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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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It wasn't a masterpiece -- just masterful
By JOHN ROMANO, Times Columnist
Published October 26, 2007
Curt Schilling settled into a groove after a shaky start and gave the Red Sox five-plus decent innings, allowing just a first-inning run on a hit batter, a fly out, an infield single, an error and a ground out.
With 216 career victories, Curt Schilling would appear to be short of Hall of Fame standards. But with an 11-2 postseason record, his October credentials should merit some consideration in the discussion.
The old man looks weary.
There is uncertainty in his step, and doubt in his eyes.
For, on this night, it is not just a team he is carrying.
Curt Schilling is also hauling the weight of his name.
It is a burden few can understand. A burden shared only by those who have played as long, and accomplished as much. Truthfully, it is a burden Schilling will not be able to handle very much longer.
What you saw Thursday night in Game 2 of the World Series was not vintage Curt Schilling. Heck, it wasn't even a close facsimile. He does not throw as hard, and he does not intimidate at all.
And, yet, there was something captivating about seeing this master at work on one more October night. Sitting, watching, waiting to determine if he had finally promised more than his body could deliver.
Once and forever, the answer was no.
Schilling allowed the first batter he faced to score, and then gave the Rockies no more. He could not make it through the sixth inning, but he lasted long enough to send the Red Sox on their way to a 2-1 victory and a fat Series lead.
And so the Schilling mystique lives on. He was not as dominant as Josh Beckett the night before, and not as dominant as he was himself in 2001 or 2004, but Schilling was still good enough to further his own legend.
Of starting pitchers with at least 100 innings in the postseason, Schilling has the second-lowest ERA in history behind Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson. That was the responsibility he carried to the mound with him Thursday night and, a couple weeks shy of his 41st birthday, Schilling managed to improve on already-ridiculous numbers.
He is now 11-2 in the postseason and his ERA dropped to 2.23. Along the way he reminded Beckett there is still more work to be done before the young Red Sox ace can claim to be the greatest postseason pitcher of his generation.
"It is his will to make sure the score ends up in our favor," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "I've been around him so long I probably expect unfair things out of him. It's a good feeling when he pitches. Whatever the situation, you know he's going to be prepared for it."
What's fascinating is how Schilling pulled it off in Game 2. While Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez was hitting 98 mph on the radar gun, Schilling was surviving at 88 mph. He was moving pitches in and out, and up and down and throwing his sinker whenever he absolutely needed an out.
"I'm a very different pitcher now," Schilling said. "Whereas I used to be able to exploit with one pitch exclusively, now I've got to be able to use multiple pitches in different spots."
It is a lesson that was a while in coming. For the longest time, Schilling fought the notion that he was no longer a pitcher of uncommon ability. He was hit hard for a couple of months this season before finally accepting that he was going to have to change styles. He was not going to be able to challenge hitters as much, and he was going to have to rely much more on guile and gumption.
"The frustrating part is gone," Schilling said. "Part of getting to the point of using the stuff effectively was getting past the frustrating part, accepting the fact that I'll go out and get loose and whatever it is, it is. That's what I have to work with."
So it takes more preparation between starts. It takes more time studying videotapes. And, on a cold night like Thursday, it takes a few minutes of stretching in the dugout tunnel beneath the stadium to stay loose between innings.
By the time he reached the sixth inning, Schilling's arm was spent.
"I've been around him so long, I know his body language well," Francona said. "He was fighting it in that last sixth inning."
His career is near its end. Schilling has acknowledged that repeatedly, even musing about the seemingly farfetched possibility of finishing up in Tampa Bay in 2008.
With 216 career victories, Schilling would appear to be short of Hall of Fame standards. But on nights such as this, you wonder how much more weight might be assigned a pitcher who virtually owns October.
In the minutes before the start of Game 2 Thursday night, Boston's relievers made the walk from the first-base dugout to the bullpen in centerfield. The stadium video board was playing highlights of the postseason, and a half-dozen pitchers stopped on the grass and watched attentively.
Meanwhile, inside the bullpen, Schilling was completing his pregame warmup.
It was, in its own way, a far more interesting sight.