IF HE makes one, Curt Schilling's Hall of Fame acceptance speech will be a filibuster of unprecedented proportions. Whether with his mouth or his arm, whether you loved or loathed him (even teammates fell into both camps), Schilling made you pay attention. Appropriately, he blogged his own retirement on Monday.
With 216 wins, Schilling is a borderline Cooperstown candidate who two months ago admitted, "I don't think I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame." At the age of 30, after 10 years in the big leagues, he had a 69--63 record. But his second decade was a stunning ascent to greatness. He went 147--83, including an apex with Arizona in 2001 and '02 when, including the postseason, he was 49--13 and threw a whopping 5711/3 innings.
What set Schilling apart, other than calling out Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, owners, sportswriters and whoever else irked him, was freakish control for a power pitcher and brilliance in the clutch. Of the 87 pitchers with 200 wins since 1901, Schilling owns the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.38), comfortably ahead of Pedro Martinez (4.14) and Cy Young (3.78), who rank second and third.
In the postseason Schilling earned a reputation that put him among Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and John Smoltz on the short list of the best big-game pitchers. Schilling went 11--2 with a 2.23 ERA; the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox were 14--5 in playoff games when they gave him the ball, and they won three world championships. His tour de force was the "bloody sock" victory in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. With a torn tendon in his right ankle: seven innings, one run, no walks in an elimination game at Yankee Stadium.
One of the rare times Schilling did not rise to the occasion was his timid testimony at the 2005 congressional hearings on steroids in baseball. Rest assured, though, the man Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow called "a horse's ass" will not go quietly into retirement or Cooperstown.