The National Baseball Hall of Fame could soon be thrust into the middle of our country’s massive political firestorm. On Jan. 26, the results of the 2021 Hall of Fame balloting will be revealed and if former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling is finally elected in his ninth year on the ballot, the conference call with reporters figures to be an incendiary event.
Even worse, the July 25 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., could have a sea of red baseball caps that have nothing to do with the Phillies or Boston Red Sox, two of the five teams he played for during his brilliant 20-year career.
Can you imagine a far right-wing political rally on baseball’s most hallowed ground?
That’s the Pandora’s box Schilling’s election could bring.
One of the benign but interesting questions for Schilling should be which hat he’d prefer to be immortalized in on his Hall of Fame plaque, but it’s possible it never gets asked because his Twitter feed — @gehrig38 — makes it clear that he still has a red MAGA cap tightly pulled onto his head.
As protesters stormed the Capitol in Washington last Wednesday after attending President Donald Trump’s final “Stop the Steal” rally, Schilling, who goes by the handle President Elect Curt Schilling, opted to defend the indefensible with a “what-about” Tweet.
He wrote, “You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens. Sit back, stfu, and watch folks start a confrontation for s—t that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption. #itshappening.”
It’s obvious he meant what he said because unlike some of his previous controversial tweets, Schilling opted against deleting this one. His Twitter account since last Wednesday has included rants about Antifa being involved in the Capitol rebellion and a claim that “Evil, true evil is at our doorstep. These are the most vile, corrupt beings on this planet and they’re here.”
Schilling also links to a website called Happs that allows him to interact with other members. I listened long enough to hear him say this: “My God, I can’t think of a more repulsively corrupt entity than our mainstream media. … They hate [Trump]. It’s obvious. That’s their prerogative, but they are still supposed to do their job. They stopped.”
Schilling’s claims and attacks should not come as a surprise. During Trump’s 2016 campaign, the former Phillies pitcher tweeted a photograph of a shirt at a Minneapolis Trump rally with the words, Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required. The tweet also included the approving words, “Ok, so much awesome here.”
Nothing Schilling said last week influenced the Hall of Fame voters who have increasingly shown their support in recent years because ballots had to be cast by Dec. 31. It’s kind of funny how earlier voting might actually benefit one of Trump’s most devout supporters. Schilling, in his eighth year on the ballot, received 70% of the vote, an increase of 9.1% from the year before. A player needs 75% of the vote, so a similar jolt to last year’s and Schilling will be a Hall of Famer.
Despite the vitriol that flows freely from Schilling’s social media accounts, I still think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I wrote exactly that a year ago at this time.
Full disclosure: I have no say in whether Schilling is elected. I stopped voting years ago because the people who run the Hall of Fame had no interest in either defining or eliminating the character clause that is part of the voting instructions. It simply states that “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Does that mean cheaters (PED users, for example) should be frowned upon? Does it mean racists and fascists should be left out? Perhaps these are better questions for the men already in the Hall of Fame, which is why I think they should have a say in who is elected into their elite club.
For now, however, the people who run the Hall of Fame do not want its voters to know exactly what the word character means, and the price they could be about to pay is giving Curt Schilling a platform to spread his demented view of the world.
Still, I think Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame and I’m not alone.
“Let’s be honest, some people are already in the Hall of Fame who are not choirboys,” Phillies Wall of Famer Larry Bowa said. “Does Schill belong in the Hall of Fame? He’s a big-time pitcher, no question. When games were on the line in the playoffs and the World Series, he was the guy you wanted on the mound. He didn’t take drugs, but I know he says things that I just don’t understand.
“If you judge him on the baseball side he’s a Hall of Famer, but it will be interesting to see what he has to say during his speech.”