Wade chooses not to wonder about the one's that got away
Dramatically, the TV cameras zoomed in on the blood-stained baseball sock where the picture explained in great detail the heart of a pitcher that carried 86 seasons of shattered hopes and dreams of a self-proclaimed Nation.
At the same time, velvet throated announcers and poetic scribes proclaimed the pitcher's greatness using words like determination, guts and hero.
But what they all failed to mention is the fact that he wanted to be here. He wanted to be one of us. To paraphrase W.C. Fields, if all things were equal, Curt Schilling wanted to pitch for the Phillies or Yankees, not the Red Sox.
It's funny how things work out. Instead potentially pitching his adapted hometown Philadelphia to the playoffs for the first time since he did it in 1993, Schilling has the Red Sox two victories away from their first World Series title since the Woodrow Wilson Administration. So instead of a bloody ankle in front of the crowd at Citizens Bank Park, millions around the world are watching the one that got away.
Interestingly, the only way everyone gets to watch the pitcher once described by his boss in Philadelphia as a horse every fifth day and a horse's ass the other four, is because the team's doctor performs an innovative operation that involves suturing a torn tendon sheath. The technique involves stitching the tendon in place so it won't fall over Schilling's ankle when he pitches.
His victories over the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS and in Game 2 of the World Series were described by Fox commentator Tim McCarver -- another former Phillie -- as a "performance [that] will go down forever in New England baseball lore.”
Had general manager Ed Wade been able to work out a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks last November, who knows if the Red Sox would be two wins away from exercising nearly nine decades of ghosts. Who knows, if Wade had ponied up Brett Myers, as the Diamondbacks reportedly asked for, instead of Carlos Silva and Nick Punto, which Wade reportedly offered, maybe the St. Louis Cardinals with castoffs Scott Rolen and Marlon Anderson would be wrapping up a title against the Yankees.
However, one thing is for certain. If Schilling landed back home instead of Boston, Terry Francona would probably still be the bench coach for the Oakland A's instead of the manager for the Red Sox.
It's funny how things work out.
Francona, of course, is the manager Ed Wade fired after the 2000 season and replaced with recently fired Larry Bowa. Since leaving town, Francona has worked for the Indians, Rangers and A's before hooking up with his old ace and taking Boston on its historical run. Actually, some have written that good old Tito is the perfect manager for a team that is a self-described band of idiots.
"I'm very happy for Terry Francona. I had a great fondness for Terry when he was here and it was a difficult for us to remove him as manager," Wade said. "I talked to him at the end of the year when they had a crucial series against the Yankees and I told him I was very happy for him."
Easy-going and friendly, Francona makes long-lasting relationships wherever he goes, particularly with his players. In Philadelphia, Francona was especially tight with Mike Lieberthal, Randy Wolf and Rolen. Before the World Series started last weekend, Francona told reporters about the special relationship he had with Rolen when they were both in Philadelphia.
The same could not be said for Wade and the rest of his staff in the front office. Actually, Wade has gotten pretty good at dodging questions about Schilling and Rolen. Sometimes he's even a bit cranky about it.
"As far as players, I mean I can sit there and say, 'Schilling was with us, Rolen was with us, Marlon Anderson was with us,' the same way the Marlins can say, '(Kevin) Millar was with [them] and (Edgar) Renteria was with [them],' and Anaheim can say, 'we probably should have never got rid of Jim Edmonds,'" Wade said. "Look at the rosters and see how many home-grown players are involved on each side and how many guys came from somewhere else and the situations that dictated making that happen."
Yeah, but what about those fans that tune in to the World Series and see a reunion of old Phillies. Aside from Francona, Schilling and Rolen, Anderson latched on with the Cardinals as a decent left-handed bat off the bench after Wade non-tendered him. Then there's Sox's setup man Mike Timlin, who the Phillies received from St. Louis in the deal for Rolen, and John Mabry, who spent a short time in 2002 with the Phils before being shipped away for Jeremy Giambi.
Then there is Game 3 starter Jeff Suppan, who the Phillies could have had at the trading deadline in 2003. Instead, Suppan went to Boston before hooking up with the Cards and becoming their top pitching during the postseason. Reportedly, the Phillies could have had Derek Lowe, the winner in Game 7 of the ALCS, for Kevin Millwood.
Is there any wonder why a lot of fans watching the series think to themselves, "Why couldn't that be us?"
"Yeah, we could bring [Mike] Schmidt back. We could have had it so he wouldn't have retired in '89," said Wade a bit smart-alecky. "I understand why fans do that and I understand how memories fade over time and reality sort of becomes blurred over the years."
"There's nothing I can do. I can't stand here and say Rolen said, 'there's no amount of money that we could give him that would make him want to stay in Philadelphia.' Or that Curt Schilling didn't pull me into the back room of the trainer's room at Shea Stadium and tell me he wanted to be traded. I can say those things, but then people would say, 'Yeah, but you're messing up a perfectly good story with the facts.'"
But he's not messing up the story for the Cardinals because they got to the World Series with Rolen. And he can't mess it up for the Red Sox fans either, because they think Francona and Schilling are going to do something that several at least three generations of Americans have never seen.
Who knew that it would take Terry Francona and Curt Schilling to break the Curse of the Bambino?
So who is going to help the Phillies break their malaise? Carlos Beltran? Nomar Garciaparrra? Carl Pavano? Randy Johnson?
"I won't be happy until we're playing," Wade said, singing to the choir. "It's not any fun being a non-participant regardless of how close the games have been."
He can say that again.
E-mail John R. Finger