Schilling Joins Mates for 2001 D-backs Reunion
By Josh Greene
On any other team, he was a clear-cut No. 1 hurler, but on the D-backs’ 2001 World Championship team, he was one half of one of baseball’s all-time great pitching tandems.
Curt Schilling made his return to a sold-out Chase Field Saturday for the D-backs’ World Championship Reunion Weekend, joining a plethora of teammates from the 2001 roster who came back to the site of their biggest collective baseball accomplishment.
“We had a good mix of veterans and young players on that team,” the six-time All-Star said. “We didn’t have a real bad run or go through any extended down periods. When you pitched the way we did, it makes the down times a lot less down. And we swung the bats all year long. Even in Spring Training we knew we were a really good team. We cemented that and parlayed that the whole year.”
Before Saturday’s game vs. the Padres, Schilling stepped out onto the Chase Field pitcher’s mound to throw out the first pitch alongside fellow 2001 D-backs ace Randy Johnson. The duo combined to take home co-MVP honors for the 2001 World Series, after posting a combined four wins and 45 strikeouts in 38.2 innings pitched during the Fall Classic.
“Randy is the greatest left-handed power pitcher in the history of the game,” Schilling said. “He was more than just an ace. He set a bar that for a lot of people was unreachable. It was a bar I competed against the entire year. He certainly made me a better pitcher. Nobody in the game could have pushed me to the level that he did. And I’ll always be grateful to have been able to watch him and be a part of it all.”
The former right-hander was the Majors’ winningest pitcher in 2001, going 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA, before amping it up for the D-backs in the postseason with a 4-0 record and a 1.12 ERA. In addition to his 2001 World Championship ring, he also took home championship hardware in 2004 and ’07 with the Red Sox.
Transitioning behind the microphone for broadcast work on ESPN as of late, Schilling prides himself on speaking his mind, yet staying fair to the men who play the game – an on-air trait not always shared by his broadcasting brethren.
“I always had respect for the media,” Schilling said. “I just didn’t have respect for media that didn’t have respect for the game. I will uncomfortably admit to being a member of the media now. The difference is I haven’t forgotten how hard it is to play. It’s an incredibly challenging and difficult game, and I have no desire to sit up there and tell you how bad someone is. The worst player on the field is still better than anyone you’ve ever played with. I have a lot of respect for that. I have trouble with guys who aren’t accountable for what they (said) and guys who didn’t respect what we did for a living.”
And this part-time TV analyst’s take on the 2011 D-backs?
“I believe they will win the division,” Schilling said. “If I was pitching to this team in October, I would give Justin Upton the freedom to walk down to first base and let the other guys beat us. It’s up to the guys surrounding him in the lineup to make things uncomfortable for other teams.
“Arizona has two guys at the top of the rotation who have power arms at the most important time of the year. J.J. Putz is back in the bullpen and can end any game. Justin’s having a phenomenal season. In the West, it comes down to teams who stay the healthiest and play the best fundamental baseball. And these guys have done it all year long.”
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