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Hole uncovered in sock story

Orioles broadcaster says he misunderstood Mirabelli's response

BALTIMORE -- Kevin Millar was about to take a few swings in batting practice when Jason Varitek, on his way back from hitting in the cages near the Orioles clubhouse, took a detour to say hello.

Millar: "So, was it paint or blood?"

When Daisuke Matsuzaka walked into the visitors' clubhouse, he saw a large group of reporters and TV cameras in a tight circle in the vicinity of his locker. Noting the puzzled expression on his face, Jonathan Papelbon, who was playing cards in the middle of the room, decided to help.

"They're talking to Masa," Papelbon said, referring to Matsuzaka's interpreter, Masa Hoshino. "You've just been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers."

With a quick translation from a Japanese reporter, Matsuzaka broke into a wide smile. Moments later, after catcher Doug Mirabelli, the member of the Sox traveling party actually in the center of the scrum, broke free, Mike Timlin stood in front of his locker, clapping.

So it was here yesterday in the aftermath of Bloody Sock Redux, in which an on-air remark by Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne that Curt Schilling in the 2004 postseason wore paint, not blood, on his sock and that Mirabelli had told him so created a national stir but was treated more with amusement than angst by most of those in uniform.

The exceptions were Schilling, who declined comment, and Mirabelli, who spoke with Thorne in a phone call requested by the broadcaster through Sox PR man John Blake, before clubhouses opened yesterday.

"It's not like the NCAA is going to put us on probation," said Sox manager Terry Francona, who said his phone started ringing at about 7 a.m. after Thorne's comments appeared in print. "Somebody said something, it got some legs, like everything does in Boston, and then it will quickly go away.

"We haven't lost a game since it happened."

While Schilling, as of last night, hadn't even blogged about the matter, Mirabelli and Thorne addressed what they both called a misunderstanding, stemming from a conversation neither of them could recall with acuity.

"We both came to understand what he said and I heard were two different things," said Thorne, who did the play-by-play last night on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, just as he'd done Tuesday night when he casually commented that Mirabelli said the bloody sock was a fake.

Thorne said he didn't recall when he spoke with Mirabelli. "I don't know if it was a year ago or two years ago," he said.

"He was with the Sox [Mirabelli was with San Diego last April].

"It was one of those 'before the game' things in the clubhouse. I remember asking him about something, it wasn't even about the sock we were talking about. It was something else, like one of those 'last question' things."

Mirabelli said his foremost concern was that Schilling understood that he had never said what Thorne attributed to him. "Curt's fine," Mirabelli said. "Curt's a very good friend. It never crossed his mind that I said that."

Mirabelli said Thorne told him he'd asked about the sock, Mirabelli had replied, "Yeah, we got a lot of publicity from that," and from that comment Thorne had concluded the blood was fake. "I think he felt bad about it," Mirabelli said. "He knows he made a mistake."

Thorne, who said Mirabelli never said anything about paint, also spoke with Francona yesterday but did not speak with Schilling, though he said he gave Blake his phone number if Schilling wanted to talk.

"I reported what I heard and what I honestly felt was said," said Thorne, a Maine native who said he never imagined the attention his comments generated. "Having talked with [Mirabelli] today, there's no doubt in my mind that's not what he said [and] that's not what he meant.

"He explained why, in the context of the sarcasm and the jabbing that goes on in the clubhouse, [and] that I understand. I took it as something serious, and it wasn't."

Allan Wood, a Red Sox fan who lives in Ontario and has his own blog (Joy of Sox), was watching the Orioles' feed Tuesday night, and e-mailed a Globe reporter with Thorne's comments. Sox chairman Tom Werner said yesterday morning that the fake blood story was "preposterous."

Dr. Bill Morgan, the orthopedist who performed the innovative procedure on Schilling's right ankle that allowed him to pitch in the 2004 postseason, was dumbfounded. "C'mon," Morgan said yesterday from the Fallon Clinic in Worcester, "we all know what the reality is. I don't know where that comes from.

"I drilled a whole bunch of holes in the guy's ankle when we put the sutures in, we put a dressing on them, and the blood soaked through the dressing. The sock is like a sponge. It doesn't take a whole lot of blood, but there's like a capillary effect."

Was Schilling bleeding profusely?

"Hey, my definition of profusely and yours may be very different," he said. "I operate every day. To me, a pint of blood a second may be bleeding profusely. Anyone who's ever had stitches knows there's going to be oozing from the wound. I put a bunch of stitches in the guy, and then he had to go out there and pitch at a professional level. The sutures were tugging at the skin, it opened up a little bit. The thing expanded right before our eyes."

Morgan said he repeated the procedure before Schilling pitched Game 2 against the Cardinals in the World Series.

"The exact same thing was done," Morgan said. "We took the sutures out after the first game, because we were worried about infection. The second game, we put the sutures in, there was some bleeding, we applied a dressing, it oozed through."

The World Series sock is now on exhibit at Cooperstown.

"I would love to have the bloody sock in my cellar," said Morgan, who was the team doctor at the time but now works for three professional sports teams in Worcester: the Sharks, the Tornadoes, and the Surge. "Don't think I didn't say to Schill, 'Where's the sock?' Unfortunately, I don't have it."

Jeff Idelson, vice president of communications and education for the Baseball Hall of Fame, said the Hall has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the bloody sock Schilling wore in Game 2 of the 2004 World Series.

Idelson was in the visitors' clubhouse after the Sox won the World Series and asked Schilling if he would be willing to donate the specially designed shoe he wore in the game, the one in which he had inscribed "K-ALS" on the back. That was of particular interest to the Hall, Idelson said, because two Hall of Famers -- Lou Gehrig and Jim "Catfish" Hunter -- died of ALS; indeed, the disease is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Schilling handed Idelson the shoes, then said: "How about the sock?" Idelson readily accepted, and later that fall, the parents of Schilling's wife, Shonda, drove to Cooperstown and delivered the sock.

"We have no reason to doubt anything," Idelson said. "Curt has a pretty profound respect for the history of the game, and is cognizant of his role in it. We have known him only as someone of outstanding character."

The shoes and sock are displayed in the Hall's World Series exhibit.

"And three years later," Idelson said, "the blood stain that once was red is now a hue of brown, which is what happens to blood over time."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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