For a brief moment in late 2004, some people feared that Curt Schilling might pull through for President George W. Bush the way he did for the Sox. His heroic bloody sock from Game 6 of that season’s ALCS was still odorizing New England’s consciousness; even here in blue Massachusetts, and even during a tight and emotional presidential race, there was much more love than loathe for baseball’s notorious conservative. Until the season ended.
On November 1 of that year, Schilling announced plans to stump with Bush in New Hampshire. At the time, it seemed as if any flare or fumble on either side could swing the outcome of the general election and, with the Granite State up for grabs, a potential Schilling trip up I-93 was frightening indeed. Luckily for Democrats (though it ultimately didn’t matter), he canceled the appearance last minute — first blaming ankle injuries, and, later on, (sort of) rescinding the endorsement on a fan site. (Rumors that Red Sox brass pressured him to back off were never confirmed.) On Election Day, Kerry took New Hampshire by less than one percent — a result that both analysts and common sense suggest could have been swayed had Schilling stayed in.
Now Schilling is back on the campaign trail, and this time he has more than just religion and ideology invested. The pitcher and Senator John McCain have been homeboys since the former played for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2000 to 2003, which makes gestures such as his appearing with the candidate at a NASCAR event in New Hampshire this past weekend seem less like a way to irk his lefty neighbors than did his endorsement of Bush.
To fully investigate the pitcher’s Republican position, we’ve assembled this timeline of Schilling’s political involvement. Will the sidelined Sox ace have enough clout to get voters swinging?
OCTOBER 2003 In a ceremony on Capital Hill, McCain presents the Excellence in Cancer Awareness Award to Schilling and his wife, Shonda, whose charity work through their SHADE Foundation and other nonprofits aims to help prevent and detect melanoma, which both Shonda Schilling and McCain have survived.
JULY 2004 Days before the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Schilling protests his team’s allowing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to throw the first pitch at a home game by yelling “Go Bush” at presumably biased liberal sports writers after the Massachusetts senator leaves the locker room.
OCTOBER 2004 After helping lead the Red Sox to the team’s first world championship in 86 years, Schilling cuts his celebrating short to get political, telling Good Morning America host Charlie Gibson, “Make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.” The Bush campaign releases a pre-recorded message from Schilling to voters: “These past couple of weeks, Sox fans . . . trusted me when it was my turn on the mound. Now you can trust me on this: President Bush is the right leader for our country.”
NOVEMBER 2004 Bush contacts Schilling about campaigning alongside him in New Hampshire; though Schilling initially agrees to roll, he ends up canceling, telling bostondirtdogs.com, “While I hope to see him re-elected, it’s not my place, nor the time, for me to offer up my political opinions unsolicited.”