Invite or no, Schilling should stay away on Wakefield’s day – Boston Herald

From the moment news broke of Tim Wakefield’s passing last Oct. 1, it was clear that this year’s Red Sox home opener would be an emotional day.

After all, the 2024 schedule had been finalized months earlier, and the first game at Fenway Park was set for April 9. As in, the Red Sox would be honoring the player who wore No. 49 on 4/9. Like a message from the baseball gods.

Unfortunately, there was an immediate issue, too. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Red Sox breaking the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino.” Incorporating that into the home opener’s pregame festivities was a given. However, the world found out that both Tim and his wife, Stacy, were battling cancer less than a week before his passing because his former teammate, Curt Schilling, decided to announce it for them, against their express wishes for privacy.

The Red Sox were furious with Schilling, and many members of the organization remain so. When asked about plans, a source told the Herald that the Sox were going to prioritize respecting the Wakefields. According to another source, a higher-up proclaimed that there was “No (expletive) way” Schilling would be included in any such festivities. Some players from the ‘04 team made it clear to the Sox that they didn’t want Schilling to come.

Such sentiments were further compounded when Stacy passed away less than five months after her husband.

So it was an unpleasant surprise when the Sox announced new home opener details on Monday, and the press release specifically noted, “All members of the 2004 team are invited.”

The juxtaposition of that statement, sandwiched between paragraphs about honoring the Wakefields, is stunning.

Then there are the No. 49 patches, which will be on the team’s jersey sleeves all season long in Wakefield’s honor. Unlike the traditional round patches for the late Johnny Pesky and Jerry Remy, the Sox opted for a heart shape for Wakefield. The press release explained that this is technically a “nod” to his tireless philanthropic efforts with the Red Sox Foundation. It’s also simply appropriate for a man who was very much the heart and soul of this organization for nearly three decades.

How, then, can they extend an invitation to someone who behaved so heartlessly?

Likely, the Sox chose to make this public statement so that Schilling can’t claim he wasn’t invited, as he did during the ‘18 World Series. Several members of the ‘04 squad wanted to attend, and though it was far from a complete roster, Schilling complained about being excluded. One would think that, given the many times he’s lambasted the Sox over the years, he wouldn’t even want to come.

There’s also a chance that the Red Sox will work something out with Schilling behind the scenes so that he agrees not to attend.

Regardless of the outcome, the entire situation is painful, frustrating, and just plain sad. Any and all ‘04 celebrations will forever be incomplete without Wakefield, and Schilling has ruined his own reputation, tarnished the collective memory of that historic season, and caused immense hurt to so many.

For over a decade, Schilling has retained hero status among many fans who believe baseball’s equivalent of separation between church and state. It’s one of the worst time-honored traditions in baseball: “on-field issues” such as performance-enhancing drug use are judged more harshly than the “off-the-field issues” that have real-world implications. In other words, it’s acceptable to be a bad person as long as you’re throwing gas, regularly putting up double-digit strikeout numbers, and pitching your team to the World Series.

Few ballplayers have benefited from this way of thinking more than Schilling over the last decade or so.

First, but certainly not foremost, he’s bad-mouthed the Red Sox several times over the years, and called out ownership on more than one occasion. “The ownership in Boston is comprised of some very, very bad human beings who on my way out of baseball did things to myself and my family that I’ll never forget,” he said in January ‘22. He once called principal owner John Henry “a dummy.” In 2011, he went on 98.5 The Sports Hub and said Henry was “full of (expletive).” He declared that if elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he wouldn’t be wearing a Red Sox cap on his bronze plaque, then blamed the Sox for not getting elected.

Then there was the Rhode Island lawsuit regarding his failed gaming company and the tens of millions of taxpayer money he wasted.

Schilling was removed from the 2015 Little League World Series broadcast for tweeting out a meme that compared Muslim extremists to Nazis. Speaking of, he has an ample collection of what he calls “World War II stuff.” That’s a sanitized way of saying that he’s spent thousands, perhaps millions on Nazi artifacts, including uniforms worn by Adolf Hitler, Reinhard Heydrich, and Hermann Göring. The 192-photo Facebook album is still up; the description notes that he needs to sell off some of his collection because he’s running out of space.

ESPN finally fired him in 2016, when he posted transphobic content on social media. That was the same year he joked about lynching journalists. “Ok, so much awesome here,” he captioned a post that November, which showed a photo of a shirt with the roads, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

Even then, it was clear he felt somewhat untouchable. “Given how much I talk, it’s amazing that I haven’t ruined myself,” he told Esquire Magazine in 2017.

In the years since, Schilling plunged himself into the alt-right deep end. He interviewed white supremacists on his Breitbart radio show, and his X page (formerly Twitter) was overflowing with medical disinformation, QAnon content, and praise for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

At some point after Wakefield’s passing, Schilling wiped the entire account. He has yet to make a public apology to the family. If that’s still the case in three weeks, how can the Red Sox possibly allow his presence?

There are still far too many people who believe that baseball should only be about baseball, even though that has never been the case. Baseball has always been about more. Baseball is about patience, perseverance, history, teamwork, brotherhood, family, and love.

Tim Wakefield exemplified all of those things. Curt Schilling betrayed all of those things.

If Schilling had any sense of respect, he would stay home. Of course, the reason this is even a topic of discussion is that he doesn’t.

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