Sock hop

If he’d just slapped on a Band-Aid, or wrapped some gauze around the thing at the very least, we wouldn’t be here, almost three years later, having this ridiculous debate.

Then again, that famous shot of the bloody sock, a red splotch escaping its way through white stitching, wouldn’t adorn the walls of your rumpus room either, a lasting memory of the improbable events of those 10 days in 2004.

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling came under fire last night while he was dispatching the Baltimore Orioles in a 6-1 Boston win, when Baltimore broadcaster Gary Thorne, he of the undisputed best hockey-calling pipes, claimed that Doug Mirabelli had informed him that what was on Schilling’s sock that night at Yankee Stadium wasn’t in fact blood, but paint.

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The Joy of Sox blog has the complete transcript from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcast:

Jim Palmer: He’s 40 years old. He asked the Red Sox to pick up an option for next year. And Theo Epstein said we’re not in the business of picking up options for 41-year old pitchers, but if you pitch well, we’d love to have you back.
Gary Thorne: 0-2 delivery in the dirt.
Palmer: Of course, he announced it on his blog.
Thorne: Oh yeah. Well nothing’s done by Curt Schilling unless it’s on his blog.
Palmer: Well, there’s a great line here. It says “No mere sports reporter could hope to be as authoritative on the subject as Schilling himself. For the avid fan, reading Schilling on Schilling may offer the sort of enlightenment an art historian might expect if a diary were to suddenly be discovered in which Rembrandt set down self-critical evaluations of every brush stroke shortly after removing his smock and cleaning his brushes.” That was an editorial in the Globe …
Thorne: And there was no punctuation in that by the way.
Palmer: No, no.
Thorne: Bako’s got a 1-2 count here.
Palmer (laughs): Well, 2 strikes, 2 outs, I had to get it in there in a hurry.
Thorne: It’s good.
Palmer: But the Globe’s just talking, I mean that’s Curt.
Thorne: Well, the press hates him in Boston —
Palmer: Yeah.
Thorne: … because he doesn’t cooperate. 1-2 delivery and that one’s taken in the dirt. The great story we were talking about the other night was that famous red stocking that he wore when they finally won, the blood on his stocking. Nah. It was painted. Doug Mirabelli confessed up to it after. It was all for PR. Two ball, two strike count.
Palmer: Yeah, that was the 2004 World Series.
Thorne: Yeah.
Palmer: That second appearance.

The blog also points out that Palmer had broken down earlier in the broadcast how Nolan Ryan was the one to deliver a young Schilling a much-needed pep talk in the late ’80s. Eh, right-handed Texan, close enough …
This, of course, is not the first time that Schilling’s sock has come into question, as plenty over the years have imagined it was ketchup or red marker on the cloth, submitted for dramatic effect. It was soon after the World Series that former Baltimore Sun columnist Laura Vecsey wondered aloud just how genuine an artifact the sock really was. Oddly enough, Vecsey’s old archive at the Sun features columns as early as 2002, but none later than Aug. 31, 2004.
The Baseball Zeitgeist blog reminds of a pertinent entry from that piece:

“But there’s a contingent of baseball watchers, including Red Sox Nation faithful, who wouldn’t put it past Schilling to embellish the theatrics surrounding the management of this ankle problem.
” ‘It could have a little blood mixed in there, but we’ll have to check it out with the trainer,’ ” Red Sox director of public information Glenn Geffner said.
“On that score, we give you the New York Yankees – not that they’re a totally credible source, considering their postseason misery at the hands of Schilling and the Red Sox.
“Manager Joe Torre did posit the idea that the Yankees didn’t bunt more on Schilling in that fateful Game 6 of the American League Championship Series because they weren’t really sure how hurt he was.
“Even factoring in the sour grapes, word out of New York is that some Yankees players wouldn’t put it past Schilling to dab his sock with red magic marker, or apply generous amounts of Mercurochrome – anything to amplify the Red Sox’s amazing postseason run and, of course, to hoist his stature.”

Schilling responded to Vecsey’s claims days later in an online Q and A session with Boston Dirt Dogs, saying: “There are a lot of her in that industry, Pedro Gomez, Joel Heyman, to name a few. People with so little skill in their profession that they need to speculate, make up, fabricate, to write something interesting enough to be printed. What makes them bad people? I am sure I cannot nail the exact reason, but I know some. Jealousy, bitterness, the need to be ‘different’ – I am sure there are others, but those are the ones I know offhand.”
Which is pretty much how he summed up the whole incident last night to the Globe’s Gordon Edes: “There are some bad people in your line of work, man.”
Putting aside for a moment Schilling’s continued obsession with the media’s evil ways, let’s analyze the facts, shall we? Schilling was indeed operated on, as this photo (warning for the queasy) can certainly attribute, and yes, he more than likely was bleeding when said suture procedure was done by Dr. Bill Morgan. Still, wrapping the darn thing wouldn’t have hurt, would it? Except the dramatic effect, of course.
Schilling knew exactly what he was doing, or at least at some point he did. It’s debatable whether he understood that first night in the ALCS what kind of reaction his bloody sock would prompt, that it would launch him into folk hero status amongst Red Sox fans. But it’s tough to argue that a few nights later – waking up in pain and almost not pitching that evening he maintained afterward – when another bloody sock at Fenway Park in the World Series, this time accompanied by “K ALS” on the shoe, it wasn’t clear that Schilling knew the shoes were going to be the story, and that the camera would be focused on them all night. Should we have a problem with that? If this were David Wells, it would have read “PokerStars.net” on his Pumas.
But now, what if he wasn’t bleeding as badly the second time around, yet his ego still felt the need to be the center of attention, as if winning Game 2 of the World Series in Boston wouldn’t cut the mustard alone. Was there a little, shall we say, movie magic involved?
Here is Exhibit A, the sock from Game 6 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, blown up 300 percent.
red1.jpg
Exhibit B is the sock from Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park.
red2.jpg
You’ll notice Exhibit B is a slightly lighter shade of red, which could be the result of it being paint, ketchup, or marker, as well as the very possibility that the lighting and sock weight were different that night. Who knows. You could argue embellishment, but the results are inconclusive.
In Exhibit C, what we’ll call the Bovine Example, we present the sock that resides in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
cow.jpg
The sock is purportedly from Game 2 of the World Series, still stained with the blood from Schilling’s ankle, dark shades accompanied by splashes of red seem to suggest that. But is it paint we’re looking at, crafted into some artist rendering of the amoeba dance? Or maybe, there was a sock switch. Call “CSI.”
This is the second time this spring that Thorne has been at the center of controversy involving Schilling. It was the Bangor native who announced during a spring training broadcast last month, along with the flirty Erin Andrews, that Jonathan Papelbon would be tabbed the Red Sox closer. Of course, a few innings later, Schilling busted out the news and confirmed it on his blog, which got Terry Francona all in a huff, and probably ESPN too, which found itself scooped by the pitcher’s new medium.
Thorne hasn’t come close to anything as controversial as last night’s statements in his weekly Bangor Daily News column (Red Sox-Yankees good for baseball? You don’t say), but I’d sure like to read an explanation this week on just what exactly he was talking about. When did this conversation with Mirabelli take place? Was he joking? If Thorne were to stand his ground, it’d make for a great piece of reading this week. That said, I’m sure we can look forward to “David Ortiz gets big hits” instead.
It may not have been his intention, but Thorne has thrust himself into the center of controversy, the whistle-blower with no proof besides an informant who maintains that he is “[expletive] lying.” But then, why would Thorne even say anything and get himself into a slanderous mess?
It should make for an interesting Camden Yards afternoon at the very least.