Schilling left his mark on Red Sox
Righty delivered on goal of helping to bring title to Boston
BOSTON -- When Curt Schilling was acquired by the Red Sox the day after Thanksgiving in 2003, he brought a bold and confident attitude with him -- one that the franchise needed at the time.
If Schilling never pitches again for the Red Sox, and that now seems fairly likely, it is safe to say that he made a permanent mark on the team and its ravenous fan base.
Schilling, who didn't throw a pitch in 2008, will have surgery on Monday to repair his right shoulder. Given his age (41 years old) and his free-agent status, this very well could be it for him in Boston. Before throwing a pitch for the Red Sox, Schilling announced in a Ford commercial that he was coming to help break an 86-year championship drought. He did just that, helping the Red Sox win not just in 2004, but also 2007.
"He made a tremendous impact here," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "When we were sitting in his living room back in November of 2003, we talked about a lot of things, but among those were him coming here and helping us win a World Series and handling the Boston market and pitching effectively, leading a rotation. I think those things came true and then some. So he certainly lived up to his end of the bargain, and it was a very effective marriage while it lasted. He left his mark on this organization."
The right-hander went 53-29 during his time with the Red Sox, posting a 3.95 ERA. In eight postseason starts for Boston, Schilling went 6-1.
"Like Theo was kind of alluding to, he came here at a time we were aspiring to win a World Series," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He was as big a part of it as anybody. The one thing that Schill always did -- whether he was blogging or talking -- but he'd take the ball every five days. His ability to do that was unbelievable. I'm talking about through Philadelphia, through here, that stuff with the sock -- that wasn't fake. This guy would pitch, and he pitched some unbelievably big games. That will never go away."
The sock, of course, was the bloodied sock. In order to pitch in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, Schilling had his loose right ankle tendon sutured into place. He won that game, helping the Red Sox become the first team in the history of baseball to rally back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. Schilling again went out there in Game 2 of the World Series, his sock stained with blood, and defeated the Cardinals. The Red Sox swept St. Louis.
Last year, Schilling's foot held up fine, but his shoulder was weak from the toll of so many years and innings pitched. After getting a cortisone shot, Schilling fired a gem in clinching Game 3 of the Division Series at Anaheim. In the ALCS, Schilling again pitched to save the season in Game 6, this time against the Indians. And he came through in the same fashion as three years earlier.
His closing act -- perhaps for his career -- was a 2-1 victory against the Rockies in Game 2 of the World Series.
"He went out there at times, probably with more pain than a lot of people will ever know, in his shoulder and his body," said Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin. "But he's not going to tell you that. Obviously, he wasn't throwing 93 or 94 like when he got here. He was fighting through a lot to get done what he did, and it showed a lot because he had to adjust himself mentally from what he had in his pocket."
Another thing that was uniquely Schilling was the way he communicated with fans. Almost from the time the Internet started, Schilling became a junkie, conversing with fans on message boards back in his days with the Phillies in the mid 1990s.
Last season, Schilling finally started his own blog, where he again posted on Friday.
"To you fans, thank you, thank you, thank you," wrote Schilling. "If it is all over, every single moment and memory I'll take away from my career comes with your involvement and support. More athletes than you know recognize this and appreciate it. The four years I was allowed the honor of wearing this uniform I would hope you believe I did so with honor, integrity and respect, for the game but more importantly for my manager, coaches and teammates."
Though many starting pitchers keep to themselves in the grand scheme of clubhouse communication, it was never that way with Schilling.
"Schill was an influence to a lot of people on this team," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "Schill was a guy who never accepted anything but the best from a teammate. So that's what I got from him. He always expected a lot from me and I expected a lot from him in return."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.