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PERSPECTIVE

Curt Schilling begged off the Hall of Fame ballot, but voters said that's not up to him

Curt Schilling talks with future Red Sox manager Alex Cora when the two were teammates in 2006.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By CINDY BOREN AND DES BIELER | The Washington Post | Published: January 27, 2021

The Baseball Writers Association of America has urged its board officials to deny Curt Schilling's request that he be left off the ballot next year in voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a day after the former pitcher castigated baseball writers for what he described as unfounded attacks on his character that have led to his failure to attain enshrinement.

Schilling, 54, shared his feelings in letter posted to his Facebook account Tuesday, shortly after he learned that he had again fallen short of the required vote percentage to become a Hall of Famer, this time by just 16 votes. In the course of 1,200 words, he asked to be taken off the ballot in 2022, when he will be in his last year of eligibility for consideration by the writers' association.

On Wednesday, Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, said in a statement that the request to remove Schilling's name was "a violation of the rules set forth by the National Baseball Hall of Fame's board of directors, who have commissioned the BBWAA to conduct the annual elections." Schilling, O'Connell notes, meets the requirements for being on the ballot by virtue of having received at least 5% of the vote in the previous election and by being nominated by at least two of six members of the association's screening committee.

"The Hall of Fame assigned the BBWAA to be the electorate in 1936," O'Connell said. "This association has abided by the rules for 85 years and shall continue to do so. "

Schilling explained his position Wednesday in an appearance on "Outkick the Coverage with Clay Travis," saying that he had reached a point where he "just wanted it over."

"I'm at a point now where I don't want to go through this again. I made peace with this a long time ago in understanding who wielded the gavel, who made the judgment," he continued. "You're talking about a group who is 85% White and 90% male and they're lecturing me on diversity and racism and all the things that go with that. The writers who know me know the things they're writing aren't true and yet they still write them."

Schilling described the last few months as "challenging" because he saw that "the hatred runs deep" for former president Donald Trump and for conservatives, and because his wife is having chemotherapy for breast cancer.

"When I saw the impact it was having on my family, I realized I don't want this any more. I'm kinda kicking myself a little bit for not thinking of it sooner," he said in the interview with Travis. "I've now removed the writers from any possibility of passing judgment on me in a meaningful way for the rest of my life and it actually feels uplifting."

Schilling added that he believes that "absolutely, unequivocally, guaranteed," he would have been elected if he had supported Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama. Schilling referred to some reporters as "the worst of the worst of the worst of people who comfortably believe they can pass judgment on people who are nowhere near as flawed as they are."

If his request isn't honored, Schilling told Travis: "I won't participate no matter what the outcome is next year. There's no reason to have me on the ballot."

Then, he hoped to "move comfortably to the veterans committee and if the former players believe I'm electable and a Hall of Famer, I guess that's the ultimate way to go." And he would accept, he added, "with bells on."

In his letter, Schilling said he would want to be immortalized in the Hall as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Philadelphia Phillies, and not as a member of the Boston Red Sox. During a 20-year career that ended after a World Series win with the 2007 Red Sox, he also helped Boston end its 86-year championship drought in 2004 but has criticized the team's owners in the past and did so again Tuesday.

Schilling reserved some of his harshest language for Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, a frequent critic whom the ex-pitcher described as "morally decrepit" and the author of a "pike of dung."

Earlier this month, Shaughnessy wrote for the Globe: "Curt Schilling would help himself if he'd stop spewing hate and claiming he's being punished by Baseball Hall of Fame voters because of his 'politics.' Supporting a racist mob that stormed the Capitol is not being 'political.' Advocating for lynching journalists, calling Adam Jones a liar when he said he heard racist slurs at Fenway Park, bilking Rhode Island out of $75 million, collecting Nazi memorabilia, and posting anti-transgender material . . . these are not 'political' stands. Mariano Rivera is a Donald Trump supporter, and he sailed into the Hall of Fame unanimously."

After beginning his major league career with the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros, Schilling came into his own with the Phillies, whom he helped reach the World Series in 1993. Schilling made three all-star teams in Philadelphia before being traded to Arizona, where he made two more all-star teams and with fellow ace Randy Johnson led the Diamondbacks to a championship. By the end of his career, which included a sixth all-star nod in Boston, Schilling accumulated 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA, plus an 11-2 record in the playoffs and a reputation as a clutch postseason performer.

That was sufficient to give Schilling a strong case for the Hall of Fame but not enough to make him a lock, and his divisive words and actions since the end of his career ended have led some BBWAA members to invoke a clause in the Hall of Fame voting instructions that says a former player's "character" should be taken into consideration.

Schilling took issue with that in his letter, writing that "the media has created a Curt Schilling that does not and has never existed."

"Never malicious, never to willfully or intentionally hurt another person. I was 100% accountable and still am," he wrote. "Even the thought of responding to claims of 'Nazi' or 'racist' or any other term so watered down and rendered meaningless by spineless cowards who have never met me makes me ill. In modern times responding to such drivel somehow validates the claim."

At other points in his letter, Schilling mentioned his wife's cancer treatment and appeared to refer to his son's case of Asperger's syndrome, suggesting that years of mistreatment by media members, as he saw it, have served mostly to cause pain to vulnerable family members.

Despite the length of and anger in his letter, Schilling claimed to be "at peace" with the likelihood of Hall of Fame exclusion.

"My love of this country has always been worn on my sleeve. My desire to do the right thing and be a good person has driven most of my life choices," he wrote. "I stood at my locker 400+ times after my starts and took every question and answered honestly. Those people who stood there asking the questions KNOW what they are claiming is untrue yet they quote, re-quote and link to one another story after story that began as lies and grew into bigger ones.

"The game has made it clear it does not want me back and that's fine, the game owes me exactly nothing," he continued. "It gave a billion more times than it took and I'll forever be deeply in debt to it."