Curt Schilling is back.
Boston’s most bizarre local hero — or should I say antihero? — has found a new ambition and a powerful promoter to boot. From President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed Tuesday:
“Curt Schilling, a great pitcher and patriot, is considering a run for Congress in Arizona. Terrific! @foxandfriends”
Schilling will always have a fan club in New England for his heroics on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. He was one of he stars of the unforgettable 2004 team that ended the most infamous run of futility in all of American sports. Someday, Schilling will finally get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he’ll deserve to be there.
That’s Curt Schilling the baseball player. Off the mound, it’s a different story.
Since his retirement, things have not been so rosy for the big guy. His post-baseball career is best known, I’d say, for the 38 Studios debacle in Rhode Island, in which the state’s taxpayers wound up on the hook for millions of dollars after the failure of Schilling’s video game company. But there’s more, much more.
Sometime after baseball, Schilling morphed from a political conservative to a full-blown hater. He was fired from a gig as a baseball analyst at ESPN in 2016 after sharing a Facebook post that mocked transgender people during the controversy over a North Carolina law that barred them from using bathrooms that don’t correspond to their birth genders.
The post showed a heavyset man wearing a wig and women’s clothing with parts of the T-shirt cut out to expose his breasts. It says: “LET HIM IN! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.”
Schilling added this commentary: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
That followed a social media post during the 2015 season comparing radical Muslims to Nazis — for which ESPN suspended him for a month.
Personally, my warmth for Schilling evaporated when he decided that violence against journalists seemed funny. He tweeted his approval of a T-shirt bearing the words “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required” that some Trump supporters had been wearing to his 2016 campaign rallies.
Perhaps none of this comes as a surprise to Ed Wade. When he was Schilling’s general manager with the Philadelphia Phillies, he famously described his star pitcher as “a horse every fifth day, and a horse’s ass the other four.”
Despite Trump’s pat on the back, there’s no guarantee that Schilling will actually run for office. He discussed running against Elizabeth Warren in 2018 but decided against it. When an interviewer this week asked what district he plans to run in, all Schill could muster was, ‘‘One of the blue ones.”
Clearly, this campaign is still in the formative stage.
But I think it’s fair to say he’d be a stronger candidate in far more conservative Arizona than he’d be here. If nothing else — and it might not be anything else — this is a far more plausible trial balloon than taking on Warren, who would have embarrassed him.
I don’t begrudge Schilling his conservative views (the ones that don’t involved hanging people). But I’m taken aback by the rage of a man whom fortune has treated so kindly. Schilling made millions and millions of dollars to throw a baseball. He leveraged — and ultimately exploited — that fame and fortune to rip off the public.
And now he’s spent years spewing intolerance and going, “Who, me?” when he gets called on it.
Though, come to think of it, he sounds a lot like another fortunate yet angry man who has found political currency in hate and resentment.
I never thought that guy could win, either.