Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Schilling Retires. Respect.

Curt Schilling announced his retirement yesterday. The discussion today naturally centered on his legacy , particularly post-season accomplishments, and his prospects for the Hall of Fame.

What I'll remember as much as the "Bloody Sock" and the pair of World Series championships with Boston is something tangible, yet secret, the Schilling "book" on hitters. What the book symbolizes is the quest for excellence. Achievement might flow from great natural ability, but more often it intersects from aptitude, preparation, discipline, and determination. "Nothing great is accomplished without enthusiasm," read the quote so many years ago. Inspiration plus perspiration fulfill aspiration.

Pitchers know the aphorisms...
  • Left handed hitters like the ball down
  • Right handed hitters don't like to be jammed
  • A stance close to the plate means the hitter can hit the inside pitch
  • Hitters away from the plate can handle the outside pitch (usually diving into the plate)
  • First pitch strikes
  • Work quickly
  • Change speeds
  • Use deception
  • Remain on balance
  • Bend your back
  • Use your legs for power
  • Don't grip the ball too tightly
  • Work ahead in the count
But at the end of the day, the pitcher must identify a way to maximize his strength against the hitter's weaknesses. Man-to man, he must develop repetitive strategies to defeat an opponent farther away than in most sports. Yes, a few pitchers have such devastating talent that the exploding fastball and razor sharp curve of a Koufax can simply overmatch hitters. Mickey Mantle said of him, "it's just not fair."

As he progressed through his career, Schilling went from craftsman to artisan, capable of efforts like the one-hitter against the Athletics and post-season heroics against the Indians with far fewer arrows in his quiver.

What did he have in that tome? A series of game plans that Coach Belichick might envy, a portfolio that hitters hope never sees the light of day. Did any hitters have notations about their futility or their measurable success? Did some hitters have smiley faces or skulls and crossbones next to their name and history?

Will Schilling retire that book to his trophy case (one with three championships and yet no Cy Young Awards) or will it find its way to Cooperstown?

The Schilling log may never be a number one bestseller in the New York Times, but for Red Sox fans it contained the DaVinci Code, the keys to the kingdom.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

Let's not forget that Schilling was able to adapt to the Criticism in the minor leagues ( by Clemens?) that he needed to get better. He took it as a challenge and got significantly better. We may not like what comes out of his mouth, but on the field he was great.