Indeed, it is possible that by the time this article makes it's way to print Schilling may be a Yankee. Nevertheless, I write this column with profound faith that this will not happen, that when Schill puts on a pin striped uniform, it will have red stripes and not blue. It is said that faith moves mountains. I believe it.
The many emails I have received these past few days speak of troubled fans, concerned that the "Schill is a Phil" coming home celebration will be replaced by a coronation ceremony hosted by King George of Yorker. These fans, many of which have vented their frustration, even their anger at this writer, wondered how I could have been so sure of his destination. And apparently so wrong. Now they are filled with disappointment, even disillusion at what appears a lost cause.
My response has been consistent and resolute. It is not logic, but faith that is needed now and I am convinced that faith will carry the day. After all, this has always been a faith issue with me, and when the story comes to its conclusion, I believe Schill will be a Phil!
"Nonsense," the naysayers have said, the Yankees always get what they want and the Phils appear out of the hunt. Logic dictates that the D'backs and Yanks will reach some type of compromise and Schilling will spend the autumn years of his career in New York. Perhaps.
Yet every part of my sinew tells me otherwise. My faith tells me that Schilling belongs in Philadelphia and that is where he will return. He is no New York Yankee and when he sorts out all the confusion in his mind he will understand that. Curt Schilling in New York will be an afterthought, the guy who filled the gap between Roger Clemens and Steinbrenner's next "must have" pitcher. Andy Pettitte is a Yankee. Derek Jeter is a Yankee. Curt Schilling is a Phillie! Curt Schilling in Philadelphia has an opportunity to place his name along side Grover Cleveland Alexander, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton as the greatest Phillie pitchers of all time.
Oh, I know, we sent him to Arizona in 2001 so technically he is a D'back. But this was purely for housecleaning reasons, much like a parent sends their beloved child outside while cleaning house. It is much easier to clean house without the child around commenting on how dirty the house looks.
But the house is clean now, with a new scent, a new feel and a new look. It is time to come back inside before the sky gets too dark, the winds too brisk. It is time to bring Curt Schilling back home.
Still, the naysayers have their doubts. The demands are too large, the options too limited. Again, I say, it is my faith that says this shall be overcome. It is too right; it makes too much sense for it to be otherwise.
Phillie fans know all about faith. I am one of them and I know how they feel. I have been there. Faith told me that the 1964 Phillies would end their losing streak well before it reached 10 games. Faith told me that Greg Luzinski would catch that fly ball in 1977. Faith spoke of Joe Carter's ball going foul, of Mitch Williams coming through when the chips were down in 1993.
Yet it was the very same faith that carried me when the 1980 Phils overcame a three run deficit in Game 5 against Nolan Ryan. It sustained me when Tug McGraw loaded the bases in the 9th inning of Game Six against the Royals that same post-season. I… we know all about faith.
Clearly, Schilling and the D'backs have crossed the point of no return. He is not going back to Arizona. So, the cards are on the table… it will be New York or Philadelphia. In the end this will be a head or heart decision. His head no doubt speaks of New York and the best immediate opportunity for security. His heart speaks to his love for the Phillies, the fans and the city.
If he listens to his heart, he will stay the course, and it will work out well for all of us! Patience will win the day. Patience is the faith to stay the course, regardless of roadblocks.
Speaking of heart, many knowledgeable fans are clamoring for the return of Kevin Millwood, the reluctant participant. And with justifiable logic. Skilled, mysterious, and still young, Millwood is a tempting taste for a Phillie fan base that so wants an athlete to feel the same passion for Philadelphia that they do.
Yet, it is again so telling of the difference between Millwood and Schilling. Millwood gave us his glove while Schilling gave us his heart. He bled with us when we lost. He spoke to the aspirations of every Phillie fan when he wanted a winning team in the late ‘90's. He demanded the same excellence that he gave every time he stepped on the hill.
Schilling is no angel. Much like many artists, he can be outspoken, demanding and petty. Yet the very traits that make him so difficult are the very things that make him so talented. I can think of NO other pitcher I would want on the hill in Game 7 of a World Series. I will take my chances with "Schill the Phil".
You can keep your Bartolo Colon, Livan Hernandez or Sidney Ponson's of the Free Agent World. Solid pitchers all, and a welcome addition to any staff. But I see no Phillie red blood in their veins. I see pitchers opening their wallets to the highest bidder. Only Schilling among the talent available understands what it is to bleed Phillie red for he has literally given it!
Remember the Opening Game against the Braves in the 1993 Playoffs? His opening strikeout salvo set the tone for the entire series. Who will ever forget Game Five of the '93 World Series? In a game the Phils absolutely had to win, he would not let us lose. This is the pitcher I want on my mound, with my team. Faith tells me it will happen again.
Augustine once wrote, "Faith is to believe what we do not see". I believe we will see Curt Schilling on the mound at Citizens Bank Park on April 12, 2004. My faith tells me it will be so.
The mountain beckons, Phillie fans.
Columnist's Note: I welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond! CD from the Left Coast