April 22, 2018

It Fell From Somewhere

January 27, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

January 27, 2011

Somewhere in Chicago’s western suburbs there is a very unhappy Curt Schilling fan.  And they might be looking for me.  While on a recent walk I found a Schilling baseball card but it took me a moment to recognize it because while Schilling’s name certainly erupts from the card the uniform he is wearing does not.

On this trading card Mr. Schilling is not displaying the logo of the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Orioles or Astros.  Rather, this 1989 offering from ProCards displays a young and spry Mr. Schilling proudly wearing the red cap of the Rochester Red Wings of the International League.  Such a find is far from uncovering a Honus Wagner card in the attic or an autographed Wilt Chamberlain condom in the glove compartment but still, it’s kinda neat.  My greedy nature compelled me to make a quick scan of eBay and there’s a similar Schilling card, this one from 1990, up for auction with the going price currently at $1.29, which is about what I spend for most songs on iTunes.  iTunes does have several offerings featuring interviews with Schilling.  They’re all free.

I can’t remember the last time I bought a baseball card but I know that, just like anything that pops up on “Antiques Roadshow,” a major component to a card’s value is its condition and my newfound Schilling card doesn’t look bad but has definitely seen better days.  It’s a little tattered, worn and wrinkled and has a blotch on the stats side that could be a piece of grass but also, frighteningly, might be a booger.  But the statistics are easy to read, detailing how Schilling started with Elmira in 1986 before moving over to Greensboro then getting traded from the Red Sox organization to the Orioles in 1988 which steered his baseball voyage to New Britain, then Rochester.

Comparing Schilling’s resume from the back of the card with his major league stats serves as a reminder of the perseverance needed by so many big leaguers.  Schilling was dealt from the bowels of the playoff-bound Red Sox in 1988 to the Orioles who were compiling an AL-worst 54 wins after getting off to that infamous 0-21 start.  Schilling was able to get in on the misery, making his major league debut on September 7 and compiling an 0-3 record and a discomfiting ERA of 9.82.

Is it possible for a baseball card – or anything for that matter – to serve as a crystal ball in retrospect?  I suppose that once we know what happened we can look back on anything and believe that it foretold what was to come.  Schilling’s 1989 Red Wings card denotes that Curtis Montague Schilling was a resident, at that time, of Phoenix, Arizona which would serve as the site of some of CMS’ greatest glories more than a decade later.  Research beyond the card shows that Schilling graduated from Shadow Mountain high school in Phoenix so maybe it’s no surprise that he ended up playing for his hometown team which is just about everyone’s dream.  The ’89 card doesn’t tell us that Schilling was born in Alaska, a bit of information which might tip us off as to the origin of his middle name.  Montague, it turns out, means “mountain” and there are a few of those in Alaska.  Schilling was born amid the mountains, attended a high school in the shadow of other mountains thousands of miles away and always pitched with a certain rugged bravery, as if shaped by treks up mountainsides through cold, heat and whatever nature threw at him.

Schilling, though, is far from just a tough guy with a good arm.  Most observers know that he was a straight-A student of the game, compiling stats on the batters he faced, studying their techniques as well as his own and endlessly looking at video.  I was there once when Schilling was asked by a reporter to explain all his study and preparation and he said that there wasn’t enough tape in the camera to record all he would have to say.  Does the young Curt Schilling from the 1989 Rochester Red Wings know at that moment that he will have to work so hard to achieve 216 wins, six All-Star games, four pennants, three World Series titles and one bloody sock?

Schilling was born in Alaska, grew up in Arizona and also would lay his hat in Elmira, Greensboro, New Britain, Rochester, Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Boston.  I found his ’89 Red Wings card a mile west of Chicago on the street beneath some “L” tracks on a cold, rainy day.  That stretch of train line starts west of Chicago and heads downtown then through the city’s northwest side before finally terminating at O’Hare Airport where planes take people all over the world.  Maybe my undeserved Schilling card slipped from the hands of someone who was getting on the train and heading for the airport to travel to all kinds of exotic and intriguing lands.  Maybe they adored the Schilling card and wanted to take it with them.  But then why did they let it go?  More likely the card was plucked from someone’s collection and carried about carelessly by the child or younger sibling of a true collector who is still incensed by its disappearance.  I found it lying helplessly amid the rain and leaves and fall chill.  Destiny or fate may have been its transport but happenstance is just as likely.  Now here it sits, the photo of a young pitcher not knowing where his career will take him.  I salute the path of both the player and the card which is now one of my prized possessions that I won’t dare part with…for anything less than $1.30.  Plus shipping and handling.    –Terry Keshner


One Response to “It Fell From Somewhere”
  1. Austin says:

    Funny how a baseball card can act like a magic carpet and take you to so many different times and places.

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