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Curt Schilling, done by Curt Schilling

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It wasn't the media, fake, real, or otherwise, who kept Curt Schilling out of the Baseball Hall of Fame -- it was Schilling himself.

Dick
Flavin

No candidate for president of the United States has ever come close to winning 71 percent of the popular vote. Oh sure, George Washington, the GOAT of presidents, won unanimously twice, but that was in the dead-ball era of presidential elections, when there was no popular vote; the only votes were cast by the electoral college until 1824. The record holder among modern presidents is Lyndon B. Johnson, who in 1964 racked up an impressive 60.3 percent of the total vote cast. But that was nowhere near the 71.1 percent that Curt Schilling got in the recent Hall of Fame voting.

The difference was that Johnson won his election in a landslide while Schilling lost his in a squeaker, with the Baseball Hall of Fame having the higher threshold to cross of 75 percent.

It's traditional, or at least it was until this year, for candidates, win, lose, or draw, to make a statement thanking their supporters and pledging to keep up the good fight. Schilling issued a statement calling the Hall of Fame voters "spineless cowards" and "morally decrepit." Imagine that, more than seven out of 10 voters support you even when you call them spineless.

It's obvious that Curt Schilling had a tougher opponent this year than Lyndon B. Johnson had to face in 1964. Johnson was pitted against Barry Goldwater, who was either ahead of or behind his time, depending on your point of view. Schilling, on the other hand, had to face the slings and arrows of that master of negative campaigning -- himself.

Only Curt Schilling would think to pull a dirty trick on himself like retweeting a photo of a T-shirt with the slogan, "Rope, Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required." Then adding what an "awesome" idea it was, knowing full-well that it was an organization of journalists -- the Baseball Writers Association of America -- that would be voting on his election to the hall. What a brilliant way to sandbag his own candidacy. Still, it very nearly didn't work; 285 of the 401 eligible baseball writers went ahead and voted for him anyway.

He also came up with a creative last-minute strategy to guarantee his defeat. When a mob of right-wing extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to get Congress to overturn the presidential election results, and to do bodily harm to Vice President Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi if they could be found, Schilling was quick to send a message supporting the mob. The ploy would have been successful but for a technicality. The deadline for voting for the Hall had passed a week earlier, on Dec. 31, and several writers were stymied when they tried to change their votes.

It wasn't the media, fake, real, or otherwise, who kept Curt Schilling out of the Baseball Hall of Fame -- it was Schilling himself.

In a way, it's too bad. He was a great big-game pitcher. His addition to the Red Sox roster in 2004 is what put them over the top and broke the phantom 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino. His "bloody sock" game in the ALCS that year will go down as one of the great clutch performances ever in baseball lore.

His performance during the regular season, however, while still very good, was not quite as elite. In his 20-year career, he won 216 games, far fewer than Tommy John, famed for the restorative arm surgery named after him, who had 288 wins and is not in the Hall of Fame; neither is Luis Tiant, who had more wins and a lower earned run average; so his selection would by no means be a slam dunk under the best of circumstances.

Schilling has informed the Hall that he chooses not to be a part of the selection process next year, but would rather take his chances with the Veterans Committee. The choice, however, is not his to make. He is on the ballot until he is no longer eligible, which doesn't take place until the year after next, but he needn't worry about being elected next year against his wishes.

His window of opportunity has been slammed shut. His support for the insurrectionists of Jan. 6 has seen to that. He'll discover that support for him among the BBWAA has collapsed and that he won't get anywhere near the 71.1 percent of the vote that he received this year. All the talk next year will be about whether or not David Ortiz gets elected in his first year of eligibility and, to a lesser extent, how little support Alex Rodriguez gets. Curt Schilling will just be an also-ran.

As far as the Veteran's Committee (the official name is the Today's Game Committee) is concerned, he'll find even less support there. The committee has 15 voting members, five of whom are duly elected members of the Hall, five are old baseball executives, and the other five are retired media members. All are chosen by the Hall of Fame board of directors. Schilling is going to discover to his chagrin that backing the insurrection was going too far. It's one thing to dabble in right-wing politics but supporting the attempted overthrow of the government is stepping way over the line. He'll find few supporters on the Today's Game Committee. His name will gradually fade from the spotlight and will end up in the dustbin of history, not Cooperstown.

He has always been very opinionated and shown little regard for opposing views, even going back to his early years with the Philadelphia Phillies. The team's then general manager, Ed Wade, famously said of him back then, "He's a horse every fifth day (when he pitched) and a horse's a** the other four."

He's not going to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and all he has to do is look in the mirror to find who's to blame.

"It's too bad," some would say. Others might opine, "It serves him right." Walter Cronkite, if he were still alive, would say simply, "That's the way it is."

- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.



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