The Evolution of Curt Schilling: Fan Favorite Never Far From the Minds of Red Sox Fans

Curt Schilling (center), Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz celebrate after the Red Sox won the World Series in St. Louis in 2004.
Curt Schilling (center), Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz celebrate after the Red Sox won the World Series in St. Louis in 2004. –AP

From making good on his promise to end an 86-year World Series drought, to launching and ultimately failing with a gaming company, to his recovery from mouth cancer, Curt Schilling never strays too far from the memories of Red Sox fans.

In June 2008, Schilling ended his outstanding 20-year major league career in which he established himself as one of the game’s great clutch pitchers. The six-time All-Star compiled a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA. He pitched for two championship teams during his four years with the Sox. Most recently, Schilling found himself back in the news for some tweets questioning the theory of evolution, and for his son bringing a fake grenade to Logan Airport.

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We look back at Schilling’s memorable moments in Boston.

2003: Enter the Gunslinger

After a tremendous effort by Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and president Larry Lucchino, Schilling was traded to Boston from Arizona in the 2003 offseason, just two years removed from World Series glory there. He vowed to bring the same kind of success to Red Sox fans. Adding Schilling to a rotation that already included Pedro Martinez was a recipe for success.

2004: The Bloody Sock

In his first season in Boston, Schilling pushed himself hard, going 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 203 strikeouts during the regular season. Schilling began having problems with his right ankle early in the 2004 season and received shots before games of Marcaine, a numbing agent. Then in the postseason, despite an ankle tendon that had been surgically repaired in a groundbreaking procedure, Schilling became a living legend, winning key games against the Yankees and Cardinals as the Sox returned to World Series glory.

2004: World Series Champion

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino (L) and Schilling (R) hold the 2004 World Series Trophy as they arrived at Avalon for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Party. —The Boston Globe

Schilling’s ankle required surgery to repair the ruptured sheath around one of his right peroneal tendons after the 2004 season, and he made the championship rounds during his recovery.

2004: Returning the Love

Schilling waves to the fans as parade rolls down Boylston Street near Boston Common. —The Boston Globe

When all was said and done, Schilling’s 2004 campaign was remarkable. He had gone 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA in his first season since 1990 in the American League. The Sox went 25-7 in his games. And, of course, he brought Boston its first World Series in 86 years.

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2004: Schilling’s Presidential Pitch

President George W. Bush receives a jersey from Schilling during a ceremony honoring the Red Sox at the White House. —REUTERS

Shortly after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Schilling — a staunch conservative republican — threw a political pitch for President George W. Bush. The Sox ace endorsed Bush on ABC’s “Good Morning America’’ in October and agreed to make campaign appearances on behalf of the president which infuriated many in Red Sox Nation. Schilling closed out the interview by telling GMA host Charlie Gibson: “And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.’’ Earlier in the year before the Democratic National Convention in Boston, when Senator John Kerry threw out the first pitch of a Sox-Yankees game, Schilling yelled “Go Bush’’ to political reporters who were still in the Red Sox locker room after Kerry had departed.

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2005: Hard Times for Big Schill

Schilling is despondant in the dugout after the top of the ninth inning, having given up a two run home run to the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. —The Boston Globe

Schilling opened the 2005 season on the disabled list, compiled a 8.15 ERA in three starts, and went right back on the DL. He didn’t come back until July, when he reemerged in the closer’s role. He did not have much success out of the pen, saving nine games in 21 appearances with an ugly 5.18 ERA, and allowing an opposing OPS of .816. In eight starts to finish the year, Schilling had similar results, going 3-3 with a 5.08 ERA.

2006: Schilling Notches Career Win No. 200

Schilling reacts to the final out of the sixth inning of a game against the Devil Rays. —REUTERS

2006 was a special year for Schilling, who notched his 200th career win against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on May 27. He also defeated his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies in a June 24 start at Fenway Park, and posted a 15-7 record on the year.

2006: Schilling Founds 38 Studios

Schilling unveils the new “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” video game during the Electronic Arts Inc. annual Studio Showcase. —Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

Video games had long been an off-the-field passion for Schilling. By launching a game studio in Maynard during the final years of his career, he appeared to be setting himself up for a post-baseball venture. (The company is originally called Green Monster Games, but changes its name in 2007.)

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2007: So Close to the No-No

Schilling is congratulated by manager Terry Francona after throwing a one-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. —REUTERS

Schilling came within one out of a no-hitter on June 7 against the Oakland Athletics. Shannon Stewart broke up the gem with a single to the right side, but Schilling finished off the A’s on the next batter.

2007: Schilling Says Goodbye

An emotional Schilling tips his cap to the crowd as he leaves the World Series game against the Colorado Rockies in the sixth inning. —The Boston Globe

Schilling made 31 starts again in 2006, but in 2007 he missed nearly two months with an injury to his right shoulder. His record was only 9-8, and he’d given up 21 homers in 151 innings. And the Yankees had his number all year; he went 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA in five starts against them but Schilling recovered from the shoulder injury in time to give the Sox major contributions down the stretch and in the postseason.

With Boston’s playoff survival on the line in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS, Schilling delivered again, holding the Indians in check for seven innings while the Red Sox offense pounded out 12 runs to send the series to a seventh game. Boston would win, and headed again to the World Series.

In what would be his last game, Schilling was excellent. He allowed just one over 5 1/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series, and delivered a lead to the bullpen in a game the Sox would win 2-1. Schilling went out a winner, with a career postseason record of 11-2 and a career playoff ERA of 2.23. He also owns the best career strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher in the modern era (1900-present).

2008: Schilling Never Returned to Red Sox

Schilling sits with his son Gehrig and his daughter Gabriella before Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball championship between the Celtics and the Lakers —Reuters

A shoulder injury plagued Schilling during the 2007 offseason, but he opted for a non-surgical rehabilitation with the hope of returning in 2008. Schilling revealed in June 2008 that he would have season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder. He was told he would be able to begin throwing again in four months. But his recovery stalled and that was the end of his career as an active player.

2010: Rhode Island Comes Calling

Schilling is followed by members of the media as he departs the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation headquarters in Providence. —AP

Reeling in the wake of the Great Recession, officials from the state of Rhode Island—not known for a squeaky-clean political image—hatched a plan to stimulate things: The state legislature approved a $125 million loan program, which would be used to lure companies to the Ocean State. Most of that money ($75 million) wound up going to Schilling’s 38 Studios. Schilling had reportedly been in touch with some officials well ahead of the passage of the law, and the money was released his way shortly after it was approved. Many legislators have said since that they would have voted differently had they known in advance that such a high percentage of the approved funds would go to Schilling’s fledgling game studio, which—as Boston Magazine reported in 2012—was already showing signs of financial weakness before the deal was made. The deal was completed in November, and 38 Studios moved to Providence in April of the next year.

2012: Bankruptcy

A scene from an unfinished multiplayer online game, code-named “Copernicus,” from 38 Studios. —AP

The company released its first game, Kingdoms of Amalur, in early 2012, and it was received pretty well by the gaming world. But in the spring, 38 Studios missed a payment to the state for the loan in 2012, and the cracks in the company started to show quickly from there. Within weeks, 38 Studios had laid off its entire workforce and shut down. It would claim bankruptcy, and it was soon apparent that Rhode Island would never see most of the money 38 Studios owed, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

The effects of the issue are still reverberating. Schilling himself lost $50 million on the company.

2013: Schilling Joins ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball

Schilling, with his wife Shonda, after being introduced as a new member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2012. —AP

In Dec. 2013, ESPN announced that Schilling would be joining the network’s Sunday Night Baseball team. “I’m excited to join an already outstanding team,’’ Schilling said. “I would like to bring a perspective that will help fans get inside the head of the guy on the mound, and behind the plate, while also helping fans to better understand the work and preparation that goes into pitching in the big leagues.’’ Schilling — who once said he would never become a member of the media after his playing days were over — had served as a Baseball Tonight studio analyst since 2010, and had also provided analysis for select MLB game telecasts on ESPN.

2014: Schilling Reveals He Has Mouth Cancer

Schilling acknowledges the cheers of the crowd as the Red Sox honored the tenth anniversary of the 2004 World Series Championship team at Fenway Park. —The Boston Globe

Schilling announced in February that he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma — which is more commonly known as mouth cancer. Schilling blamed the disease on using chewing tobacco for about 30 years. The former Sox ace — who weighed just over 200 pounds prior to his cancer diagnosis — lost 75 pounds during his treatment. Most of the weight loss was due to the fact that he was unable to swallow. “I’m not going to sit up here from the pedestal and preach about chewing,’’ Schilling said. “It was an addictive habit. Schilling remains on the the comeback trail and re-joined the ESPN “Baseball Tonight’’ team to cover the 2014 World Series, something he says brings some normalcy back to his life.

2014: Schilling’s Road to Recovery

Schilling walks with his son, Garrett, onto the infield at Fenway Park when the Red Sox honored the 2004 World Series team. —AP

In October, Schilling sat down with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and recounted the experiences he’s gone through in battling cancer and said he isn’t looking for any sympathy from anyone. “I brought this on myself,’’ Schilling told MacMullan. “For the last two years I’ve had to stand in front of my wife and kids and explain to them, ‘I lost $50 million and my company went bankrupt and it was all my fault.’ Then I had to stand in front of them and tell them, ‘I have cancer because I dipped.’ They are conversations I wouldn’t wish on anyone.’’ Schilling also spoke about the ongoing dipping problem in baseball and what can be done to ban the dangerous practice in major league baseball. “The way to get it out of baseball is to ban it in stadiums,’’ Schilling said. “Make it a $50,000 fine if a player uses it, and make sure you enforce it. It will mean catching three or four people and putting the hammer down, and then maybe guys will stop messing around with it.’’

2014: 38 Studios Fallout

Schilling, unveiling a game during his time at 38 Studios. —Bloomberg

Meanwhile, the effects of the 38 Studios collapse have not left the news in Rhode Island. They’ve been a constant throughout the year, as the question of whether the state should make repayments on the 38 Studios debt has fueled debate in Rhode Island politics. A lawsuit against Schilling and other parties brought by the state’s semi-public economic development agency, which in 2010 released funds to Schilling, remains in the discovery phase. A lawyer working on behalf of 38 Studios has been alleged by the state to have violated lobbying laws in the run-up to the deal, and Schilling may face similar penalties. A criminal investigation is also underway from the Rhode Island Attorney General, though the feds are not on the case. It’s unclear what that investigation entails, but it’s thought to be focused on Rhode Island lawmakers, as Rhode Island State Police has sought to speak to every lawmaker who voted on the loan guarantee law.

And Schilling and other parties recently reached a $300,000 deal to settle a federal bankruptcy case against the company (which is separate from the suit brought by the state). The bankruptcy settlement was reported by The Providence Journal on Oct. 29, the same day as a setting that just a few years ago seemed so fitting for Schilling—Game 7 of the World Series.

2014: Engages in Evolution Debate With ESPN Colleague on Twitter

Schilling got into a major-league Twitter beef on Nov. 12 when he sent out a series ot tweets attempting to make the case that the theory of evolution is flawed and false and God is behind the creation of mankind.

Baseball analyst Keith Law — Schilling’s colleague at ESPN — joined the debate to defend the scientific evidence behind the evolution theory.

Law went silent on Twitter for several days as Deadspin reported that ESPN brass suspended him from using social media due engaging in Schilling’s creationism vs. evolution debate. ESPN denied Law’s Twitter timeout had anything to do with ’’his opinions on the subject’’ according to Deadspin.

2014: Son’s Fake Hand Grenade Brings Out Bomb Squad at Logan

The Schillings caused a bit of a stir when they left Boston for a family vacation in November. One of the Schilling sons — there are three — inadvertently packed a fake hand grenade for the trip. TSA agents were made aware of the situation when Schilling’s son told his father about packing the toy grenade.

A spokesperson for Massport, which oversees Logan, confirmed there was a Schilling-caused disruption at the airport due to what the TSA defined as “replica explosives,’’ which are not allowed in passenger luggage. The incident did not cause any delays.

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