High-tops nudge open door of hope for Schilling fans

October 16, 2004|By Laura Vecsey

BOSTON - With 21 wins and a clause in his contract that pays Curt Schilling $2 million if the Red Sox win the World Series, there's no question his shoes were impossible to fill - once his ankle became the latest incarnation of the curse.

Still, you'd think the Red Sox could find a pair of high-tops big enough to fit their ailing ace once he decided to take his ankle for a test run.

Will he come back this October, dragging that shredded ankle to the mound, and stare down the Bronx Bombers, who mercilessly lit him up in Game 1 of this American League Championship Series?

Since then, the stability of Schilling's ankle has been more shaky than the nerves of Red Sox Nation.

Since then, the prospect of a Red Sox World Series has seemed about as certain as George Bush and John Kerry sharing the same presidential ticket.

No chance.

Now, a ray of hope.

OK, not an entire, shining ray, but a speck.

"What he did was he went out and threw with a high-top shoe, went without any stabilizing brace. He did pretty well; well enough to leave open the door for his season not to be over," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

"The door hasn't been closed," said Francona, delivering to the news the enthusiasm and zeal similar to the legend of Paul Revere.

Schilling is coming. Schilling is coming.


Yesterday afternoon, the Red Sox took Schilling out to the bullpen to throw, equipping him with that high-top shoe to help stabilize his ankle - the tendon of which, Schilling says, snaps across the bone with a definite clicking sound.

Click or clack, doesn't matter. Schilling does his own version of car talk. He calls up radio DJs who make errors about his relationship with Pedro Martinez.

But there was nothing Schilling could say to allay Red Sox Nation fears that he is down and out - or is he?

This was very bad news for a franchise that doesn't need this twisted bit of fate.

During Schilling's test run, the ankle felt OK. His delivery was better than in Game 1.

It's just that instead of his ankle rendering him disabled, Schilling's toes hurt.

"After all that and we got him the wrong size. We'll see if we can get him a bigger size," Francona said.

What a metaphor: Boston's fate might rest on its ability to find bigger shoes for a guy whose shoes are so big they can't be filled.

Still, the fact that the Red Sox are even hunting around greater Boston for a bigger pair of high-tops - someone call Bill Russell or Robert Parish - is good news.

Now, the level of obsession regarding the ankle of the 21-game-winning Red Sox ace has officially been downgraded from code red to code orange.

Please pass this along to your friends and neighbors. It is a matter of utmost importance.

In fact, in the gloom of Boston, where the skies over the Green Monster were as gray and wet as Schilling's ashen face after his painful and disastrous outing in Game 1 of this ALCS, news of Schilling's potential availability for Game 6 staved off regional depression for which no amount of Zoloft, coffee, Samuel Adams lager or Patriots fever could possibly correct.

That assumes, of course, that the Red Sox, who trail the Yankees 2-0, get to a Game 6.

It isn't so much that Schilling will or won't be able to pitch again against the Yankees. The Red Sox certainly need him to beat New York.

It's just that in the context of all Red Sox drama dating back to 1918, the idea that Boston's 21-game winner - the guy who signed with the Red Sox expressly to win a World Series for and with the team - has been effectively knocked out of action, headed for surgery, yet still looms as a factor, or at least a threat, in this latest showdown in the most-storied rivalry in all of sports.

Kevin Millar may be the emotional leader of the Red Sox clubhouse, switching from Cowboy Up thematics to Idiots On Parade for this year's run.

Pedro Martinez might be the franchise diva and Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz might be the sluggers who lead the Red Sox' offensive assault.

But Schilling is the ace, the credibility. He's the one who said there would be nothing better than silencing the 55,000 Yankee Stadium crazies by beating the Yankees.

In the gloom of being down 2-0, with another 24 hours to contemplate their dire straits, Red Sox Nation was given an ounce of hope.

Now, if only the Red Sox can find a high-top that doesn't hurt Curt Schilling's toes.

Otherwise, we're going to be talking about Schilling's ankle the way we talk about the Curse of the Bambino; 1918; Johnny Pesky's alleged hesitant throw; Bucky Dent; Mookie Wilson's grounder and Billy Buckner's wickets; Grady Little's decision, and Aaron Boone's homer off Tim Wakefield.

It's a fascinating list, but one the Red Sox can't bear to add to.

Yankees vs. Red Sox

Best of seven; *-if necessary

New York leads series 2-0

Game 1: New York, 10-7

Game 2: New York, 3-1

Today: New York (Brown 10-6) at Boston (Arroyo 10-9), 8:10 p.m.

Tomorrow: New York at Boston, 8:15 p.m.

*Monday: New York at Boston, 5:10 p.m.

*Tuesday: Boston at New York, 8:19 p.m.

*Wednesday: Boston at New York, 8:19 p.m.

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