Schilling: 'I felt like something special was happening'

Originally Published: April 26, 2007
By Alan Schwarz | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Alan Schwarz's new book, "Once Upon a Game" (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95), in which 35 top names in baseball history -- from Nolan Ryan to Derek Jeter to Kevin Costner -- relive specific moments from the game's history in their own words. (A portion of the book's proceeds are donated to the Alzheimer's Association -- for more information and to purchase the book, see Alan's Web site.)

In this entry, Curt Schilling recalls the "Bloody Sock Game," when he beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.


Once Upon a Game
I had no idea what would happen. When I woke up on the morning of October 19, 2004, I knew I was pitching for the Red Sox that night against the Yankees. But I'm not sure I've ever felt more anxiety about a baseball game. I had no idea if I'd do well or if I'd get rocked -- again -- and let down all of New England in the process.

Every step made me question my ability to pitch. Because the sheath around my right ankle tendon had torn, the tendon snapped back and forth and was really painful. And this was the foot I used to push off from the pitching rubber. I'd gotten pounded against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS the week before -- after I'd said I was going to shut up 55,000 New Yorkers -- and it looked like pitching again that season was a total long shot.

But the Red Sox team doctor, Bill Morgan, came up with an idea, basically out of desperation. He sutured the ankle skin to some of the tendon tissue to try to keep everything in place. We had to do something because the team was on the brink. We'd lost the first three games of the series to the Yankees, and any loss in the next four games would end our season against our archrivals -- again. We won Game 4. We won Game 5. But it would mean nothing if I didn't help win Game 6.

I went through my pitch-day schedule as normally as I could -- routine is very important to me, and I was doing everything to convince myself that this was just another start. I went to Yankee Stadium five hours before the game, like usual. I met with my catcher, Jason Varitek, to go over how we'd pitch to all the Yankee hitters. I watched video and then started my stretch routine when I always do, one hour and 40 minutes before game time.

After my stretch, they injected my ankle and foot with painkillers and anti-inflammatories. I remember walking around the clubhouse afterward -- you know when your foot falls asleep and it's totally weird to walk, and you can't feel where you're stepping? That's what I felt like, because half of my foot was numb. (And I'm about an hour away from what could be the most important game of my life.) Fifty minutes before game time I went to sit in the dugout for my customary 12 minutes, after which I went out to the bullpen 38 minutes before the game. (Why 38? It's my uniform number.) I noticed some blood oozing out of my ankle. But I didn't feel any pain, so that was good. During my warmups, I had no image of what would happen, how my ankle would hold up under the stress of pitching. I had faith in God that this would work out.

"After the game people were speculating that the sock thing was staged. People still wonder about it. Well, the sock's in the Hall of Fame -- so go test the DNA if you want."
When the game started, I got some early indications that things were OK. My velocity wasn't up to par, but I was hitting my spots. I threw some good splitters. I had the hitters guessing. My pitches were moving the way they were supposed to. As each inning went by I felt like something special was happening -- you can just feel it. It was like an out-of-body experience. I always feed off the crowd's energy, even on the road, but on this night I was so locked in, concentrating so hard, that I didn't even notice the fans. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. I prayed for the strength to compete, not win, and after the start of the game I knew that the Lord had heard me.

During all this, one of the stitches busted, and the blood started really coming through my sock. I knew the tendon was still OK, and that's all I cared about. I just prayed that it would hold out for a while. After the game people were speculating that the sock thing was staged. People still wonder about it. Well, the sock's in the Hall of Fame -- so go test the DNA if you want.

I threw six shutout innings, gave up one run in the seventh, and came out before the eighth with a 4-1 lead. I was totally exhausted -- more mentally than physically because of the stakes involved for both my team and New England. I had prayed for strength and gotten it. Some people roll their eyes when I talk about my faith, but it was paramount that day in my life. It was like the Lord took a megaphone and showed me what I was capable of.

We won the game 4-2, thanks to some other guys also -- Keith Foulke, Mark Bellhorn -- and lived to see the showdown Game 7. We won that, too, thanks to Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon. People remember what I did in Game 6, and I appreciate and am humbled by that. It was an awesome feeling. But you know what? That's what I came to Boston to do. It's what I was supposed to do. And for that magical night, the Man Upstairs agreed.

Alan Schwarz is the senior writer for Baseball America. His book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," can be ordered on his website, www.alanschwarz.com.

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