Curt Schilling received 278 of the 397 Hall of Fame votes cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last year, 70 percent.
History suggests that is a significant mile marker on the road to Cooperstown glory. Since 1966, 20 of the 21 candidates who received at least 70 percent of the vote and still had eligibility remaining were elected the following year.
The exception was Jim Bunning in 1988. He fell short of the required 75 percent for three years before being voted in by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
But history offers no reliable guide when it comes to the controversial Schilling.
With the results of the latest BBWAA vote set to be revealed Tuesday night, Schilling is the candidate best positioned to gain a plaque.
Or he could fall further away from baseball’s greatest honor. Schilling’s drumbeat of inflammatory political and social rhetoric has caused at least six voters to withdraw their support after previously voting for him.
Three other voters have added Schilling to their choices for the first time, according to an online tracking of public ballots done by Ryan Thibodaux.
After he missed induction by only 20 votes last year, every vote will be crucial for Schilling. If he is not elected, 2021 will be Schilling’s final year on the BBWAA ballot.
Now 54, Schilling has strong Hall of Fame credentials. He was 216-146 over 20 seasons with a 3.46 earned run average. His 3,116 strikeouts are 15th all time, and his career strikeout-to-walk mark of 4.38 is first among pitchers in the modern era with at least 1,700 innings.
Schilling also has three World Series rings and was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts, including 4-1, 2.06 in seven World Series games.
Schilling finished his career with the Red Sox, playing an instrumental role in the team’s historic 2004 World Series championship. He was 53-29 with a 3.95 ERA over four seasons in Boston.
“I don’t know if we win it in 2004 without him,” Sox teammate Tim Wakefield said. “He was one of the best big-game pitchers ever.”
But the instructions that come with the ballot also tell voters to consider “integrity, sportsmanship, and character.” Those words have so far kept Schilling out of the Hall.
Schilling reached 52.3 percent of the vote in balloting conducted in 2015, then dropped to 45 percent a year later after writing, “Ok, so much awesome here” on Twitter in response to a photo of a T-shirt with the slogan: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required” worn at a rally for Donald Trump in 2016.
Schilling has regained votes since but not enough to get to 75 percent.
In recent months, another round of election-related bombast from Schilling on various forms of media led some BBWAA voters to again rethink their position.
“It isn’t Schilling’s politics. It’s his nastiness. It’s his intolerance. It’s his compulsion to troll,” wrote Joe Posnanski, who covers baseball for The Athletic.
“Curt Schilling pushes anger and fear and hatred. Every day he divides, every day he offends, and all the while, he makes sure to note that those he offends deserve it and bleep ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”
C. Trent Rosecrans covers the Reds for The Athletic and is president of the BBWAA.
“Yes, I do believe Schilling was a great player. But I’m done. This year, for the first time, I will not vote for him,” Rosecrans posted on Twitter. “If the Hall of Fame really is an honor and not just an acknowledgment of baseball greatness, well, one thing I feel very sure about is that Curt Schilling doesn’t deserve it.”
The BBWAA ballots were due on Dec. 31. On Jan. 6, following the attack on the Capitol, Schilling voiced support for the insurrection.
“Sit back, [shut up], and watch folks start a confrontation for [expletive] that matters like rights, democracy, and the end of [government] corruption,” Schilling wrote.
Schilling, who did not respond to requests for comment, later posted that media members and fact-checkers were “liars” and referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as “liberal trash.”
A number of voters said privately they sought to change their ballots after reading those comments but were turned down by the Hall of Fame.
Going into the weekend, Thibodaux’s tracker had Schilling at 74.5 percent.
Barry Bonds (72 percent) and Roger Clemens (71.3 percent) also have received significant support. Based on previous years, they will fall back when all of the votes are factored in.
If that also happens with Schilling, which it has in the past, he will come up short again.
Schilling has said he does not expect to be voted in this year, and if not, would refuse to participate in the process next year. But players have no option in that regard.
It’s unusual but not unprecedented for a year to pass without any candidates being elected by the BBWAA. It last happened in 2013, and before that in 1996.
This year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for July 25 in Cooperstown. The 2020 class — Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker — will be honored this year after their induction was postponed by the pandemic.