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Cooperstown calling

Forget the numbers: Schilling deserves to make Hall of Fame

Posted: Wednesday October 27, 2004 12:16PM; Updated: Wednesday October 27, 2004 3:13PM
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If there's any sanity left in this sad old world, the sage scribes of baseball will one day pull out their Crayolas and enthusiastically scribble the name Curt Schilling on their Hall of Fame ballots. And I don't mean years after he becomes eligible, or after endless rumination by the veterans committee. I mean, "Go to Cooperstown. Go directly to Cooperstown. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200." I mean first ballot, baby.

I don't give a Hoot Gibson that Schilling's career numbers will fall well short of the customary milestones needed for selection, the guy's blood-and-guts outings against the Yankees and Cardinals are the stuff of legend. And what is true fame if not what Schilling has done for one of the game's perennially tormented franchises?

To my sad, deluded way of thinking, a true Hall of Famer is a player who is well remembered decades after he adjusted his cup and spat on the umpire's shoes for the last time -- Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan. Some Cooperstown residents such as Don Sutton (324 wins, five one-hitters) or Paul Molitor (3,319 hits, 504 stolen bases) were excellent players, but will they be as frequently and vividly recalled 50 years from now as, say, Bill Mazeroski, who had far less gaudy career numbers but did something that is still talked about today?

Numbers are cold, lifeless things. Legends are warm and living -- oft-told tales. You mean to tell me that there won't be a tidal wave of babies named Curt born nine months from now? I guarantee that in 50 years, you'll take your twin baby granddaughters Curt and Schillimina on your knee, wipe the strained peas from your eye, and coo to them about the frosty October nights when the Red Sox ace hobbled to the mound on a bleeding peg and made meat byproduct of two of baseball's most muscular lineups. And he did it under the bank-safe heavy pressure of delivering a championship to a franchise that hadn't seen once since Wilson (Woodrow, not Mookie) was in office.

I saw on a recent telecast that Pedro Martinez has career numbers that compare favorably with Koufax's. As for Schilling, I present the following for your consideration:

Stan Coveleski (Hall of Fame, 1969): 215-141, 2.88, 981 strikeouts, five 20-win seasons and three complete game wins for Cleveland in the 1920 World Series.

Schilling: 184-123, 3.32, 2,745 strikeouts, three 20-win seasons, and an 8-2, 2.02 postseason ledger that includes the 1993 NLCS MVP and 2001 World Series co-MVP Awards, and becoming the first pitcher to win Series games with three different teams.

Not to take anything away from Coveleski, Sutton or Molitor, but name one thing they did that still makes anyone go "Ooooh-eeeeeh" like Schilling's two recent outings surely will many moons from now? Which leads me to another sports cliché that curdles my blood: "Not to take anything away from..." as in, "Not to take anything away from Coveleski, but he's a stiff."

Here's another phrase that needs to be banned from all sports commentary: "He/she really is such a special player." Pardon my French, but just what the hell does that mean anyway? I think broadcasters have beaten this one into the ground.
 -- Ms. Traci Polk, Warner Robins Ga.

Down there under the ground with it is, "He's a real competitor, Al." Well, what the hell else would he be doing out there? I realize there are participants who are standing around wondering how much the stadium weighs, but they are all, in their own way, competing.

I stumbled upon an English Premier League soccer game between Manchester United and Birmingham while avoiding the between-innings commercials on FOX. One of the announcers mentioned that Birmingham hadn't beat United in 26 years!!! Can anybody really cheer for or expect a victory after 26 years? It's like rooting for one of the academies against Notre Dame. The first college football game I saw was at West Point in the '70s. The cadets recovered an Irish fumble and kicked a field goal to lead 3-0. The cadets went ballistic. Of course, Notre Dame went on to score the next 62 points, but I guess there isn't much else to root for when your a cadet, or a Birmingham factory worker, I guess.
 -- George Ballek, North Brunswick, N.J.

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I believe that if you hang on long enough in this life, you'll see everything, including a miraculous victory or a mindbending loss. I'm sure Yankee fans (this one included) never expected to see their team go belly-up against Boston the way it did. But they can take heart that the most storied franchise in professional sports pulled an el fold-o of historic proportions, the likes of which not even the most accomplished bunglers from Boston were able to manage. Even in their blackest, most ignominious defeat, the Yankees now find themselves nose to nose with the Sox in the all-time collapse competition. No small thing, that. An accomplishment, however perverse, is still an accomplishment, by Jove.

I have to go back in memory to the Yankees of the mid- '80s to recall a more abysmal baseball game than this Game 1 of the World Series. Horrible base-running, lousy pitching (except for Red Herring, or whatever his name is, of the Cards, who was outstanding), miserable defense, even bad managing (what was the Cardinals second baseman doing when he got whacked in the chest by that ball? There was one out, slow man on first, slow man at the plate -- it would have been a DP if he'd been playing his normal position). Maybe it's just the weather. Sub-freezing wind chill is for football. Maybe it's time to take the season back to 154 games the way it used to be. Anyway, here's my free tip to the Cardinals: the Sawx win every game played past midnight. If you play the game at the AL pace, you will lose every time.
 -- Brian Donohue, Brooklyn, N.Y.

And, as I said last week, they will lose it without me, because I will be tucked up in my beddy-boodle, fast asleep. Sub-zero weather may be for football, but endurance is for marathons and this old dog gets winded by 10 p.m. But execrable play or not, it's a sure sign of the gawds smiling down upon Beantown that Bill Mueller can play third with a shovel and Manny Ramirez can do the hucklebuck on every ball hit his way and the Red Sox are still coming out on the fashionable end of the score.