I was both heartened and frustrated by the news last week that at least one BBWAA member requested to amend their ballot to remove their votes for Curt Schilling. This change came in light of the former pitcher’s vocal support of the January 6th insurrection and the highly inflammatory tweets he has posted since, though of course, this isn’t anything new for him.
Yes, it’s great that some of the journalists endowed with the power to induct a former ball player in Cooperstown are finally realizing that Schilling should not taint those hallowed halls. What bothers me is that it took them this long.
Schilling has been a bad person for a long time now. He does not try to hide it. Both his actions and words have shown that he does not deserve baseball’s highest honor. In fact, he has said that he does not want it. He has been excluded from Red Sox events and fired from ESPN, so why allow him to fail upwards and be forever enshrined in Cooperstown?
Of the nearly-20,000 players who have had the honor, good fortune, and talent to play Major League Baseball, only 263 are enshrined in Cooperstown, and only 83 pitchers. Curt Schilling does not deserve to join these elite ranks.
At this point, I’ve heard pretty much every argument there is to induct him. So many people have tried to convince me that he deserves to be there, and that as a Red Sox fan, I should want him there because of his part in reversing the Curse. That argument probably works better on non-Jewish Red Sox fans.
The obvious arguments in his favor are his career numbers, his championships, that darn bloody sock. The more creative answers usually talk about how racists like Cap Anson are already in Cooperstown, or that Schilling only became a bad person after he retired, though it’s pretty improbable that he became a racist bigot in his 40s, out of the blue.
I will briefly refute one of the claims I see most frequently, and say that having bad people in the Hall of Fame is not an excuse to extend that golden ticket to more of them. Two wrongs don’t make a right. By that logic, we are no better today than we were in 1939, when Anson was inducted in the Hall’s inaugural year, over a decade after his death. That was 8 years before Jackie Robinson would break MLB’s color barrier, Hitler was about to invade Poland, there was no Polio vaccine, and man had not yet walked on the moon. In some ways our world is drastically different, but in many ways relevant to this conversation, it remains quite unchanged; the evils of racism and white supremacy are still thriving today, a massive stain on our country. But we should know better by now. We have to be better. These figures of our past are not ones to aspire to emulate or replicate, regardless of their ERAs or strikeout percentages.
The Character Clause found in the criteria for induction is short and vague, and as such, many like to pretend it does not even exist. It is certainly is open to interpretation, particularly when it comes to a player’s character during his career versus later in life. But unlike most borderline HOFers, Curt Schilling is not mired in a grey area. He is starkly bad, a person with so much hate in his heart that it feels impossible he could be the same smiling man I rooted for as a kid in 2004, someone I once considered a hero. But again, the likelihood that he simply woke up one day after retiring in 2007 and decided to hate multiple groups of people and spew vitriol and conspiracy theories all over social media is unlikely; more likely, a part of Schilling has always been this way.
“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”Cooperstown’s Character Clause
In the 13+ years since his career ended, Schilling has become one of the most problematic athletes of the 2000s, growing more and more unlikable with every tweet. To recap his many unpalatable moments would take far too long, but his greatest hits include the transphobic comments that led to his ESPN firing, thinking journalists should be lynched, Islamophobic tweets, his podcast with alt-right media company Breitbart, and of course, his massive collection of Nazi artifacts. (I’ve provided links because I’ve been told to “prove it” so many times by people on social media who don’t like to Google things before they reply to someone.) Most recently, he was an ardent supporter of the January 6th insurrection and has not quieted down about it in the aftermath.
While there is certainly a conversation to be had about removing bad apples from the Hall, in the meantime, voters certainly shouldn’t add more, especially one as rotten as Schilling. People love to call him ‘controversial,’ a ‘lightning rod,’ or ‘outspoken,’ but Schilling is all of that and worse. He is an unhinged, hateful person. Do not minimize him, his platform, the impact of his words, or what his induction in the Hall of Fame would mean. It’s an insult to women like my grandmother, who never got to meet her extended family, because almost all of them perished in the Holocaust at the hands of the people whose clothing and belongings Schilling loves to collect. It shows trans people and Muslims that baseball does not respect them. It shows children that you can be a terrible person to so many fellow human beings, but as long as you have a wicked curveball, you’ll be rewarded with eternal glory. And possibly the most baffling to me of all: how can you, BBWAA voters, vote for a man who thinks journalists like yourselves belong hanging from trees? He has continued to show disdain for you and your profession, even as recently as this week.
Curt Schilling has been showing us who he is for a very long time now. I’m glad some of you have finally figured it out, but I truly can’t believe it took you this long. And to those of you still voting for him, what is it going to take?
Curt Schilling was not elected to the Hall of Fame tonight. In fact, for the first time since 2013, none of the candidates on this year’s ballot made the cut. Schilling has since released a statement saying that he does not want to be on his final ballot in 2022.
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