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CURT SCHILLING #38

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New Sox seem to fit

Why Schilling sees Boston as the right move for him

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This midday visit in the desert with Curt Schilling, sitting in baggy shorts and a Semper Fi Marine T-shirt on an ornate sofa in front of the lavish bronze curtains that decorate his den along with the awards he has collected through the years, is just a tiny slice of his nonstop dialogue with the world. The one in which there's no telling whom he'll speak with next, in a voice he claims is Everyman's but tends to be heard more because of who he is, one of the best pitchers in baseball.

They've all fallen within range of that voice:

His father, Master Sergeant Cliff Schilling, who died just before his son made it to the big leagues but had told him at age 13 he would someday get there.

His wife, Shonda, who challenged him to take his game to a higher level, then locked her hands inside his in a fight against melanoma that after five surgeries has her cancer-free but ever-vigilant.

Roger Clemens, who pulled him aside during an offseason workout in the Astrodome and lectured him at an early age that he was foolish to waste the precious gift he had.

Greg Maddux, the pitching master from whom Schilling took his cue on how to approach his craft, which led him to amass a digital video library of more than 30,000 disks of every batter he has ever faced.

Bob Gibson, the pitching grandmaster with whom Schilling traded hours of shop talk about high-velocity fastballs and a shared thirst for competition.

Randy Johnson, the Arizona ace with whom Schilling shared the Most Valuable Player award during the 2001 World Series and who says Schilling eased his burden of being the ace of a staff that won it all with two pitchers of the highest caliber. Sixteen times that championship season, they pitched on back-to-back days, and not once on those occasions did the D-Backs lose consecutive games. In a hallway off the den, there's a portrait of Schilling and Johnson holding their MVP awards, weary but joyous.

Theo Epstein, the Red Sox general manager sitting at his Thanksgiving table, setting aside for the moment his goal of persuading Schilling to accept a trade to the Red Sox to accept another helping of stuffing.

Bill James, the Sox statman who sent Schilling a letter last week, urging him to come to Boston. Schilling said he was 14 when he figured out one of James's principal tenets, that on-base percentage was a lot more important than batting average.

The fighter pilot who was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, during the Gulf War, who came to Fenway Park a couple of years ago and saw Schilling, who has made it a big part of his life work to support ALS research, outduel Sox ace Pedro Martinez on national TV.

The radio talk-show hosts in Philadelphia who so annoyed Schilling that he would call them on his way to the ballpark to argue with them.

The emergency workers at Ground Zero who were deeply moved by the words a shaken but proud Schilling delivered at the site just a couple of weeks after Sept. 11, the same player who urged all big-leaguers in an eloquent letter to donate a day's pay to the victims of that tragedy.

The guys on the Internet baseball chat boards, with log-ons like GodSamGod and Spaceman's Bong, shocked to find in the middle of the night that the "gehrig38" who was updating them about the Schilling negotiations was Schilling himself.

His son, Gehrig, who came home from school after the trade and said, "Daddy, do you know what a snow day is? It's when it snows so much they have no school. They have snow days in Boston!"

Martinez, who two days ago picked up his phone in the Dominican Republic and heard Schilling's voice on the other end, telling him how excited he was to be joining the Red Sox. The same Schilling, media reports reminded everyone, who had called Martinez a "punk" after the incident in the ALCS when the Sox ace threw at Yankee hitter Karim Garcia and later threw down septuagenarian Don Zimmer.

"I wanted to talk to him," Schilling said about Martinez, who along with an exuberant Kevin Millar were Sox players Schilling has contacted since last Friday's trade to Boston.

"I wanted to make sure he understood, again, that the media had tried to make some stories about something that was nothing. Someone had asked me after that game what I thought about it, and I said I thought it was a punk move. Actually, I'm glad in hindsight that `punk' was the only thing I've said, because I said a lot worse things about guys I've played with.

"He didn't bring it up, and I don't know if he knows about it or acknowledges it, but it's a nonissue. I've been on teams where guys have done that [thrown at a hitter] and I thought it was awesome. You've got to take it in the right context.

"When I spoke to him, it was important to me that he understood how important he was to this whole thing for me. Him being here and him staying here."

That was a much-discussed topic during his negotiations with the Sox, Schilling said.

"They understood how much a priority it was for me and they made me understand how much a priority it was for them," he said.

Could he say, yesterday, with any degree of certainty, that Martinez will be in the rotation with him beyond the 2004 season?

"Personally, I'm very comfortable he will be, but a lot of things can happen between now and then, and I know that," said Schilling. "So they made me no assurances, no promises, but it was their intention to try to keep Pedro and Derek [Lowe] and the core of this team together. That kind of works hand in hand with me wanting to compete with this team for four years."

On second thought, Boston

Schilling, with $12 million due him next year in the last year of his Arizona contract, knew the team would ask him to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to another team. Initially, he had only two teams in mind -- the Yankees, who he thought gave him the best chance to win another Series ring -- and the Phillies, the team he'd pitched to the '93 Series, in a city where he plans to make his offseason home. But when Terry Francona, the former Phillies manager and a good friend, emerged as the front-runner for the Sox job, Schilling said he went to the D-Backs and told them that he would consider Boston, too.

He frets about how his support of Francona, who is expected to be introduced tomorrow as Sox manager, will be perceived.

"I hope two things," he said. "One, that everybody understands if he gets the job, it will be on his own merits, period. I mean, period. Anybody who sits down and talks to him and gets to know him will know why.

"And No. 2, he's the right guy for the job. This is a team that has a chance to win multiple world championships. What it's going to need to do in the clubhouse is be a group. Not a team, but much closer than a team. Because in this city, I can only fathom there are going to be battles fought off the field between players and the media and whatever. That's when everybody has to feel comfortable in the clubhouse when the doors are closed, and Terry will facilitate that."

Schilling is coming here to win. Just look at his contract: He has the usual performance bonuses for achieving personal honors, such the Cy Young Award or an All-Star nod. That money is earmarked for charity. He also has a clause that calls for a $2 million bonus (plus a bump in his base salary) if the Sox win the World Series during the course of the next three years, and guarantees the option on the 2007 season. (The option also kicks in, he says, if he makes 90 starts and pitches 600 innings over the life of the contract, or pitches 200 innings and makes 30 starts in the last year of the deal.)

So Schilling was motivated to make sure there would not be extraneous stuff standing between him and winning in October.

"I had heard extensive rumors about the Boston clubhouse," he said. "There were issues I wanted to talk to the Red Sox about, and I talked to them about it. I'm pretty confident I'm walking into a situation that will be a lot of fun.

"They know there needs to be enough muscle, personalitywise, that clubhouse stuff doesn't affect on-the-field performance in a negative way."

Schilling expects to bring some of that muscle, not so much to the everyday players ("I can't even fathom the grind they go through") but to the pitching staff.

"I can certainly be a large factor that the 10-to-12 man staff is as tight-knit a group as it can be," he said. "When I talked to Pedro, I was clear to him about a lot of things, and that was one of the things. I can't wait to pitch with him."

Devotion to routine

It shouldn't be hard to figure out which day is Schilling's to pitch. For one thing, he wears the same ensemble to the park -- one his wife and kids choose for him in spring training -- every time he pitches. Luis Gonzalez, Arizona's All-Star outfielder, threatened to burn Schilling's clothes after one season.

In that sense, Schilling has something in common with Nomar Garciaparra: a devotion to routine that does not vary.

"Mentally, I try to put myself in a place I can only get to once every five days," he said. "The only difference between my first start in spring training and my last start in the World Series is the game itself.

"I think if you have integrity, if you have pride, if you have respect for your teammates and the game, some sort of routine will develop naturally, because nobody just shows up and plays and does well for an extended period of time."

Fear of failure, he says, is a great motivator, and his pregame preparation reflects an attention to detail that very few pitchers approach. From Maddux, he said, he learned that the key to preparation is understanding when a hitter is going to swing at a pitch and when he is going to take one.

"Once you understand that," he said, "the key is throwing a strike when he's taking and a ball when he's swinging. It can be done. Hitters are creatures of habit. They do things on certain counts and in certain situations that they don't in other counts and in other situations. For a freakin' $13 million a year, is it too much to ask me to know when that is?"

Tony Gwynn, the future Hall of Famer from the San Diego Padres, inspired Schilling to amass his video library. Schilling was due to pitch against the Padres the night after Gwynn had five hits in a game. As he lay in bed, Schilling said, he was frustrated at the thought that Gwynn, a passionate student of pitching, knew exactly what Schilling planned to do the next day. Schilling decided that imitation was the highest form of flattery, and like Gwynn, he amassed a video library of every game he was in.

"I can break it down any way I want," he said. "I can pull up Andres Galarraga's at-bats against me and break them down by count, by pitch selection, pitch location, pitch result -- whatever I want to look at."

During games, it is not unusual to see Schilling position his fielders. They go along with it, because the results speak for themselves.

Even at 37, Schilling doesn't expect those results to change. At the outset of every season, his goals are to make 35 starts and pitch 245 innings, which averages to seven innings a start. No six innings and out for him.

"I've always felt as a starting pitcher that your reputation is made after the sixth inning," he said, "and what you do in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings facing guys for a third or fourth time. That is really an in-depth look at how good you are.

"Top-of-the-rotation guys are not six-inning guys. Top-of-the-rotation guys, you're paying them (a) to win games and (b) to pitch innings. Nothing can be done without pitching innings. If you pitch your innings, and if you have the talent, all your other numbers will fall in place."

Outspoken and unapologetic

It is as much a part of Schilling's game to be heard as it is to be seen, for which he makes no apologies. His wife once said she never realized how much his teammates had to listen to until she rode the team plane on a family trip and heard for herself.

Schilling will challenge a reporter or columnist who he believes has been unfair, and like his post-midnight Net chats last week, will make some direct connections to the fans, too.

"People get the idea that we're different human beings than they are," he said. "I don't think anything can be further from the truth. In some ways, we're a lot more like them than anyone wants to believe."

He's already planning to recruit Sox fans for "Curt's Pitch for ALS," in which he donates $100 a strikeout and $100 a win three times over -- once each for the Philadelphia, Arizona, and now the Boston chapter of the ALS Society. He invites fans to donate from $1 to $10 per win and strikeout, then invites them all to a party at the end of the season.

"I'm living a dream," says a man living in luxury just 10 minutes from the small house in which he grew up. "Sometimes I'm scared it's too good at times."

When Shonda was diagnosed with melanoma and had to undergo five operations?

"Neither one of us looked at each other and said, `Why us?' " he said. "The [ALS patients] we've met, if they can wake up every morning with the disease and they're smiling and energetic and cheerful, what exactly do I have to be ticked off about. I've never heard one of them say, `Why me?' "

Schilling expects to have his critics. He's had them before, people -- including teammates -- who believed him to be too self-serving, too outspoken, too all about Curt. He insists that doesn't keep him awake at night.

"People will tell you I'm a know-it-all and blah, blah, blah," he said. "By no means am I a know-it-all. I know that every day of the week I am going to say something stupid or do something wrong, just like everybody else. I'm going to do it less as I get older because that's part of growing up and learning.

"But for all the good and bad I bring to the table, that's me. That's who I am."

That won't be the last word. For Curt Schilling, who was originally drafted by the Sox and has now come full circle, this is only an introduction.

12/03/2003  6:52 PM ET 
Schilling to visit MLB.com Radio
Curt Schilling shows off his new jersey at last week's press conference announcing the trade. (Roy Dabner/AP)
Curt Schilling, the newest member of the Boston Red Sox, will do a live interview on MLB.com Radio on Thursday at 3:45 p.m. ET.

The star right-hander will be a guest of the Todd McFarlane Show, which is co-hosted by Seth Everett.

Listeners are encouraged to e-mail their questions to Schilling at radio@mlb.com.

Schilling will cover all the angles of his blockbuster trade to Boston.

Red Sox fans have been buzzing since Nov. 28, when Schilling was acquired from the Diamondbacks for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, minor leaguer Jorge De la Rosa and a prospect to be named.

Schilling will team up with Sox ace Pedro Martinez to form one of the elite pitching tandems in the game.

The veteran hurler has made an immediate impression with Red Sox fans. In fact, the day before the trade Schilling posted a message in the Fan Forum on redsox.com and chatted with fans on the Sons of Sam Horn (SOSH) site.

"Curt reached out to the fans during negotiation downtimes," said Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry. "What does that say? He found an organizational philosophy closely aligned with his own."

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