These days, Curt Schilling is not quiet about his baseball fandom. Shunning Mystique and Aura, he spits in the faces of the Yankees — and most notably Alex Rodriguez — whenever he can, and he worships the insufferable altar of Theo Epstein. Don’t make the mistake of today confusing him for a Yankee fan or else the public reaction will be swift and merciless. Just ask Martha Coakley.
But Schilling, many in Massachusetts seem to forget, wasn’t always a Boston supporter. A product of Anchorage, Alaska, Schilling was drafted by the Red Sox and traded to Baltimore before making his Major League debut. Along the way, he picked up an appreciation for baseball history and grew to idolize Lou Gehrig so much that he named his son Gehrig. Love the history, hate the team? I don’t know about that.
These days, of course, Curt Schilling hates the Yankees. At his introductory press conference in 2003, he set the stage by proclaiming to a room full of Red Sox reporters, “I guess I hate the Yankees now.” I’ve heard of bandwagon fans, but Schilling must be one of the most prominent bandwagons haters. I guess.
For some illuminating material, let’s revisit the Schilling trade to the Red Sox. He was, after all, nearly a Yankee. I covered the tortured history of the Schilling deal last March when Curt announced his retirement from baseball. At the time, I wrote:
[In mid-November, Jack] Curry uncovers an early price tag: The Diamondbacks would swap Schilling and Junior Spivey for Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson. Today, that doesn’t seem like quite a high price, but five and a half years ago, it did to the Yankees. (Of note: Curry also reports for the first time that the Rangers would be open to trading Alex Rodriguez. It’s an early sign of things to come.)
By Friday, the Yankees had moved on to Javier Vazquez. The Yankees would not, according to Curry, “trade their two best young players for Schilling because they feel the monetary relief they would be giving Arizona eliminates the need for them to trade equal talent.” At that point, Schilling also expressed his desire to go to only the Yankees or the Phillies. Brian Cashman left the GM meetings with the team feeling insulted by the Diamondbacks’ offers.
That would, of course, be the end of it. The Yanks refused to budget; the Diamondbacks refused to budge. Despite Schilling’s public desire to play in New York, the two sides could not work out a deal, and when Theo Epstein turned on the Thanksgiving charm, the Boston/New York rivalry would never be the same.
There’s more to it than that. Jayson Stark spoke with Schilling about the trade rumors as they swirled, and Curt pushed for an East Coast return. “I can stay here and pitch the last year of my contract in Arizona, and then walk. Or I can talk about possibly getting a three-year extension to go to New York and have a chance to win a world championship. If those are my choices, why wouldn’t I at least agree to listen?” Schilling said.
Schilling added, “There are two teams the Diamondbacks know I’ll talk with if they try to make a trade with them. That’s the Yankees and Phillies. Other than that, there are no hidden factors, no hidden agendas.”
For two weeks, until Theo Epstein landed in Arizona for a Thanksgiving dinner, Curt Schilling lobbied hard to join the Yanks. As Stark wrote, Curt wanted to be Roger Clemens, and landing in the Bronx to replace the then-retired Rocket would have been his dream.
Up in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley lost an election a few days after calling Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. In 2010, we know she’s as wrong as wrong could be. Curt’s socks are a deep, dark shade of red. But she indirectly reminded us — Yankee fans and Red Sox fans both who are in denial over Curt’s backstory — that Schilling wasn’t always a Boston Booster. For three weeks in November and for years before that, he admired the Yankees and their storied history. Had he landed in the Bronx, he would have been as big a Yankee fan as anyone reading RAB today.
Just a friendly reminder: Please do your best to leave the political discussion, debate and flame wars to other sites. While Martha Coakley gets a mention here, it is in the context of baseball history. We’re not endorsing an outcome or a candidate in the now-completed Massachusetts Senate race. We’re just highlighting Curt Schilling’s tortured legacy of hoping on the right bandwagon at what, for him, was the right time.