We have to talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the bloody sock not on the field.
Ahead of Game 2 of the World Series, the Red Sox honored the 2004 team by having a cadre of the legendary Idiots throw out first pitches. David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Keith Foulke, Kevin Millar, and Tim Wakefield were on hand to bring the nostalgia and kick off the game. Now-manager of the Dodgers Dave Roberts even came out onto the field to hug his former teammates, receiving loud applause from the crowd; he’ll always be a Boston hero, no matter what team he’s on.
But among the prominent faces not included in the pregame ceremonies (Manny, Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, and others were absent), was Curt Schilling.
And it’s not really hard to see why. But after many people asked him about it online, Schilling felt the need, as usual, to speak out. He first claimed in a tweet that he understood, but then took to Facebook to express his disappointment in being left out.
But is anyone really surprised that he wasn’t there? A team executive told the Boston Globe, “We did not reach out to him, but it is not out of spite.” It doesn’t have to be spiteful at all, and it probably was not. After all, many of his former teammates were also not present. The Red Sox, and baseball as a whole are trying to make the game more inclusive. The Sox changed the name of Yawkey Way this season. They’re trying to make games more affordable. The majority of the lineup is minorities, and Alex Cora is our first Hispanic manager. Curt Schilling’s outspoken beliefs are the polar opposite of all of that progress.
In 2015, he posted nearly 200 photos to his Facebook page of his “World War II collection,” saying he was “starting to sell stuff due to space issues,” meaning he owns even more than he shared. Nearly three dozen of the photos were of countless Nazi uniforms and other swastika-emblazoned items. He’s also compared Muslim extremists to Nazis on Twitter, but said that he ‘doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.’ In short, it’s a confusing, but disgusting mess.
Today, Schilling’s tweets, occasionally peppered with baseball, are about Anti-Democratic and Anti-Obama conspiracy theories, and promoting his podcast, which is hosted by Breitbart News, Steve Bannon’s hateful media outlet. Schilling was fired from his analyst job at ESPN in 2016 after an offensive tweet about transgender bathroom rights.
And there’s even an uncomfortable moment in the Spring Training segment of MLB’s 2004 World Series movie, a foreshadowing of the Schilling we’d all come to know. During a workout in Florida, Schilling points to a Hispanic player in their group and says, “see? He speaks English.”
Last year, after a massive decline in votes for his Hall of Fame induction, Schilling told Esquire, “If I have to shut up to get in the Hall of Fame, then I don’t want in.” Esquire noted that in 2017, he received fewer votes than Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two legendary players being kept out of the Hall because of their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Schilling told the magazine:
“Given how much I talk, it’s amazing that I haven’t ruined myself.”
A year later, that statement rings even less true than it did when he said it. After all, he was included in the Red Sox’s 2007 Champions 10-year reunion at Fenway last summer. But Schilling has said on his Breitbart podcast that he wants nothing to do with the current owners of the Red Sox, and wouldn’t do anything with them if asked. So I’m not exactly sure what he expected.
It’s really painful to find out your heroes are human, let alone really disappointing, unsavory characters. Boston has watched Schill’s sad story unfold for over a decade now, but every time I rewatch the 2004 World Series DVD (which is often), seeing him in his prime and knowing what he’s going to become is like a dagger to the heart. But the Red Sox are not sweeping him under the rug by excluding him; Schilling no longer deserves to be there. In a moment as rare and glorified as a trip to the World Series, there is no place for a man like him.
Do we owe 2004 Curt Schilling our gratitude? Yes. Does that mean we honor 2018 Curt Schilling alongside people who haven’t spent their retired years spewing hateful rhetoric? Absolutely not.
Photo: The Hill