CURT SCHILLINGhas never been shy about sharing his opinions, so there was little doubt lastweek that the 40-year-old Red Sox righthander would have something to say aboutOrioles play-by-play man Gary Thorne. During the April 25 Baltimore-Bostonbroadcast, Thorne said that the iconic bloody sock Schilling wore during the2004 postseason—he pitched with sutures in his right ankle and beat the Yankeesin the ALCS and the Cardinals in the World Series—was a fake. Thorne supposedlyhad it on good authority (Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli) that the sock wassoaked with red paint, not blood.
Schilling deniedthe claim and excoriated Thorne, but not through newspaper or TV reporters, thechannels athletes used to depend on to communicate with fans. Instead Schillingpounded out a 1,549-word post for his blog, 38pitches.com. "It wasblood," he wrote. "The people that need to believe otherwise are peoplewith their own insecurities and issues." (Thorne apologized and retractedhis comments the day after he made them, saying he misinterpreted somethingMirabelli said.)
Schillinglaunched his forum in March, and he has quickly become the highest-profileplayer among a growing number of athletes—including the Wizards' Gilbert Arenasand the Tigers' Curtis Granderson—with personal blogs. Schilling posts a fewtimes a week, answering fan questions and providing batter-by-batter recaps ofhis outings within hours of their end. The posts are often insightful (heexplained why he likes to start some hitters out with a changeup) and candid."I thought Tim [Timmons, the home plate umpire] had a tough game," hewrote after one outing.
During springtraining, Schilling even confirmed that Jonathan Papelbon was moving from therotation back to the bullpen before the Red Sox could announce it, scooping thelocal media. And his online discourses on strategy and pitch selection couldbecome must-reads for opposing hitters. "That's his prerogative,"Boston catcher Jason Varitek says. "I don't divulge that, but I'm adifferent person."
Schilling hasheard criticism that the blog is self-aggrandizing and self-promotional. (Hedoes use the forum to promote his charities and a video game company he islaunching.) One critic, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, wrote a parodyof a Schilling Q&A session depicting his fans as uninformed andsycophantic. But for better or worse, the blog allows Schilling (who declinedto comment on his online work to SI) to avoid contact with media types whom hefeels might not give him a fair shake. "The best part," he wrote aboutThorne, "was that instead of having to sit through a litany of interviewsto 'defend' myself or my teammates, I got to do that here."
SO WHO's the big winner in the NBA versus NHLpostseason ratings war? Um, that'd be major league baseball. While nationalratings for the hoops and hockey playoffs are down compared to last year's,baseball's ratings are through the roof. Fox's Saturday game of the week is up17% over last year's average, and the sport is doing even better on cable.Ratings on regional sports networks are up 20%, with Detroit—coming off itspennant-winning season in '06—showing a 68% bump. And the notion that no onewest of the Hudson cares about the Yankees and the Red Sox? ESPN's April 22game between Boston and New York, with Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching for the Sox,was the highest-rated regular-season game since Mark McGwire hit his 61st homernine years ago.
CHARLES KRUPA/AP (SCHILLING FOOT)
BAD BLOOD Schilling went online to rip Thorne for saying he faked stains on his sock in '04.
38PITCHES.COM (SCHILLING WEBSITE)
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PAUL SANCYA/AP (JONES)