- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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BOSTON -- So what torturous medical procedure will Curt Schilling endure before his next start?
How about gall bladder surgery, just for fun?
Has he considered having 18-inch acupuncture needles inserted in his toenails?
Or he could always have the Greater Boston Sewing Club stop by his house and practice needlepoint techniques on his ankle.
Whatever, it's clear this man's favorite cliché as a kid had to be "no pain, no gain." Because Schilling is on the verge of winning the rarest of October triple crowns -- wins, quality starts and pain tolerance.
It hurts merely to hear him describe the stuff being perpetrated on his ankle before every start: He had a stitch stuck in a nerve in his leg? Yeesh. You need to take two Advils after just listening to this stuff.
But whatever the heck those doctors are doing to him, however many shots and needles and pills he is taking just to make it out to the mound, we are seeing an October legend grow before our eyes.
Kirk Gibson had one World Series at-bat on a gimpy knee, and people still talk about it 16 years later. So try to imagine what kind of mythical figure Schilling will be in another decade or two -- after these two straight-out-of-Hollywood baseball games he has pitched in the last week.
"I said the other day, 'There's a good chance that, 10 years from now, people will say that Willis Reed pulled a Curt Schilling,'" said Red Sox GM Theo Epstein on Sunday, after Schilling had finished pitching the Red Sox to a surreal 6-2 win over the Cardinals in Game 2 of a surreal World Series. "So how this gets portrayed now is up to you guys (in the media). It all depends on how the history writers record it."
Well, we don't know how Doris Kearns Goodwin plans to record it. But we know how the people who type up the box scores will record these last two starts.
First came seven innings, four hits, one run against the Yankees last Tuesday, in the game that pulled the Red Sox even in a series they once trailed, 3 games to zilch.
And then came Sunday, against the Cardinals, in the game that gave the Red Sox their third 2-0 World Series lead in franchise history (joining 1916, which turned out great, and 1986, which didn't):
Six innings. Four hits. No earned runs.
All of this coming on a day when rumors rattled around Fenway for hours that he wouldn't be able to pitch at all.
It was some scene, all right. And it got better when Schilling climbed up to the podium after the game and, within four sentences, was calling this "the most amazing day of my life."
The most amazing day of his life.
That's what he said.
Is there any doubt what kind of grade this guy got in drama class?
When he woke up at 7 a.m., he said, he noticed a couple problems that might make it sort of tough to pitch.
"I couldn't walk," he said. "I couldn't move."
So it's safe to say he probably couldn't reach back and throw a 98-mph smokeball past Albert Pujols, either. Just guessing here.
But after calling the medical staff to report he was in agony, he began the drive to Fenway. And that, he said, was "kind of when everything started."
"There were signs every mile from my house to this ballpark," he said, "on fire stations, on telephone poles, wishing me luck."
Yes, in case no one has mentioned this to you, the citizens of New England are just a tad caught up in this Red Sox saga. So if necessary, several of his neighbors probably would have carried Schilling to the park on their backs, attached to a portable whirlpool.
But fortunately, he owns an automobile. So after he pulled it into the parking lot, he limped to the trainer's room, where team doctor Bill Morgan discovered that the extra stitch he'd sewn in Schilling's ankle the day before had inadvertently pierced a nerve.
Morgan removed the stitch. The pain began to subside. And about six hours later, Schilling began walking to the Fenway bullpen to warm up. The roar that erupted at the mere sight of him probably woke up hundreds of sleeping children in Nova Scotia.
"On the way to the park today," Schilling said, "I was thinking about stepping onto the field and beginning that walk to the bullpen. Regardless of what happens in my career, I'll never get a feeling like that ever again in my life."
OK, so the guy was slightly caught up in the moment. Who can blame him? It was some moment.
Three hours and 20 minutes later, he'd become the first starting pitcher in history to win World Series games for three different teams. And his teammates were standing at their lockers, talking about him as if they'd just seen some fictional character come crashing through their TV screen and charge out to the mound to lead them to October glory.
"After Game 1 (of the Yankees series), I'm surprised he was able to pick up a ball the rest of this year," said pitcher Alan Embree.
"It's not easy doing what he's doing if you feel normal," said reliever Mike Timlin. "And he doesn't feel normal. I know that."
"If you really want to know how he feels, you should ask the hockey guys, when they get sutured up in the middle of a game," said third baseman Bill Mueller, after a three-error game that wasn't causing him to feel so hot himself. "It doesn't feel good. I know that."
"The people who don't know the game might take it for granted," said pitching coach Dave Wallace. "But think about these two lineups he shut down -- the Yankees' lineup and this (Cardinals) team's lineup? Given what happened to him in that first game against the Yankees, to come back and do what he's done against those two lineups, it's pretty darned amazing."
Maybe even beyond amazing. When his fellow pitchers begin to think about what this guy is doing, with a torn tendon in his ankle, they have a hard time comprehending it.
"If you feel like you can't find a balance point, pitching is almost impossible," Timlin said. "Balance is more than just the key to throwing a baseball. It's the key to everything. It's the key to hitting a baseball. It's the key to shooting a basketball. The key to everything in sports is balance. That's what it's all about. And it's tough to get that balance if your ankle is in the shape his is in."
But somehow, Schilling has been able to tolerate the pain and drive off that ankle. Somehow, he has been able to throw 193 pitches over two starts -- 66 percent of them for strikes. Somehow, he has been able to face 49 hitters in those starts and allow just nine of them to reach base via hit or walk.
If he's in agony out there, you would never know it.
"He hides himself," said his catcher, Jason Varitek. "You don't know what he's feeling, period. I think he wants it that way."
But what he wants, most of all, is to pitch in these games, when the world is watching and seasons are on the line and the crowds are so loud his eardrums hurt more than his ankle.
"When you talk about the guys who pitch like he has (in October), you're talking about the (Sandy) Koufaxes and the (Bob) Gibsons -- those kinds of guys," said Wallace. "I think it takes a special quality, and some guys just have it. (Orel) Hershiser had it, even after he left L.A., when he was in Cleveland, after he hurt his shoulder. I don't think there's any question that Curt has it, when you look at what he's done in the postseason and in the World Series."
Over his last five World Series starts, Schilling's ERA is now an absurd 0.99. His lifetime postseason record, after four marches through October over the last 10 seasons, is an amazing 8-2, 2.06. Toss out that game against the Yankees this month -- when he could barely stand, let alone pitch -- and he'd be 8-1, 1.61.
"It's games like this," Schilling said this week, "where you make your mark."
That mark is getting so big and bold, it is far from out of the question that this guy has built a Hall of Fame case for himself practically based on his October heroics alone. Add in 183 career wins, a tremendous 3.32 career ERA, three 20-win seasons and three more seasons of 300 strikeouts, and it won't take many more regular-season wins to seal this deal.
And then add in the tale of The Ankle Sutures Heard 'Round the World and you've got the stuff legends are made of.
The whole saga has been so beyond belief, it doesn't even feel like it could possibly be happening in real life. If this isn't a made-for-TV movie we're watching, it sure seems destined to become one.
Which leads to the question: Who would play Schilling in the movie?
"He's a warrior, man," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "So it would have to be Mel Gibson. What's that Mel Gibson movie? Braveheart? Well, he's Braveheart. Or Brave Ankle, maybe."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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