Schilling's playoff heroics on the table for Hall voters
From toppling a dynasty to the bloody sock, right-hander was stellar in postseason
Schilling's career is already defined by rings on his fingers and blood on his sock, not to mention a glittering postseason resume that can pretty well match any starting pitcher in history.
But there is now a crowning moment that Schilling is eligible for, and it's the highest honor a baseball player can receive -- the Hall of Fame.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Shortstop Barry Larkin (86.4 percent) earned his ticket to Cooperstown on the 2012 ballot. Starting pitcher Jack Morris (66.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2013 election will be announced on Jan. 9.
Schilling is part of a 2013 ballot that also includes Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio.
"Honestly, and people find it hard to believe, I don't think about it unless someone asks me about it," Schilling said in an interview with MLB.com earlier this year. "I'm done playing. I'm not going to strike anybody else out; I'm not going to win any more games. I did what I did."
What Schilling did was go 216-146 for a career winning percentage of .597. His ERA was a solid but unspectacular 3.46, and the fact he played during an era when offense was dominant should be noted. While notching 3,116 strikeouts over 3,261 innings, Schilling walked just 711 batters, pitching for the Orioles, Astros, Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox from 1988-2007.
Schilling is 15th on baseball's all-time strikeouts list. Of the 14 men in front of him, the only ones who aren't Hall of Famers (Randy Johnson, Clemens, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez) haven't been on the ballot yet.
If the regular-season numbers don't sufficiently impress the voters enough, perhaps his October accomplishments will.
Schilling was a central rotation member for four teams -- the 1993 Phillies, 2001 D-backs, '04 Red Sox and '07 Red Sox -- that made it to the World Series. Only the Phillies didn't win it all.
The big righty made 19 postseason starts in his career, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.
"I'm proud to have done what I did," said Schilling. "I know I said in '92, my wife and I were talking about what I wanted in my career, and we had a conversation about aspirations in baseball. I said, 'I want to be, when I retire, I want the 24 guys who suited up with me to say, life or death game, who do you want to have the ball? Me.' I want the other guys in the dugout to say, 'OK, life or death game, who do you not want to face? Me.'
"That what was what I wanted to walk away with, and I feel comfortable that I got close to that. Contrary to what I think some people think about me, I was a good teammate. I loved the game. I did everything I could do every time I was given the ball."
Though Schilling fancies himself as a baseball historian, he said that his Hall of Fame candidacy isn't something that keeps him up at night.
"I played with Randy Johnson," said Schilling. "And Pedro wasn't at his best when I played with him, but he should be a unanimous choice. I played with a hobbling Dale Murphy. The guy was the most dominating player in the '80s for a while. I don't understand how he's not in the Hall. If it doesn't work out, I can look at some guys who don't have plaques and say, 'Wow, I'm all right."'
Schilling has been outspoken against performance-enhancing drug users. Though Schilling is emphatic that he never used, he doesn't shy away from holding some accountability for the era that he played in.
"At the end of the day, it's the thing that allows me to converse with my kids about it," said Schilling. "Doing things the right way. I didn't cheat. [Others] did. There's a lot more of them that cheated than I ever thought and that's -- a lot of that is on us. It's on us as players. It absolutely falls on guys like myself and other guys who didn't cheat for not doing anything about it. We're a players' union. We could have done something about it. We chose not to. That falls squarely on us."
Whether or not Schilling winds up in Cooperstown, he had a career filled with indelible moments.
Who could forget Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, when Schilling had a loose ankle tendon sewn back into place so he could pitch? With blood leaking through to his sock, he won that game, keeping the Red Sox alive in their quest to become the first team in history to recover from an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series. They did so.
Schilling went through the painful procedure again before Game 2 of the '04 World Series, and silenced a heavy-hitting Cardinals' team. The Red Sox swept, winning their first World Series since 1918.
In 2001, he teamed with Johnson to dethrone the Yankees, who had won the World Series the three previous seasons.
"October gave you something you didn't have from an adrenaline perspective. But I think there was a sense of accountability and responsibility I wanted," Schilling said. "I wanted everything to matter on me. I wanted that ... there's a couple of statistics or things I walked away from that I remember. And I know stats. I know my stats. I believe the number is five.
"I pitched in five win-or-go-home games. My team was 5-0 in those. I never lost a game that would end my team's season. Every game I took the ball, we won those games. I loved that."
Though Schilling's heroics for Philadelphia in '93 are overshadowed by what he did for Arizona and Boston, that's where his postseason lore started.
"I remember my first postseason game against Atlanta in '93. We weren't supposed to beat them," Schilling said. "Maddux and [John] Smoltz and [Tom] Glavine and [Steve] Avery. [Terry] Pendleton, [Ron] Gant. We were the scruffy dudes from Philly. And I went out there and struck out the first five hitters of the game. In five hitters, the entire momentum of the series I thought changed. I realized what I was capable of doing by myself on the mound. I realized -- that's powerful."
While some players have fuzzy memories of their accomplishments, Schilling remembers everything down to the smallest detail.
"In the '93 World Series, we're down 3-1," Schilling said. "[The Blue Jays] scored 15 runs the night before; this offense had the top three hitters in the American League -- [John] Olerud, [Roberto] Alomar and [Paul] Molitor -- and we win 2-0. I learned in those games that, as a starting pitcher, it's just like being a quarterback. I can change everything based on my actions."
His peak, Schilling remembers clearly, was 2001.
"I still believe that the '01 postseason, those were the best 48 innings I ever threw," Schilling said. "I threw 305 innings that year and my best 48 were at the end."
Not only craving the October spotlight, but thriving in it, is something that separated Schilling from a lot of others.
"I've talked to guys, great players, unbelievable players, Hall of Fame players who were teammates, who were terrified of October," Schilling said. "They viewed that as a way to screw up everything you did during the season. I was like, 'Wow, what a loser mentality that is.' You realize in life, that's exactly how life is. Fear is a motivator or a paralyzer -- it's one of the two. I was always motivated by it."
Time will tell if that motivation was enough to punch Schilling a ticket to baseball immortality in Cooperstown, N.Y.