Connect The Dots...The Prodigal Son Returns

Who will ever forget the towel draped over the head? The 300 strikeout seasons. The incredible 2-0 shutout in the '93 World Series. The very public displays of both the affection and disappointment that took place during his career in Philadelphia, a career that spanned a total of nearly 9 seasons.

These events were all part of the career of one Curt Schilling, formerly one of the top right-handed hurlers in Philadelphia Phillies history. So, if you haven't already done so, you may want to circle next Wednesday, May 14 on your calendar. On that night, if the weather gods bless the Arizona Diamondbacks, Schilling will take the hill against the Phillies and his young protégé, Brett Myers. This night will be special, not only because Schilling returns but also because, it says here, that this will be the last time Schilling pitches in Philadelphia in an opponent's uniform.

This columnist believes that the next time Schilling pitches in Philadelphia he will be back in his beloved Phillies a Philadelpha Phillie. Oh, no one will admit it for public consumption, and if the Diamondbacks get back in the NL wildcard race soon, it may not even happen this year, will happen eventually. It has to!

Schilling has always been a Philadelphia Phillie, he bleeds Phillie red! Though he has been a wonderful warrior for the Diamondbacks, even helping lead them to a World Series triumph in 2001, Schillings heart has always been with the Phillies. As most true baseball fans have known since they were young enough to collect baseball cards, some players are just identified with certain teams, regardless of what uniform they happen to be wearing. Some examples that come to mind.....Willie Mays was a Giant, though he ended his career with the Mets. On a more current note, Pudge Rodriguez is a Ranger, Tom Glavine is a Brave, and Roger Clemens is a Red Sox player.

The passage of time may dim the memories of the exploits of these players with their past teams.... but it will never totally disappear. This, I believe, is the hold Schilling has on the Phillies.... and they on him. One of the ironies of this entire episode is that despite Philadelphia fans incredible loyalty to their city and team, and Schilling's unabashed love for both, there are many who have never forgiven him for leaving. They believe he should have stayed with the organization, though the year 2000 was a totally different era in Phillies baseball, with a vastly different philosophy. During that period, the team wanted to get younger and less expensive, with the new stadium still a distant dream, and pennant hopes merely less than that.

But the 2003 version of the Phillies.....ah, the visions and dreams are grandiose and colorful, a new stadium unfolding in 2004 and a team on the rise! And don't think Schilling hasn't noticed.... he undoubtedly has and he has mentioned before that there is NOTHING in the sports world like a pennant contending team playing in the City of Brotherly Love. Remember, Schill has been there before; he was a central figure in the wonderful collection of characters that made up the unforgettable 93 pennant winners. From his 16 wins to his League Championship MVP, from his 5 consecutive strikeout opening against the Braves to his scintillating 2-0 shutout in the game the Phillies had to have against the Blue Jays.... Oh, Schill remembers. And there is no greater baseball historian than Curt Schilling, he KNOWS his place in Philly lore.... and wants nothing more than to finalize his place in that lore! Schilling knows that in order to take his place along side such former luminaries as Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning and Grover Cleveland Alexander he MUST return.... return to the scene of his greatest triumphs, to his 300 strikeout seasons, to the place where he made the Lou Gehrig Foundation so successful, to the place he will always call home.....Philadelphia.

So, my friends, if you have not yet done so, go to your baseball calendar and circle next Wednesday, May 14.....D'backs against our beloved Phillies. If you get a chance, get to the Vet to see the veteran against the youngster, the master vs. the protégé, Schilling vs. Myers. Though you will probably cheer in hopes for a Philles victory, give a rousing cheer for the pitcher on the opposing team.....for soon enough, I believe, you will be cheering once again for him in a home team uniform......and Thomas Wolfe will have been mistaken when he once said that you can't go home again.

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