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Blood and Guts
November 01, 2004
In their quest to KO the Cardinals--and the Curse--Curt Schilling and the Red Sox got off on the right foot
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November 01, 2004

Blood And Guts

In their quest to KO the Cardinals--and the Curse--Curt Schilling and the Red Sox got off on the right foot

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"Nothing like it had been tried before," Morgan says. "You don't see this kind of injury in baseball to begin with. You see it in volleyball and gymnastics. And the remedy is to [immediately] immobilize it and subsequently [to perform] surgery. That wasn't an option with Curt."

Morgan needed to try out this procedure he'd invented on the fly, so he used a cadaver, confirming that the Sox's pursuit of a world championship had once again become a matter of life and death. Given Boston's pathological obsession with the team--Game 7 of the ALCS was viewed on 87% of the TVs turned on in the city that night--perhaps the devotion of one Sox fan extended beyond his last breath. After testing the procedure Morgan was convinced that it could work, though he wasn't sure how it would hold up under the stress of pitching.

On the eve of ALCS Game 6, Morgan used a new polyblend material, FiberWire 2.0, for three sutures in Schilling's ankle. Though one stitch broke and blood oozed from the wound and from the spot where Schilling was given a shot of anesthetic, the sutures worked as Morgan intended. He removed them after the game to reduce the risk of infection.

"It was an out-of-body experience," says Schilling. "I feed off the crowd's energy, even on the road, and that night I wasn't even aware of the crowd. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before."

As he spoke, seated in front of his locker at Fenway Park, Schilling pulled a compression wrap around his ankle and then strapped on an orthotic boot brace. It was 8 p.m. last Friday, and he had just finished a two-hour meeting with Red Sox scouts and team officials to break down the Cardinals. At his side were three large, worn spiral notebooks, each with dog-eared pages and a year written on the cover. Schilling writes a specific game plan for every hitter in every one of his starts. After the game he notes any changes or observations. He had pored over the notebooks to review his past starts against St. Louis.

That night at his Medfield, Mass., home, Schilling culled from his computerized video database "every at bat every Cardinal has ever had against me." He also watched a tape of how Houston Astros ace Roger Clemens had pitched against St. Louis in Game 7 of the NLCS two days earlier.

"I've been leaning on Roger all season long, watching tapes [of him]," Schilling said.

Clemens, the former Red Sox ace, already had contributed unwittingly to Boston's championship effort by getting waxed for six runs in one inning at the All-Star Game, a loss that gave the AL home field advantage for the World Series. Now, as Schilling's pitching doppelg´┐Żnger--they both rely on high fastballs and biting splitters-- Clemens was abetting his former team once again.

Last Saturday, Schilling began to formulate a game plan in his notebook. That afternoon, in a trainer's room adjacent to the clubhouse, Morgan sewed Schilling's ankle in preparation for his start. This time he used a fourth suture for more stability.

The Red Sox and the Cardinals then proceeded to show why the traditional October emphasis on pitching and defense often does not apply in this power era. They combined for a whopping 42 runners and made five errors, including one by Boston leftfielder Manny Ramirez when he stumbled awkwardly on an unnecessary attempt at a diving catch, allowing St. Louis to tie the game at nine in the eighth. When he returned to the dugout, Ramirez deadpanned to teammate Dave Roberts, "Snipers got me."

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