Following the retirement of any athlete comes the inevitable examination of his career to see whether it meets the standards worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration. Curt Schilling, one of the greatest pitchers of his era, retired on Monday.
Now that he has retired, the focus on his return shifts to examining his legacy. Even though his statistics may suggest that Schilling may not be worthy of a Hall-of-Fame slot, the memory of his career should suggest otherwise.
11-2. That is the greatest postseason record by a pitcher with at least 10 decisions. Schilling holds that record in the postseason, as well as three World Series Championship rings, and one World Series MVP award.
Those numbers alone should tell the story of how clutch Curt Schilling was during his career in an era that includes postseason legendary performers such as Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson, Josh Beckett, and others. However, Schilling's postseason accomplishments can be summarized by one fateful game in 2004.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox, whom Schilling had signed with at the beginning of the season and promised a championship to, were on the ropes against the New York Yankees. After a mircle comeback in back-to-back games gave the Red Sox a fighting chance at winning the series, they still trailed 3-2 in the series.
Their travel to Yankee stadium for Game six was, by most people's opinion, the end of a valiant effort by the Sox.
Curt Schilling had gone under open ankle surgery to suture a torn tendon to his right ankle bone prior to Game Ssx. The gametime temperature was below freezing. Blood from the surgical wound soaked through his sock. Schilling grimaced with every pitch and with every push off the injured ankle.
Schilling fought through not only the pain of his wound, but also the hostile crowd and pressure of saving a cursed team to pitch seven shutout innings. People who watched that game will surely never forget what they saw. I still get goosebumps watching the TiVo recording, which will never be deleted from my TV.
All postseason accomplishments aside, Schilling had a brilliant regular season career as well. Schilling finished with a 216 wins and a 3.46 ERA. He is tied for 80th on the career wins list and his 3,116 strikeouts ranks 15th overall. However, not even these stats may ensure his status as a definite Hall-of-Famer.
Off the field, Schilling was known as a free-speaker who often rubbed many reporters and writers the wrong way with his often controversial opinions. These same writers and reporters may take this bias against him when using their Hall-of-Fame vote. Schilling's regular season numbers are borderline elite, especially his only 216 wins.
However, Hall-of-Fame status should be based on memory rather than stats. When one thinks of Curt Schilling, they do not think of the numbers, but instead of a pitcher who dominated the majority of the games he pitched in, especially when he pitched in the most important games.
Statistics cannot account for the aura of greatness which Schilling exhibited during the prime of his career. Just as stats cannot give complete justice to performances such as Pedro's 1999, Josh Beckett's performances against the Yankees, Derek Jeter's importance to his team and his postseason moments like his backhand flip and his stint as "Mr. November."
The "bloody sock" game that Schilling pitched will never be forgotten in baseball history, as the sock that he wore is enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame. Hopefully the many other games that he pitched will be given the same attention, and Schilling will have his Hall-of-Fame plaque rest next to his bloody sock, where it belongs.