Earlier today, news reports out of “The Bay State” indicated that Curt Schilling, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and 2004 World Series hero, was a potential candidate to fill the senate seat now vacant in the wake of Ted Kennedy’s passing. Late today, he posted this comment on his blog:
While my family is obviously the priority, and 38 Studios is a priority, I do have some interest in the possibility. That being said, to get to there from where I am today, many many things would have to align themselves for that to truly happen. I am not going to comment further on the matter since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation.
My hope is that whatever happens, and whomever it happens to, this state makes the decision and chooses the best person, regardless of sex, race, religion or political affiliation, to help get this state back to the place it deserves to be.
I don’t know Curt Schilling well by any stretch, but I did have the opportunity to meet him in the final days of the 2004 campaign when he hit the road with President Bush and I was serving as the Bush-Cheney ’04 traveling press secretary.
In October of 2004, just days before Election Day, the Red Sox broke one of the longest droughts in professional sports by winning the World Series (after being in the wilderness for 86 years). Curt Schilling was a hero of the post season for the Red Sox. He suffered a torn ankle tendon early in the playoffs. In order to be able to pitch, three sutures were used to stabilize the tendon. This resulted in his ankle bleeding through his sock in the final two games he pitched – and won – for the Red Sox.
On October 28, 2004, in an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, Schilling made an unprompted pitch for President Bush’s reelection at the conclusion of his interview with Charlie Gibson. Staff at the Bush-Cheney headquarters were very happy, and quickly emailed his comments far and wide, as this story indicates. Here’s a graph from the story –
The Bush campaign immediately sensed a coup, shortly after Schilling closed his interview yesterday by telling GMA host Charles Gibson: “And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.” The campaign posted Schilling’s comments on its website and sent them out via blast e-mail to journalists all over the country.
The campaign also invited him to introduce President Bush at a rally in New Hampshire the next day (Friday, October 29, 2004). What happened next is not entirely clear, but I have some theories. After Schilling agreed to introduce President Bush in Manchester (and after I told reporters about it), we received word overnight that the pitcher would not be able to make it to New Hampshire. The reason given was that doctors said he shouldn’t be moving around on his torn tendon.
I believed that Schilling wanted to be there and something seemed fishy. I had to tell reporters (who, based on what I had told them the night before, had written stories saying Schilling would introduce the President) that Schilling was no longer going to be in New Hampshire for the rally on Friday. A Boston sports blog (http://bostondirtdogs.boston.com) theorized that the Red Sox execs and owners, who supported Massachusetts Democrat Senator John Kerry in the race, had put pressure on Schilling to back out of his public campaigning for President Bush. I guessed that was an accurate assessment and what happened over the final few days of the campaign gave credibility to that theory.
This blog post notes that on Sunday, October 31, 2004 – just two days after Schilling was supposed to appear with President Bush in Manchester, New Hampshire, but withdrew citing doctor’s orders – the Red Sox brass appeared at a rally with John Kerry in Manchester, New Hampshire. My theory is that this angered Schilling enough to leave the bullpen again and call the campaign to volunteer to take the mound to pitch for President Bush the very next day (Monday, November 1, 2004) in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania (where Schilling also expressed his love of the Pittsburgh Steelers). He also recorded phone calls the campaign used to turn out the vote in the battleground states of New Hampshire, Maine and Pennsylvania. I had the opportunity to meet Schilling and his wife Shonda on Air Force One while traveling from Wilmington, Ohio, (near Cincinnati) to Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, (outside of Pittsburgh) on that Monday, November 1, 2004. He couldn’t have been a more gracious and humble man.
In the end, New Hampshire became the only state to switch from red in 2000 to blue in 2004. (However, Iowa and New Mexico switched the other way, securing a second election for President Bush). Wouldn’t it be amazing if Curt Schilling stepped up to the political mound, threw a little chin music at John Kerry again, won the Kennedy seat for Republicans and took that prized 60-vote majority away from Senate Democrats? It might be enough for me to want to join the Red Sox Nation.