For Boston Red Sox fans like me, Curt Schilling is a larger-than-life figure akin to the western gunslingers. He rode into Boston in 2004 with the goal of ending a World Series drought that had lasted 86 years. He not only acknowledged the challenge, he embraced it. With a self-confidence bordering on swagger, he walked to the center of town and vowed to take on all comers. Then he delivered.
Not only did Schilling win, he did it in heroic fashion. No baseball fan, inside or outside of Red Sox Nation, will soon forget his performance in Game Six of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. Facing elimination for the third straight game, Schilling pitched the Red Sox to victory despite an ankle so injured that blood seeped through onto his sock.
I was fortunate enough to be in Fenway Park when he walked off the mound for the last time, in Game Two of the second World Series he played in for Boston, and into Red Sox history.
After his retirement, however, things have not gone as well for Schilling. Unlike his exploits on the field, he has not covered himself in glory.
On November 1, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. sued Schilling for fraud, saying he and other employees of his 38 Studios videogame development company misled state officials into guaranteeing a $75 million loan. In 2012, 38 Studios laid off all of its workers and declared bankruptcy.
It was a harsh dose of real-life for Schilling, and a stark reminder that on-field heroism doesn’t always translate to off-field success.
”I am confident that when the claims against me are adjudicated, it will be determined that the claims were brought against me for political reasons, not based on any alleged wrongdoing on my part,” Schilling wrote in a statement following the lawsuit filing.
Perhaps the confidence gained through a baseball career that could, potentially, lead Schilling eventually to the Hall of Fame needed to be tempered when he left the field for the business world. Big-time baseball stars don’t often have people around them who tell them when they are overreaching. Or maybe Schilling’s claim that the lawsuit is a political stunt are correct. Regardless, it is sad to see someone so recently on top of the world being quickly sunk so low.
For Red Sox fans, however, it is easy to keep accomplishments on the field separate from failures off of it. To us, Schilling’s critical role in overcoming the Yankees three-games-to-none lead in the 2004 ALCS, and the subsequent, joyful World Series triumph, can never be tarnished.
Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.