American baseball player
At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Curt Schilling is an intimidating presence on the pitcher's mound. By 2002 the 37-year-old starting pitcher could boast 45 wins in two years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, tying Jim Palmer's record of consecutive wins set during the
1975-76 season. But those who know him well know a different Curt Schilling: a compassionate humanitarian who is dedicated to his family and actively involved in a number of charitable causes that benefit from his continued high profile as a professional athlete.
In 2001 Schilling pitched the four-year-old Diamond-backs into World Series champions, sharing mound duties—and National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) kudos—with teammate Randy Johnson . This achievement is all the more surprising coming on the heels of an uneventful career with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1990s, although Schilling pitched for the Phillies in the 1993 World Series and struck out over 300 batters for his former team between 1997 and 1998. A strong-armed pitcher, he alternates between a 92-plus-mph fastball, slider, and split finger pitches, and is known for pulling out extra velocity in key situations. Embracing the technology available to 21st-century athletes, Schilling keeps a video file containing every pitch he's thrown since 1993, and he studies tapes of opposing batters prior to his games in search of an edge that will let him hold the field.
Born Curtis Montague Schilling in Anchorage, Alaska, Schilling was raised in Phoenix, where his father, Cliff Schilling, served in the Army and passed along his love of baseball. Enrolling at Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Arizona in 1985, he pitched for the school team, then signed with the Boston Red Sox as a second round draft choice in 1986. Traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1988, Schilling made his major league debut in September, the occasion a poignant one due to the recent death of his father. Only a year before, Cliff Schilling had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and in January of 1988, just a few months before Curt's major-league debut, his life support was finally removed. When Schilling took the mound for the Baltimore Orioles, he reserved an empty seat for his dad, as he had for the thirteen years during which his father had been his most loyal fan.
Although mounting a lackluster record with the Orioles, Schilling showed promise, and during the 1990 season he chalked up an ERA of 2.54 as a middle reliever. With his mohawk haircut streaked red and blue, his flashy Corvette, and sporting an earring and a reputation as an off-the-mound crazyman, the twenty-one year old also showed that he still had some wild oats to sew, but Orioles manager Frank Robinson helped set Schilling straight. In 1991 Schilling moved to the Houston Astros where he pitched 75 innings during a season that left him with three wins and five losses; in Texas he received a further attitude adjustment from Red Sox star Roger Clemens and started to perfect his game. Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in early 1992, he showed his potential by pitching twenty-nine straight scoreless innings. In November Schilling settled down for good, marrying Shonda, a producer for a Baltimore sports television station with whom he would have three children.
The year 1993 was a good one for the Phillies, fueled by Schilling's 95-mph fastball and his 16-7 record as a starter. The team made it into the World Series against the ultimately triumphant Toronto Blue Jays, following a 4-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in the Eastern division playoffs. Despite his team's loss to Toronto, Schilling was named 1993 National League Championship Series MVP.
In 1994, the Phillies hit a slump, and that year's players' strike left them with 54 wins and 61 losses. Disabled twice during the season due to a bone spur in his elbow and a knee injury, Schilling followed suit with a 2-8 record and an ERA of 4.48. In 1995, during which the Phillies ranked third in their division, Schilling suffered a torn labrum and required shoulder surgery by August. He began 1996 on the disabled list, then returned to the mound throwing 97 mph after extensive rehab. Still, the Phillies remained in a slump, ending the season in fifth place.
Although Schilling topped his career average and set a new league record for strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher in 1997, with 319, as well as going 17-11 with a 2.97 ERA, the Phillies remained in the doldrums. Frustrated by his team's inability to turn things around, Schilling continued to wait it out, and was rewarded in 1998 when the Phillies finally climbed out of the hole to settle in third place in the Eastern division. He also received his second consecutive invitation to pitch in an All-Star game. The year 1998 was a good year personally as well. Haunted by his father's death to cancer, Schilling had been battling his own addiction to chewing tobacco for several years; finally a routine dentist's visit in 1998 that revealed a lesion on the inside of his lower lip convinced him to give up the habit in favor of watching his children grow up.
|1966||Born November 14 in Anchorage, Alaska|
|1986||Signs with Boston Red Sox|
|1987||Leads minor league with 189 strikeouts|
|1988||Moves to Baltimore Orioles and the major leagues|
|1991||Traded to Houston Astros|
|1991||Lecture by Roger Clemens provides inspiration to focus on game|
|1992||Traded to Philadelphia Phillies|
|1993||Pitches in his first World Series for Philadelphia|
|1995||Recovers from shoulder surgery|
|1996||Named Baseball's Most Caring Athlete by USA Today|
|1997||Starts in first All-Star game of his career|
|2000||Wife Shondra is diagnosed with melanoma.|
|2001||Perfects tandem pitching style with teammate Randy Johnson|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1993||National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player (MVP)|
|1996||Lou Gehrig award from Phi Delta Theta|
|1996||March of Dimes Phillie of the Year award|
|1997||Sets National League record for strikeouts by a right-handed pitcher with 319|
|1997-99, 2001-02||Named to National League All-Star Team|
|2000||Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Humanitarian Award|
|2001||Shares World Series MVP honors with teammate Randy Johnson|
|2001-02||Cy Young Award runner-up|
In 1999, Schilling pitched in his third All-Star game, this one in Boston's Fenway Park, but by season's end he was once again disabled. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in December 1999, and was well on his way to recovery the following February when his wife was diagnosed with a potentially lethal melanoma. Strong enough not to let his concern for his wife overshadow his responsibilities as a player, Schilling continued to develop his career. In July of 2000, now into his final season under contract with Philadelphia, Schilling was traded to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Travis Lee, Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal, and Nelson Figueroa. After playing nine years with a team that seemed content to remain on the sidelines of victory, he was enthused about joining a young ball club. Although his first months with Arizona proved disappointing—he had 5 wins and 6 losses with a 3.69 ERA—he signed on for three years with Arizona after the 2000 season was over. In addition to supporting Shondra while she dealt with her cancer, he worked to hone his skills and expand his pitching repertoire, adding a splitter and slider and perfecting his curveball and fastball.
Schilling started the 2001 season strong, pitching 7.1 perfect innings during a May match with San Diego. He went on to pitch the best regular season of his professional career, but remained modest about his achievements, crediting his team as well as his partnership with Randy Johnson. Schilling ended the regular season 22-6, with 293 strikeouts, and was ranked second in the league's ERA and strikeouts, going on to win all three starts in the National League play-offs.
With Schilling and Johnson, the Diamondbacks suddenly found themselves with an almost unbeatable pitching machine that rated comparisons to 1960s tandem pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. As Baseball Digest contributor Phil Elderkin noted, the pair is successful due to "intimidation and few mistakes. They pitch inside just often enough to discourage even the league's best hitters from crowding the plate. And when they do give up a home run, invariably it comes with no one on base." After a win against Atlanta propelled them into the 2001 World Series and a seven-game win over the New York Yankees, Schilling was voted Johnson's runner up for the National League's prestigious Cy Young Award from the Baseball Writers Association of America, and was top choice for co-MVP. Following his World Series win, Schilling spent a week at Disney World with wife Shonda and their three children, Gehrig, Gabriella, and Grant. Once again on the Arizona mound in 2002, Schilling pitched a minimum of six innings in each of his twenty-six starts and seven or more innings in twenty-three starts. Continuing the trend of the year before, teammate Johnson won his fifth Cy Young honor, with Schilling runner-up for the second consecutive year.
As is evidenced by his decision to name his first son Gehrig, Schilling loves all things baseball, including memorabilia, and is an active student of the history of the sport. Schilling's interests apart from baseball include war and strategy games, an interest he has furthered as president of game producer Multi-Man Publishing. A World War II history buff, he also helps create military board games marketed by Hasbro, Inc. and is also a PC game fan who plays Ever Quest to pass the time while on the road. Because the climate is more beneficial to Shondra's condition, Schilling and his family make their permanent home in Philadelphia, but reside in Phoenix during the baseball season.
|ARI: Arizona Diamondbacks; BAL: Baltimore Orioles; HOU: Houston Astros; PHI: Philadelphia Phillies.|
Together with his wife, Schilling also contributes to the battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative muscle ailment named for storied Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig , who died from the condition. Schilling told Gerry Callaghan of Sports Illustrated, "I met a guy … who had been diagnosed with ALS; six months later I saw him again, and he couldn't walk. I started thinking. What if that was my child or my wife, and I never got off my ass and did anything to help? How could I live with myself?" Involved in the cause since 1992 when they began Curt's Pitch for ALS under the auspices of the Curt and Shonda Schilling ALS Research Fund, the couple have earned $1.5 million to fight the disease, and have also befriended ALS patients and testified before Congress to boost research. Due to the tragedies that have touched his family, Schilling remains active in efforts to remove smokeless tobacco from baseball and funding cancer research. In 1997, 1998, and 2001 he was honored with baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for balancing outstanding performance with civic responsibility, and has received numerous other public service awards.
The Power of Two
What is athletic greatness if it doesn't have contagious properties? … The truly great ones in team sports make those around them better and, ultimately, make them champions. What [Randy] Johnson and Schilling did this year was take that force and raise it to the power of two. Each, thanks in part to the other, had the finest season of his life, and together they goaded a team that was a dowdy 43-56 when they didn't pitch to a world championship.
In only one full year Johnson and Schilling became as inseparable in perpetuity as [Sandy] Koufax and [Don] Drysdale, [Warren] Spahn and [Johnny] Sain, [Christy] Mathewson and [Joe] McGinnity and any other historic tandem of starting pitchers—except that in their case it does not matter which name you list first. Johnson (372 whiffs) and Schilling (293) struck out 665 batters, a record for teammates, and joined Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw of the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax of the 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers and Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana of the 1976 California Angels as the only members of the same staff to finish one-two in the majors in strikeouts. No two pitchers have been more responsible for a world championship since the five-man rotation became de rigueur in the 1970s, and few tandems have ever had their impact. Schilling and Johnson became only the eighth pair of teammates, and the first in 61 years, to each win 20 games for a world championship team and account for every one of its World Series wins.
Source: Verducci, Tom. Sports Illustrated, December 17, 2001, p. 112.
Address: Arizona Diamondbacks, 401 East Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85004-2438.
Baseball Digest (November, 2001): 28.
Baseball Digest (October, 2002): 40
Boston Globe (October 19, 2001).
New York Times (September 29, 2002).
New York Times Magazine (September 29, 2002): 52.
People (June 1, 1998): 73.
Sporting News (October 1, 2001): 46
Sporting News (December 17, 2001): 8.
Sports Illustrated (February 2, 1998): 78.
Sports Illustrated (August 14, 2000): 5.
Sports Illustrated (November 7, 2001): 46.
Sketch by Pamela L. Shelton