In 1993 the Phillies reached the World Series, and Schilling reached another level. He won 16 games during the season, then started the National League Championship Series opener against the Atlanta Braves and set an NLCS record by striking out the first five batters he faced. He didn't get the decision in his two starts but had a 1.69 ERA and struck out 19 in 16 innings to earn the series MVP award. He shut out the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the World Series, though the Blue Jays won in six.
For the Phils the highs of 1993 were followed by a string of lows that continued through last season. Philadelphia was beset by injuries to its star players—schilling spent time on the disabled list during each of the next three seasons and won only 18 games—and has stumbled through four straight losing seasons. Schilling's performance last year for a team that had the majors' worst record the first half of the season prompted comparisons with another eccentric Philadelphia ace, Steve Carlton, who had 27 victories for the 59-win Phillies of 1972.
While the baseball world marveled at his 319 strikeouts, Schilling was perhaps prouder of his career-high 35 starts and 254 innings. He went 17-11 with a 2.97 ERA and deserved better; closer Rick Bottalico blew three saves for him. Says Schilling, "There's satisfaction in knowing my teammates can look at me and think, Oh, Schilling's going? Well, we got a chance."
On Labor Day, Schilling blew away the New York Yankees 5-1 at the Vet, striking out 16 (a National League high for the season). Derek Jeter, who struck out four times, was asked after the game what he thought of Schilling's fastball, which was clocked at 94 mph or faster on 77 pitches. "You're asking the wrong guy," said the Yankees' shortstop. "I didn't even see it, man."
"That's what it's all about," Schilling says, a military historian who knows the battle is often won before a shot is fired. "I'm standing out there 60 feet away, and I know I'm going to throw a fastball and he knows I'm going to throw a fastball, yet he can't hit it. And he knows he can't hit it. I can see it in his eyes. That is the ultimate feeling that you can get in this game. There's almost a numbness that comes over you. It's like a dream, and I can get that feeling every fifth day. How lucky am I?"