A devotional on Curt Schilling and the Red Sox World Series victory in 2004. This has been published in my book “Baseball Devotionals: On the Field of Life,” written in 2014.
Scripture Reading: Romans 5: 6 – 11
Key verse: Romans 5: 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (ESV)
“On February 23, 2013, a bloody sock worn by Curt Schilling while pitching for the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals was sold for $92,613 at a live auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion in New York… “
When someone told me that, I said, “Only $92 thousand? If I had the money, I would have paid more for it than that!”
What?! For a bloody sock? Well, yes – that is, if I had the money, which I don’t, so it’s a moot point. But if I spent any money on a piece of baseball memorabilia, it would be on the bloody sock.
“Why?” you may ask. Well, you have to know a little background to understand what it means. Actually, that one is the second bloody sock. Schilling says the first one was thrown out in the trash at Yankee Stadium. But, either way, it’s all about what it means…
First of all, who is Curt Schilling? That’s important. Right-handed pitcher Curt Schilling actually started his career being drafted by the Boston Red Sox. He wasn’t very successful, so he bounced around for a while – three seasons with the Orioles and one as a relief pitcher with the Houston Astros. Barely hanging on to his Major League career, he ended up traded to a team destined to finish in last-place in 1992 – the Philadelphia Phillies, who would end up with a record of 70 wins and 92 losses. Curt’s career, however, was on the upswing – he became a starter with a 14-11 record.
Something happened in 1993 – the Phillies finished in first place with 97 wins, led by their new ace, Curt Schilling, who had a record of 16 – 7. But, in the playoffs against the highly favored Atlanta Braves, he really began to shine. He started two games, not getting a win in either one, but he pitched so well that he was voted the MVP of the series, which the Phillies won 4 games to 2.
In the 1993 World Series, he pitched a gem in Game 5. With the Phillies down 3 games to 1, the day after both the Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays had set a record for runs scored by both teams (Toronto won, 15 to 14), Schilling pitched a dominating 5-hit shutout, quieting the Blue Jays bats for 9 strong inning. We won’t mention what happened in Game Six, but… Curt Schilling had firmly established himself as a Big Game pitcher.
Well, Schilling continued pitching for the Phillies, but 1993 was their only high point in the decade. He struggled on bad teams for years, occasionally getting a chance to shine on the stage, as in his dominant performance against the New York Yankees in 1997 – when he struck out 16 Bronx Bombers over 8 innings, including 4 punch-outs of their hapless young shortstop, one Derek Jeter. But he mostly toiled in silence.
Finally, he was traded out of the cellar and into the penthouse – to the up-and-coming Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. Along with Randy Johnson, he led the 2001 D-Backs to a 4 games to 3 victory over the New York American League Team (the Yankees), starting Games 1, 4, and 7, pitching brilliantly each time.
So, in 2004, the 38-year old pitcher signed with his original team, the Boston Red Sox. And the Red Sox were in a desperate condition. Unlike their rival – the Yankees, who’d been winning championship after championship since buying Babe Ruth in 1920 from them – Boston had won zero championships. Thus it was referred to as “The Curse of the Bambino”. There have been disasters along the way – just say ‘Bucky Dent” or “Bill Buckner” to any Red Sox fan. For 86 years – since 1918 – they’d come up dry. Worse than the ancient history, though was… “Aaron Boone.” In 2003, it looked as if the Red Sox would finally defeat their hated foes, the Yankees, in the American League playoffs. In Game 7, Boston lead 5 – 2 in the 8th inning, but future Hall-of Famer Pedro Martinez was left in the game… it was tied up… and the Yankees won the game and the series with an Aaron Boone home run in the 11th.
And the weight of this was on the 2004 team, especially on the back of the guy who came to town to finally get them over the top. They made the playoffs as the wild card team. They went to Los Angeles to face the Angels in the first round. Then, pitching in Game 1 with a comfortable lead, starting pitcher Schilling suffered a torn tendon sheath when he was hit by a line drive. The injury was made worse when he fielded a ball rolling down the first base line in the seventh inning. Nobody knew how serious it was except Curt…
Until he pitched in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the hated Yankees… Schilling was “Schill-acked” : after scoring six runs off him on six hits in three innings, it was obvious that the injury was more severe than anybody knew. The Red Sox went on to lose Games 2 and 3. The frustration was deep: Boston was behind 3 games to none. In the entire history of Major League Baseball, the number of teams to come back from a 3 – 0 deficit was… ZERO.
But the Red Sox wouldn’t give up. They won Games 4 and 5 in Boston, then came back to New York for Game 6. The ball was handed to … Curt Schilling. As the game was about to begin, he stopped for a pre-game prayer…
Yes, prayer. Curt Schilling is a believer.
He gave his testimony in 2005:
“One night in 1997, while driving home from the ballpark, Schilling was hounded by thoughts that he, though successful in baseball, had no real aim or purpose in his life. He found himself saying the Lord’s Prayer, later noticing that his outlook began to change from that point on”
On one occasion, Schilling was miraculously delivered from an addiction to chewing tobacco. Having tried many other times to quit, he finally prayed about it, and the next day realized his craving was gone. I seriously prayed hard for assistance to stop, he said. One night, I said a prayer before going to bed, and the next day, at four in the afternoon, I realized I hadn’t dipped all day. You need to understand that on all the other days, first thing in the morning, I’d have a dip. It was as common as putting on my pants. So at 4 p.m., when I realized I had prayed and hadn’t dipped all day, I had chills.
During his playing days, Schilling attended “Baseball Chapel” services, and did on-line Bible studies, reading the Word regularly.
Back to Game 6: To help stabilize the tendon in his ankle, Red Sox doctors had placed three sutures connecting the skin with the ligament and deep connective tissue next to the bone, effectively creating a wall of tissue to keep the peroneal tendon from disrupting Schilling’s pitching mechanics. During the game, blood began to appear just above his shoe on his right ankle. Needless to say, the bloody sock inspired his teammates without any words. He was giving it all for the team. Millions of guys who complained about reading “The Red Badge of Courage” and discussing its symbolism, understood exactly what they were seeing that night. Schilling pitched 7 strong innings, allowing only 1 run; Boston won 4 – 2.
And they were so inspired that they won Game 7, becoming the first MLB team out of 26 others to come back to win after trailing 3 – 0.
And the Red Sox just kept on winning – the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals was almost anticlimactic. Schilling pitched Game 2, producing the second bloody sock that he kept – the one that got sold. And the Boston Red Sox were the 2004 World Champions in the minimum 4 games.
And I think we can see very clearly the analogies to our faith. We understand the significance of blood in the Bible. From the very beginning, God made it clear that blood is a powerful symbol. In Genesis 3:21: “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”(ESV) As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God showed them graphically that bringing sin into the world brought death. And blood would have to be spilled to pay the price.
Blood represents death, but it also represents life.
- In Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (ESV)
- Blood had already protected the Israelites on the first Passover. Exodus 12:13 – “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” (ESV)
- The Scriptures teach that blood is an absolute necessity for our forgiveness – Hebrews 9:22 states “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…” (ESV) The whole Old Testament sacrificial system was very bloody. And that’s why the Lamb of God had to be sacrificed on that cross in such a bloody way.
- And, you know, there’s one more interesting thought as we think of the Blood of Jesus. The blood the Curt Schilling gave to his team helped them overcome “The Curse of the Bambino.” But the blood Jesus shed was so infinitely greater – and it frees us from “The Curse of Sin.” As we read in Romans 5: 9 – 11: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”(ESV) That key phrase – “while we were enemies.” He did all that He did to save us.
- Hebrews 12: 24 sums it up so well: “… and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (ESV).And an “AMEN” to that!
Thought: What can wash away our sin? There’s NOTHING but the blood of Jesus!