Being Curt: The Schilling Interview
In an exclusive e-mail Q&A with the Boston Dirt Dogs that included reader-submitted questions, Red Sox ace Curt Schilling talks about his ankle, his spirituality, the World Series and the media.
On whether he'll start Game 6 ...
Let's say there was going to be a Game 6 in Boston on Saturday. If the medical team says they can try to sew you up again, can you physically do it without doing permanent damage? Or do you fear you'll be ineffective for any particular reason?
Curt Schilling (CS): "I am preparing for Game 6 just like I did for Game 2. It's really a day to day thing and the medical staff is doing an incredible job, without them I don't take the ball again after game 1 versus NY, AND have to stew on them kicking my ass all winter."
'Act of God': Sunday's events
Now that a couple of days have passed, can you elaborate on the way the day went and the events that took place Sunday? Do people really understand how fortunate you were to be out on that mound? How did Shonda ever manage seeing you in so much pain during these games that you were pushing yourself for the Sox, without it hurting her heart to see you bleeding? I know she knew you were pursuing your dream, but to see you in pain had to be devastating.
CS: "Well as I stated after the game, I woke up around 7 a.m. and immediately knew something was very wrong with my foot. I'd had no real resting soreness or pain since it all started. When I woke up Sunday morning I had what I can only describe as a severe toothache in my ankle. I was walking around the house like a 90-year-old man with a bad wheel. I woke Shonda up, and I called both trainers. I wasn't going to let the day go by without some sort of contingency plan in place when I couldn't take the ball. I knew immediately that pitching was not an option, but I had no clue as to what was wrong. I assumed that the area had become infected at the very least. I got back to sleep around 10 and woke up around 1, and got ready to head to the park, again talking to the trainers prior to leaving.
I also said my first prayer of the day around then too, just asking for some sort of miracle that would allow me to move around and be able to at least take the ball. I left the house and told Shonda that I was not going to be pitching, and that she not need to be in a hurry to get to the park.
"Once I left the house, and started the drive in, which was made a bit tougher since I had to drive with both feet, I saw the customary signs around Medfield, they had been posted when we got into the postseason. But on Sunday they continued pretty much all the way into Boston. There was a fire station that had a huge sign out front wishing me luck, pretty cool stuff. But I also knew at that time, I wasn't pitching, so it was pretty disappointing too.
"Once I got to the yard I met with the training staff, and Doc Morgan and Doctor Theodore. They knew almost immediately that the extra stitch put in this time had pierced a nerve and that was what was causing the problems, so they took it out. This provided almost instant relief. I could now move around and flex my foot a bit more, and once the Marcaine began to work I started to think about the Cards lineup. At that point I knew I'd be able to take the ball. The training staff had worked another miracle.
"Now my thoughts shifted to actually pitching, and Jason and I went about prepping for the game once we got the lineup. Two things jumped out at me, I was sure Womack would lead off, and that Mabry would DH, neither happened.
"I started my pregame work at the same time I have since start one in spring training, this being Sunday meant that I would miss baseball chapel, but I asked a teammate to ask the minister to stay behind if possible so I could chat with him prior to going to the dugout. Once I was finished I met with Walt, the walk up the stairs was a long one, and a heavy one. I had a ton of things going through my mind, not the least was that Game 2 of the World Series was about an hour and 20 minutes off. I asked Walt to pray for me, not to ask the Lord to help me pitch well, or be better than Matt, but just like the New York game I just wanted the strength, His strength, to get me to the mound and allow me to compete. If I could compete I'd accept whatever the results were, just like Game 1 against New York where I had the ability to win, but in that game I got waxed by a better team, and a better pitcher."
"I had been anticipating that walk for four days, Game 2 of the World Series in Fenway, hitting the top step of the dugout in a sold out Fenway to walk to the pen, and the fans, and the noise, and it was exactly what I had hoped it would be. I watched Lieber, Mussina and the others do it in New York, and it was thunderous, awesome, and until you've done it, experienced it, it's something that cannot be described."
"Curt Schilling is a smart guy. He knows what it takes to earn his place in this town," said Dave Micilli, a North Boston dweller. "It's all about Larry Bird and Bobby Orr in Boston. If you want a statue of you in Faneuil Hall, you've got to get blood on your sock," Micilli said. And Micilli shrugged his shoulders, along with his group of Red Sox-rooting buddies who were also amused but skeptical about what it was exactly that was on Schilling's sock."
In a column
on Monday, Laura Vecsey of the Baltimore Sun wrote that she thought it was doubtful that the red on your sock was not real blood. Can you give a definitive answer on what the red stuff on the sock was? Was it blood, painkiller residue, et. al?
CS: "It was blood. The blood was made to be a much bigger deal than it truly was. I had sutures in my ankle, and the sutured area was being torqued. It bled a lot more in NY simply because one of the sutures broke in the bullpen. Prior to that the sutured area was leaking due to the depth they had to go to tie the skin down. So you had a combination of blood and fluid that was slowly leaking during the game. People associate blood with pain, and most times rightly so, but not this time. There was not a lot of pain before or during the games due to the amount of Marcaine and Lidocaine they had put into the joint. The main issue for me was the numbness.
Imagine putting your shoe on and only feeling like half of your foot was actually in the shoe."
"There were also a lot of mitigating circumstances. No one would have ever known the blood existed outside the training staff had Rebook sent me high tops that fit. The first pair they sent me were too small, and the second pair became a problem after the sutures were put in because they were putting too much pressure on the sutured area. In the end I went back to my game shoes from the season. Game 1 in NY I had to tie my shoes about 10 times for one simple reason, Rebook took my game shoes from the season to make the high tops, unbeknownst to be at the time, and I can't tie double knots. So I had a new pair of low tops, with shoe laces way too long. I think Scott Miller wrote that I was trying to draw attention to my ankle by tying my shoes all the time in Game 1, which was false, I was trying to tie my right shoe because it came untied about 10 times and every time I looked up the Yanks were running around the bases. So I was retying my shoe and at the same time trying to take a moment to figure out how the hell I was going to get someone out."
Any reply to Ms. Vecsey on the spirit of her piece?
CS: "Other than she's a bad person? No. 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 off hand. There are so many ironies to these people and what they do. An athlete is quiet like Matt Williams, he's an SOB and a horrible guy (which he wasn't) for not talking to the press. An athlete answers the media's questions in yes/no format, he's dull, he's a cliche-spewing idiot. An athlete answers the media's questions with what he believes, right or wrong, he's a media whore. It's pretty much a no win, especially in markets like Boston and NY, where the sheer volume of media means there is gonna be some crap written every single day. From the first day of my career through today, I have stood in front of my locker, win or lose, and answered every question, including the multitude of stupid ones. I've called one "press conference" in my life, and that was this past winter in Arizona when there were 40 some odd people standing outside my home, and wouldn't leave. Kinda hard to let the kids play with their friends in the yard when people are trying to run satellite wires and cables around your home. I can promise you I've turned down 5 times as many interviews as I have done, much to the chagrin of the PR folks for the teams I have played for.
"Have I said dumb things? Absolutely, who hasn't? But I have never backed away from being called out on something I did or said wrong. I've made mistakes, I've misspoke, I am sure I will again sometime, but that happens, that's part of being human in my book. I'm OK with that. I've never done it maliciously, ever. I've had teammates I didn't get along with, who hasn't?
I've never had a teammate call me a bad guy, while he was my teammate, and if he did when I was gone what kind of teammate was he anyway? I had one teammate in my life that we both knew we weren't meant for each other, and that was on a team that went to the World Series. That guy and I played cards every single day of the season (and he emptied my wallet) because for better or worse we knew we needed each other, and we made it work.
"A great example was the Scott Williamson situation, and the "Varitek Incident". Two very different examples of brutally bad and unethical journalism. Scott Williamson and I had words, but not once, ever, did I question him about being hurt, not once, and I promise you if anyone ever asked him he'd tell you that. So that was a horribly misreported story based on fifth-hand info, which grew into 10th-hand info by the time everyone was yapping about it. Add to that the fact that Scott and I spoke DURING the game in question, IN the clubhouse. So barring him or I telling the media firsthand, whatever came out was second hand info or hearsay. The Varitek incident? Never happened, and Joel Heyman or whatever his name is, lied, period. I was pissed at first, for the sole fact that Tek's respect, and our friendship, is something that matters a lot to me. But after I heard the NY folks commenting about this hack works, it was water under the bridge. Guys like him are going to exist, you understand that once you are around this game awhile. You can't change what they think, or how they do their jobs, you just understand that people like that can never relate to who you are, since they have little or no pride in their professions, and that people like that are more excited about creating news than reporting it. They want you to think they are "in the know", and you aren't. That's another issue that we get a good laugh at. You have what, 700 some odd big league players, which means of the billions of people on this planet, the top 1/2 of 1% in our profession exist here. You take that % of any profession in the world, that minute number of people, and you are dealing with people that operate on a very different level mentally/physically than the rest of the world when it comes to their jobs.
"We are blessed by the Lord with physical skills that others only dream of.
That alone means jack, I played with guys coming through the minor leagues that had 10 times the talent of some of the guys I played with in my big league career. But we are wired different mentally than other people, and that aspect alone makes for a strained relationship with the people that are supposed to 'report' on us. You have every type of personality, guys that are too shy to talk, guys that are afraid to talk, guys that don't have a grasp of the language, guys that love to talk, guys who look down on the media as stupid people, guys that love to talk about themselves. Me? I have always understood that the people in the media have a job to do, there are a boat load of them I really like (Jayson Stark, Bill Simmons, Bill Lyons, Tom Verducci, Dennis Maniloff to name a few) and a boat load of them that don't like me. I am human, when people write bad stuff about me it bothers me, but I know that will never end.
"One of the things that has always bothered me was the media whore thing.
My take on that, and I could certainly be wrong, is that I don't answer questions from the media in a yes/no fashion. I talk, sometimes a lot. I do so because outside of the Lord and my family baseball has been my whole life. I have a passion for this game that supersedes everything else around me. I know that outside of the very few people I meet face to face in life, every single one of you will get to "know me" by what's written, and what's reported. You shape your opinion of me, of us, as athletes, by something being said by a person that on most occasions, has not the first clue what we are like, or about. Now that persons opinion of us, matters greatly in how the story gets to you, because NO ONE is impartial anymore, impartial opinions don't sell papers. If you doubt that check out sports talk TV, and radio. Every single show that's been on longer than an hour is based on point/counterpoint, regardless of topic. Half these guys and gals don't like each other, which in itself makes for good news. So when I talk to the media, I do so unabridged. I think that's a good thing, a lot of people don't. The bottom line for me is that when I retire, and my kids get old enough to someday look back on my career, they won't look back on it, then look at me and ask "who the hell was that guy?" I am who I am, and I have to lay my head on the pillow at night and answer to the Lord, and my family."
Have you read Newsday?
You may remember John Heyman wrote about the "fight" between you and 'Tek during the first Yankees series in New York this season. Then he disappeared from sight until another
column about you recently. Do media members like this make your blood boil? The fact that some believe what they write? Or do you just roll your eyes at this point when you read this stuff by the same guys?
An except from Heyman's column: "As inspirational and impressive as he is on days he pitches, that's how annoying and insufferable Curt Schilling is on all other days. Yesterday was particularly bad because Schilling had a microphone in front of him instead of a batter and was called upon to talk about his three favorite subjects: Me, myself and I. ..."
CS: "Find one comment, one, where I commented on myself without being asked. I thought that was the idea of a press conference? You go there, the media asks you questions about your performance, the team's performance, and you answer them. The worst part of all this is that you, the reader, only get to read what the writer or his editor deems to be "newsworthy".
Which means they can edit and cut quotes to fit their articles, and that usually leads to one of the most often used phrases on the planet nowadays "taken out of context". One example of that is prior to Game 1 of the Yankees series I was being asked about the crowd in NY, I told a story about Terry Mulholland and I when we were in the 1993 playoffs vs. Atlanta.
This was when the tomahawk chop was the new craze. I was getting ready to head to the bullpen, place was packed, the chop was on, and he told me "the best part about being you today is that you have the ability to shut every single one of them up". I was in Yankee stadium in 2001, it was deafeningly loud, by far the best stadium on the planet to be a visiting player for energy, totally electric environment. I told that story, and added at the end, "I can't think of a cooler scenario than making 55,000 New Yorkers shut up". I wasn't talking trash, I wasn't bragging about a performance I had yet to do, I was talking about the challenge of doing it, and how cool it would be to come through. I have a butt load of respect for fans of the Yankees, they are up in the first inning on the first 2 strike count, and they are up every time after that. They know the game, they understand history, they are also the most obnoxious, vulgar humans on the planet when it comes to their team, and the opponents. But when all is said and done that's what makes them the best in the world as a visiting player.
"Bottom line is that you can find out in Yankee Stadium whether or not the world considers you a good player, they don't boo players that suck, they ignore you. If they boo you there's a certain respect, in my mind they are saying 'Hey, you're a good player, but we are gonna kick the (crap) out of you tonight #&%!'
"But as far as the shut up thing, it didn't work, I got waxed and for one night they were free to unload on me and be 100% right, don't talk the talk if you don't plan to back it up, especially in New York."
Doctor has questions
Do you worry that the suturing will have long lasting implications to your mobility?
CS: "I've been told to this point that won't happen."
Did you think about this before, after or during your painful ride into Game 2 of the World Series?
CS: "I was really not looking forward to the Game 2 procedure. My ankle looks like chewed up dog food. Kinda like eating your favorite food until you are sick, then the thought of that food makes you sick forever. The thought of being stuck in the ankle again was below the last thing on my list of 'things I want to do before I die'. But I also knew that there isn't a guy in that clubhouse that wouldn't have done the same thing for us, which made it a whole lot easier in the end."
What drives you? Which is the greater motivating factor for you?
The internal drive to complete the goal that you have set for yourself? The team desire to win? or The fan's support? And if you say it is a combination of all them, what's the breakdown? And what do you do to find that inner drive to keep going? The body can only do so much before the will has to take over.
CS: "It's a combination of all those, I don't know how to break it down.
But to me, and I think most guys in the game it's respect. When I walk out to the mound to pick up that ball, I want the 24 other guys wearing my uniform, and every fan to say, win day. I want the guys on the other side to know I am pitching 4 days before the game. And when I am done I want them to say that I played the game the way it was supposed to be, and that if they had one game to win, one game to decide everything, they'd want me to have the ball. All of these things you earn through consistent achievement. I am proud of the fact that some people considered me a big game pitcher, but if I had come here and gotten my a** beat this October, the previous things I had done in October would be gone, and I'd be like everyone else. I don't want that, I don't want to be the norm, an average big league pitcher. That's what drives me. And after all these years you can add glorifying the Lord's name to that list. I do what I do because of the gifts He gave me and the path He's walked with me, and I think I have finally started to really realize that."
What about God?
While many think you're a great pitcher and a courageous human being, some don't understand why you think the supreme being cares about whether you win a baseball game or not.
CS: "I never said he did."
Don't you pray before every game?
What happens with your god when you lose?
CS: "With my God? Or God? I don't think anything happens to him, but I think pretty much every time I do lose I get taught some sort of lesson. Be it preparation, aggression, execution, or humility."
Wasn't he listening that day?
CS: "He listens everyday."
If there is a supreme being of some sort, some may question whether he cares who wins the World Series. There just might be a few more pressing problems in the world.
CS: "Agreed ... I never asked the Lord for a win, or a strikeout, or to be better than anyone on the other team. I simply asked him to provide with the strength to get to the mound and compete, and to give me the strength to glorify Him when I was done. I have had the opportunity to do this in my career, and until this year I had basically passed. No more. Like every other time in my life when I looked to him for help, for answers, He answered. But this time He answered in a way I felt. I always thought that when I asked, he was supposed to answer in a way I could easily see and understand, but I know now that a lot of times I am asking for one thing when I really mean something else, or asking for something I don't need. So now I stop asking the old way, and start letting Him decide what I need and how I need it.
"There are so many more pressing problems in the world I agree, but I can't be more than one person, so I asked for me, and for everyone on the field, the ability to compete, and do right, and wisdom.
"I proved to myself Game 1 that I didn't have the strength to do it, to overcome whatever it was I needed to overcome, Game 6 and Game 2 were all His. He got me out there, and my teammates took care of the rest.
"If you haven't checked it out, read Philippians 4:13, can't do anything these days without having that reverberate in my head."
How does winning the World Series this year (if in fact you do) affect your decision and ability to pitch into 2007?
CS: "It doesn't."
Will you and the team be as motivated to go for a back-to-back? Or three-peat?
CS: "Not sure I can find a reason not to be motivated, winning in 2001 didn't diminish the desire in 2002."
How smart were you to work in the World Series bonus (Schilling gets a big bonus if the Sox win the Series)?
CS: "Well I guess if we win it looks brilliant doesn't it? I would imagine the Sox aren't as moved by the clause now as they were 10 months ago."
Would you like to see more contracts tied to team performance?
CS: "That's a tough call, I've always thought they were something that fans could appreciate, but in this business putting in performance clauses might cause more problems than it solves."
House of Cards
What do you think the keys are to beating the Cards in their house?
CS: "Pitching, clutch hitting and no extra outs on defense."
Who in your eyes has been the MVP, or the unsung hero, this postseason?
CS: "Honestly there is a case for every single player on the roster at this point. But if I was handing the MVP out, in my opinion right now Keith Foulke is the runaway winner."
How does this team rank among all the teams you've played for?
CS: "So vastly different that there is no comparison."
What do you consider the greatest feat in baseball history? 73 home runs? Seven no-hitters? 56-game hitting streak? 59 scoreless innings?
CS: "Hershiser's streak (59 straight scoreless innings)."
Next season ...
How do you think a World Series win would change the nature of this team going forward? Will it adopt a "see you here next year" mentality or fall into another drought from the pressure of higher expectations?
CS: "I don't know, I just know we need another win to worry about it."
Did hardliners at MLB come down on you for the 'K ALS' writing on your right shoe?
CS: "No, and they shouldn't and won't I don't think."
When it hit you
Can you pinpoint the time that you felt the Red Sox spirit became part of your spirit, and that perhaps, this was no longer just another "run of the mill" ball club?
CS: "I started to get some insight last year when I first got wind of Sons of Sam Horn and was invited to take a peek. Not hard to figure the rest out from there. As far as the team goes, these past few weeks have been the rubber stamp for me."
Split the difference
Who taught you the split-fingered fastball?
CS: "I actually taught myself the split. It started out as a forkball. I was in AA in the Boston org. in 1988 and I was in the bullpen. I was told that I was getting a chance to start and I knew I needed another pitch. I knew how you gripped one, but had never thrown it. I wasn't going to come up with a breaking ball in 4 days, so I tried the split. It worked and from then on it was my out pitch from there on out."
The Pittsburgh thing
Curt can you explain to the folks your Pittsburgh sports history ties for the panicky Nation? And were you a Willie Stargell or Dave Parker guy?
CS: "My father was born and raised in Somerset, Pa. I was raised a Steeler and Pirate fan. My first and only ML game as a fan was Clemente's last game in 1971. Definitely a Stargell guy."