St. Petersburg Times
Print storySubscribe to the Times

Baseball: 2004 World Series

Schilling might be history, gutty play is stuff of legend

Published October 25, 2004

His pain Sox's gain
[AP photo]
Curt Schilling pumps his fist after a forceout ends the sixth, his final inning in a second straight solid postseason outing on an ankle that will need surgery.
John Romano: Schilling might be history, gutty play is stuff of legend
Ex-Ray finds winning a fair tradeoff
Red October: Around the park
Supporting player in spotlight for Red Sox
Photo galleries

BOSTON - It is the way by which he will be measured. Not the number of hits he allowed, nor the number of innings he pitched.

Instead, we will recall the blood stains Curt Schilling produced. We will remember the dark, red circle on his sock that grew in circumference as if each pitch were equal to another drop.

These are the moments they talk about years down the road. How an improbable journey continued with an imperfect pitcher on the mound.

Schilling did it again Sunday night in Game 2 of the World Series. Just like last week against the Yankees, he shut down the Cardinals with his right ankle, almost literally, held together by needle and thread.

"Words can't describe what he's doing," Red Sox reliever Alan Embree said. "He's doped up, he's limping and he's competing."

They say he might be through. That the tissue in his ankle might not survive the extreme demands this surgical procedure required. They say, as far as this World Series goes, Schilling might be history.

Wouldn't you say that's already true?

This story is the stuff of legend. Of history being played out before our eyes. This is Kirk Gibson hobbling to the plate against Dennis Eckersley in the World Series. It is Willis Reed limping into Madison Square Garden for the NBA Finals. It is Jack Youngblood playing a Super Bowl on a broken leg.

This is the way Schilling will forever be remembered.

"I don't know who they should get to play him in the movie," first baseman Keith Millar said. "Maybe Mel Gibson. What was that movie? Braveheart? He could be Brave Ankle."

When he woke up Sunday morning, Schilling was certain he was through. The experimental medical procedure that got him through Game 6 of the American League Championship Series seemed to have gone awry this time.

"I woke up at 7 o'clock this morning, which is a big tipoff. I mean, I've never woke up at 7 in the morning for anything in my life," Schilling said. "I wasn't going to pitch. I couldn't walk. I couldn't move. I don't know what happened, but I knew there was a problem."

Red Sox physician Dr. William Morgan had come up with the idea last week to temporarily suture a loose tendon in Schilling's ankle to keep it from popping out of place.

The plan worked for Game 6 of the ALCS last week against the Yankees and the sutures were removed after the game. The procedure was repeated on Saturday, but an extra suture was put in for stability. Apparently, that suture affected a nerve in Schilling's ankle.

When he got to the ballpark, Schilling immediately went to Morgan. The problem was discovered and the extra suture was removed.

Schilling would later walk to the mound and hold the Cardinals to one unearned run in six innings.

"I just wish everybody on this planet," Schilling said, "could experience the day I just experienced."

So today the Red Sox are two victories from winning the World Series. Today they have momentum and, perhaps, providence on their side.

And, to a great degree, they have Schilling to thank. Just a few days ago the Red Sox were in a bind. And Schilling was the only person standing between Boston and another long, hard winter of regret.

Before Game 6 of the ALCS, the Red Sox had few rested pitchers and no margin for error. Schilling, with the newly sewn ankle, got them through.

"He's been a godsend," centerfielder Johnny Damon said. "Without him stepping up and grinding through that game, we'd be at home right now."

So now, Schilling will stand alongside Reggie Jackson. Next to Bob Gibson. Down the row from Whitey Ford and every other player who made their reputations when the leaves began to fall and the pressure started to rise.

Oh, there are other chapters to his life story. He is often commended for his willingness to mingle with fans. And he is quietly chided by teammates for his love of the spotlight and intolerance for criticism.

But those are details. They are not the sum of his work. Schilling, like a select few before him, will be known for dramatics in the clutch. For the way he was willing to take the ball at the most crucial moments for his team.

Schilling's postseason record stands at 8-2 with a 2.07 ERA. Take away his Game 1 start of the ALCS, when he tried pitching without the tendon stitched down, and Schilling is 7-1 with a 1.62 ERA in the postseason.

"That's why he's here," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That's why we wanted him so badly."

In a postseason that has had it all, it was Schilling who gave just a little more.

A little more focus. A little more pain. A little more heart, and a little more bravado.

And, with every pitch he threw, a little more of his blood.

[Last modified October 25, 2004, 04:17:00]

Times columns today
John Romano: Schilling might be history, gutty play is stuff of legend
John Romano: Gimme 5
Gary Shelton: Injury fells Alstott, pains fans

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111