"Turn out the lights, the party’s over"
Now that Curt Schilling has officially announced his retirement via his internet blog "38pitches," we can start debating his Hall of Fame credentials. Curt Schilling pitched an astounding twenty years in the major leagues, amassing a 216-146 record and a respectable 3.46 ERA. Curt appeared in six All-Star games and finished second in the Cy-Young Award voting on three separate occasions. More impressively was his ability to pitch his team into and through the post-season. Schilling collected three World Series rings, two of which came in a Boston Red Sox uniform (2004, 2007). However, it is no secret that Curt had made some enemies in the media throughout his career, something that could potentially hinder his chance of becoming a member of the MLB Hall of Fame.
Curt Schilling features an impressive career stat line. With over 200 victories, 83 complete games, 3,116 strikeouts, and three seasons with over twenty wins (including a career high 23 in 2002 with Arizona at the age of 35), it's hard to imagine any validity to the argument that he should be excluded from the Hall of Fame. However, despite such impressive numbers put up throughout an era known for being tough on pitchers, Curt still has his doubters. Let me use this article to try and persuade those naysayers.
Curt started his career with the Boston Red Sox, being drafted in the second round of the 1986 MLB draft. The powerful right hander made stops in Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia and Arizona that included one World Series ring for the Diamondbacks in 2001, going 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his 3 World Series starts against the New York Yankees ironically. After bringing a championship to Arizona, Schilling found himself back in a Boston uniform where he was very vocal about his excitement regarding the chance to be a part of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, which was then at its peak. In his time with the Sox, the Alaskan native tallied 53 wins and even 9 saves. From the time Curt signed with Boston, he was very adamant about bringing Red Sox fans a World Series championship that had eluded them for eighty-six years. In 2004, his first season with Boston, Schilling came through for those title hungry fans as Boston swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. The most memorable pitching performance of course being the infamous "Bloody Sock" game (more on that later).
A lot of Hall of Famers get in based on what they accomplished in the post-season. With that being the case, Schilling should have a great chance. Sporting one of the most impressive post-season resumes in the history of the game, Curt will no doubt go down as one of the greatest playoff performers ever. Schilling appeared in the post-season five times (1993, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007) accumulating an 11-2 record to go along with his astounding 2.23 ERA. Named the 1993 NLCS MVP and the 2001 World Series Co-MVP (shared with Randy Johnson), Curt's post-season success is truly undeniable.
Some of Curt's most memorable games:
Game 7, 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees
Curt Schilling, then with Arizona, was a part of one of the greatest 1-2 punches of our generation. Along side Randy Johnson, Curt vowed to bring a title to the young franchise in the desert. Handed the ball for the most important game of his life up until that point, the product of Yavapai Community College shined in what would go down as one of the greatest World Series games of all-time. When Yankee captain Derek Jeter stepped in for the game's first at-bat, he could be seen giving a smile and a tip of the hat so to speak to Schilling sensing that this would be an epic game, and he was right. Schilling went 7 1/3 innings pitched striking out 9 and only allowing 2 earned runs, leaving the game's final 5 outs to the bull-pen. The Diamondbacks would go on to touch up Mariano Rivera for 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning, scoring the winning run on a Luis Gonzalez game winning bloop single. Curt was named Co-MVP along side Randy Johnson, winning the first of his eventual 3 World Series rings.
June 7, 2007- Near no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics
The Red Sox came to the ballpark on June 7th, 2007 amidst a four game losing streak. Fans knew Curt Schilling was the guy to amend that, what they didn't know is that he would flirt with history in doing so. The Red Sox would need Schilling in a big way on this day, only managing to muster up one run (a 1st inning HR from David Ortiz). Curt came up big for his team, something he had done throughout his entire career. After 8 2/3 innings, the Athletics were held hitless at the hands of the Boston pitcher, going down on strikes four times and reaching base zero times via the walk. In fact, the only base-runner at that point came by way of an error by shortstop Julio Lugo. With Shannon Stewart coming to the plate and Curt one out away throwing a no-hitter, Varitek signaled for a slider having thrown first pitch fastballs to the previous two hitters. Schilling shook him off, deciding on the fastball once again. Stewart would go on to single, spoiling Schilling's no-hit bid. Schilling, 40 years old at the time, would have been the third oldest pitcher to accomplish the feat only behind Nolan Ryan (ages 43 and 44) and Cy Young (age 41). Pretty good company.
The "Bloody Sock" game, ALCS Game 6 @ New York Yankees
Heading into this game, down 3-2 in the best of 7 series and facing a supremely talented Yankee lineup, Schilling was cleared to start despite torn tendon sheath in his right ankle. Schilling would not miss the opportunity to push the series to a deciding seventh game, especially being so eager to be a part of the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry. Prior to the start, Red Sox team doctors surgically sutured the tendon in place, allowing Curt to push of towards the plate during his delivery. Schilling went 7 strong innings allowing only 1 earned run on 4 hits. A tremendous achievement given the circumstances. During the course of the game, Schilling's sock noticeably started to show remnants of blood. Curt pushed through it, was named the winning pitcher, and got the job done as the Red Sox forced a game 7, and eventually went on to the World Series defeating the St. Lois Cardinals in four games. The sock would go on to Cooperstown, hopefully soon to be joined by the man who cemented his clutch status while wearing it.
The bottom line is that Curt Schilling deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. With an ERA almost a full run lower than the league average during his career, Schilling has to go down as one of the greatest pitchers of the last 20 years. Also, keep in mind that Curt was pitching in an era that proved very unfriendly to pitchers overall, steroid use no doubt playing a major role in that. Although some may criticize his win total pointing out that he is tied for 80th all-time along side Charlie Hough with 216, it's also important to recognize the fact that the MLB didn't truly convert to the five man rotation that it features today until 1975. Curt Schilling may be disliked by a good percentage of the media, but I personally hope the voters set those feelings aside and do what's right by putting Schilling in the Hall of Fame.