First Person: Curt Schilling

Editor's Note: This is a free preview of a feature appearing in the November issue of Diehard in which Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin discuss how they have thrived in October. To read the entire piece, subscribe to Diehard now by clicking the link at the end of this story!

Curt Schilling
"I just lost the World Series for us…and then the magic happened."

Curt Schilling has cemented his reputation as the best big-game postseason pitcher of his generation—and bolstered his Hall of Fame candidacy—by going 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 playoff starts for the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. His focus was particularly sharp during his final two starts of the 2004 postseason, when he allowed one run in 13 innings against the Yankees and Cardinals despite pitching on a famously bleeding right ankle. At 40, Schilling hopes for one more chance to live up to his past this October.

I don't know the method. I just know that you understand that October is about being better than you've been—all year. And you don't give yourself a choice. It's the ultimate win or go home. It's always been a positive for me.

[In 1993], I had a good postseason—pitched two games against the Braves and we ended up beating the Braves [in the NLCS]. And Game One of the World Series [when he allowed seven runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays], I tried to kind of reinvent myself and be a different pitcher, to try and trick people. And I realized that was not how you win in October. And with the exception of the first Yankees game [in the 2004 ALCS], that's kind of the approach every time I've taken the ball.

Game Seven of the [2001] World Series—it's one game for all the marbles. And it was just probably the most focused I've ever been, that stretch of time in the postseason, that I've ever been. And we executed almost flawlessly up until the seventh, eighth inning. It was unforgettable. Unforgettable.

As soon as [Alfonso Soriano's solo homer in the eighth inning] landed [and gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead], I looked into the Yankees bullpen and [Mariano] Rivera was taking his jacket off or whatever he was doing—it's over, I just lost the World Series for us. And it was crushing for about 10 minutes. And then the magic happened.

There was just no possible way [his ankle injury would allow him to pitch normally in 2004]. In retrospect, I can say [that]. But going in, I wasn't thinking it. But I just couldn't do it. And it was probably one of the most disappointing games of my entire career. And that was the game, that was the series, I thought they brought me here for. And to not be able to deliver that—it was a crushing loss. We ended up winning a couple games and [he] got another start and some good stuff happened.

It wasn't [so much] a focus on executing a game plan as there was just trying to stay out there. And that doesn't work in the regular season, much less the postseason. It was a very spiritual experience. When I look back on it, it went way beyond the baseball field for me. So I don't put that with any game I've ever pitched.

We've got to make [the playoffs]. One of the things that I think that people think of when they think of me is the ability to pitch in the big game. And if we get there, and get another chance to put that back on the line again—it's nerves, absolutely.

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