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Long-Suffering No More
COMPILED BY RICHARD DEITSCH
November 10, 2004
A WICKED HOME RECORD (55-26) AND A HANG-TOUGH 'TUDE HELPED THE SOX GRAB A WILD-CARD SPOT
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November 10, 2004

Long-suffering No More

A WICKED HOME RECORD (55-26) AND A HANG-TOUGH 'TUDE HELPED THE SOX GRAB A WILD-CARD SPOT

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DELIVERING THE GOODS

Curt Schilling was made for the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry the way John Wayne was for Westerns. The depth of the feelings between the two teams hit Schilling as he emerged from the Boston dugout to walk to the bullpen for his pregame warmup on April 17. "As soon as my foot hit the top step of the dugout, the place started cheering," Schilling said. "I hadn't felt that kind of emotion and energy in a regular-season game since I pitched against the Yankees for the Phillies in front of 67,000 people [at Veterans Stadium] seven years ago. Awesome." Schilling has a name for this kind of over-the-top, leave-the-women-and-children-home kind of game: East Coast baseball. That's what he wanted when Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, seeking to pare payroll, asked him last November for a list of teams to which he would waive his no-trade clause. (Schilling came to Boston after G.M. Theo Epstein worked out a two-year contract extension that would pay him $25.5 million beyond the $12 million he got this season.)

A renowned preparation freak, Schilling sat at his locker on the day before his start as if cramming for a test, studying a chart of how Yankees hitters fare against certain pitches in certain counts and occasionally marking it with neon highlighters. In previous days he had watched video of Tampa Bay righthander Victor Zambrano's two-hit, five-inning performance against them earlier this month. "The only guys I really don't know on the Yankees are [Hideki] Matsui and A-Rod," Schilling says. "I did face A-Rod once before, in the [2002] All-Star Game." (He struck him out on three straight fastballs.)

Schilling chewed up Alex Rodriguez again the next day: a harmless fly and two punch-outs that contributed to Rodriguez's 1-for-17 weekend. Schilling, with a heater that hit 96 mph, struck out eight batters and allowed one run before he saw manager Terry Francona signal to the bullpen with one out in the seventh. Schilling spit out one of those sidewalk epithets of his own because he didn't want to leave this theater of the absurd.

Finally, tugging a bit on the bill of his cap in thanks, Schilling slipped into the dugout just as he had emerged from it hours earlier, with applause and shouts washing over him in an antique font of a ballpark. The madness had only just begun. -- Tom Verducci

--Reprinted from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, April 26, 2004

SUNSHINE SUPERMAN

There was considerable angst at Fenway Park on July 23 after the Red Sox lost to the Yankees 8-7 and fell 9 1/2 games behind New York in the American League East. Righthander Curt Schilling, who surrendered seven runs in 5 1/3 innings, remained in the dugout, his head buried in his hands. In the silent clubhouse rightfielder Trot Nixon, hands propped behind his head, stared blankly into his locker, seemingly frozen in his seat.

Into this funereal scene strode David Ortiz, Boston's lumbering 6'4", 230-pound designated hitter--first baseman, who was whistling as he made his way to his locker. "It's easy to get real down after losing [to the Yankees], with the history this [team] has," says Ortiz. "My attitude is, Tomorrow's another day."

It sure was. The Red Sox bounced back the next day with a thrilling 11-10 victory that included a bench-clearing brawl (following a shoving match involving Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek after A-Rod was hit by a pitch) in the third inning and a walk-off, two-run home run by Bill Mueller against the league's top closer, Mariano Rivera, and won 9-6 the following night.

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