcasm and the jabbing that goes on in the clubhouse, [and] that I understand. I took it as something serious, and it wasn't."
The story had such legs because it dealt with an anecdote that instantly became a legend. Schilling's right sock had red spots on it during Game 6 of the ALCS, and the substance was assumed to be blood. Schilling had to undergo a minor procedure to pitch in that game, and his performance helped vault the Red Sox to the World Series.
His sock showed similar markings in Game 2 of the World Series, and that garment is now on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. If the substance on the sock had actually been paint -- or anything else -- it would've significantly diluted one of the biggest stories surrounding Boston's first World Series championship since 1918.
"I'm disappointed it happened because I have to come here and answer questions about it," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "It was actually one of the most miraculous performances I've ever been around. It's disappointing because there's going to probably be a faction of people who want to believe it. And it's not true."
"Everybody knows that was on that team that that Curt Schilling sock had blood on it," Mirabelli said Thursday. "There's never been a doubt in any of the players' minds. I think it's unfortunate that some of the naysayers out there try to discredit what Curt Schilling did those in those weeks that he pitched with that ankle.
"I think that's the biggest story here -- that he went out there for a team and helped us win games at way less than 100 percent [with] the surgery and the stitches."
Kevin Millar, a current Oriole and former Red Sox, tried to settle the question once and for all. When reporters approached him Thursday, he quickly blurted out, "It was blood," before he was asked a question. Millar went on to say that he was surprised it came up so far after the fact, but not that it became a major news item in Boston.
"No, I'm not surprised. It's normal [in Boston]," he said. "I don't know exactly what was said because I was playing the game, but it's quite silly to be a serious statement. You don't want to use the word 'heroic' with everything going on in our country right now, but it was 100 percent blood. What Schilling did for us that night was awesome.
"We witnessed Dr. Morgan and our training staff in the training room doing the surgery."
Similar testimonies came in from other former teammates. Doug Mientkiewicz, the Yankees' first baseman and another member of Boston's title-winning team, said that he had also witnessed the surgery in question.
"The fact that you sit there and watch a guy get his ankle cut open, it's pretty gross," he said. "You go into the trainer's room and you're used to seeing dislocated fingers, dislocated shoulders. You see a pretty nice bruise once in a while. You don't see an Exacto knife going to a human being's skin, but all of a sudden, there it is."
So where did the confusion come in? Thorne met with Mirabelli on Thursday to try to hash out exactly where the misunderstanding took place, and they both seemed satisfied after their face-to-face encounter.
"As he was walking away, [Thorne] asked me, 'How about the bloody sock?' " said Mirabelli, recounting the initial incident. "And this was a year later, after the World Series. And he said that I said, 'Yeah, we got a lot of publicity out of that.' And that was it. That was all that he could recall me saying. And he said that he just assumed that's what I meant, that it was all a publicity stunt. By no means was that what I meant."
"I didn't say something I didn't believe. I would never do that," added Thorne. "I feel bad the whole thing happened because I don't want to disparage him or Schilling or Terry [Francona] or anybody else. I wasn't looking for a story. I didn't want something to come out of this. But when it came today, I was flabbergasted by it.
"That why the most important thing for me today was talking to Doug. I wanted a one-on-one with him so he knew what I said, why I said it [and] what our conversation had been before."
Mirabelli also said that Thorne seemed upset about the snafu and was willing to do what he could to clear it up.
"He wasn't trying to throw anybody under the bus," Mirabelli said. "In his mind, that's what he thought I meant. It's hard to get that meaning out of those words he told me, but that's what he went with."
At the end of the day, the No. 1 thing that came across was the respect Schilling's teammates have for him.
"He likes attention, but he doesn't like that much attention," Mientkiewicz said. "He did it for him, he did it for us, [and] he did it for the city. I know what it was. It wasn't nail polish."
"He's one of the players that's asked about the most, once you've played with him," said Millar. "Truly, and behind the scenes, Curt Schilling is a tremendous teammate. He's probably the one pitcher I'd take in any big-game situation, and he's probably the best big-game pitcher of our generation. The bottom line and the question was, 'Is it blood or paint?' It was 100 percent blood. I don't know how this became an issue three years later. Only in [Red] Sox Nation."