Sadly, Curt Schilling Hits Sock Bottom


Rhode Islanders be warned: Flip on Frank Carpano or take a stroll up Thayer Street, because reading the following could fill the Narragansett Bay with your collective sick.

I feel bad for Curt Schilling. I'm sorry, but I do.

The Big Schill has frequently found himself in the news over the last year for mostly the wrong reasons. First, the video game company he birthed amidst much fanfare went bankrupt, shuttering its doors, laying off its employees, and leaving the littlest state in the nation on the hook for a Texas-sized bill of over $100 million.

Then came the Hall of Fame voting, with Schilling falling well short of the 75 percent needed to reach Cooperstown. He took that one in stand-up fashion, acknowledging it's the price he must pay for silently abiding the Steroids Era.

And now comes the latest hit with the news that Schilling will be auctioning off the bloody sock he immortalized during the 2004 World Series (the one he wore against the Yankees in the ALCS ended up in the trash). He needs the money to pay off his creditors, and this isn't the only personal memento he'll be losing along the way.

To guarantee almost $10 million in loans with the Bank of Rhode Island, he put up as collateral the bloody sock, a Lou Gehrig hat from 1927, and his vast collection of World War II memorabilia, among other things. He has already handed over a set of rare coins worth $2.6 million, and his Medfield mansion is on the market, too.

"I made commitments and signed documents to take responsibility for loans should the company fail, and it did, so I owe money that I'm trying to pay back," Schilling said when reached yesterday.

Bankrupt athletes don't typically engender or deserve much sympathy. They live like Tony Montana, and then tearfully wonder where all their millions went while handing over the keys to the climate-controlled marble garage housing their 14 Bentleys and original Adam West Batmobile. Lindsay Lohan possesses more self-awareness.

Schilling's a different case. He didn't give his money to an unscrupulous financial adviser buying up acres in the desert. He didn't invest in a friend's can't-miss business to sell T-shirts sewn exclusively from $100 bills for $30 apiece.

He started a business, hired the brightest talent, and then sank more than $50 million of his own money into making the online game he envisioned as a successor to World of Warcraft. I've met a couple of his programmers, and to this day they swear by Schilling and the game he conceived, describing a hands-on boss who wasn't merely a figurehead, but a daily, driving presence.

Then Schilling ran out of money, which means he ran out of time. His name will forever be mud in Rhode Island, though it's not his fault the state gave him a sweetheart tax deal worth $75 million in 2010.

Since things went south, Schilling has had harsh words for Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, who thinks even less of Schilling, and they're probably both right. But Schilling has also been refreshingly candid about the demise of 38 Studios, accepting responsibility for owning too outsized an ego to recognize what he didn't know. He won by force of will on the field, and he figured he'd do so again in one of the world's most competitive industries.

He eventually learned otherwise and the experience has left him with millions to repay, which is why the sock he wore in 2004 is now on the market.

He probably won't get as much for it as he would have before the Red Sox won their second World Series in 2007. The team's brand has since taken a progressive hit, culminating in the bloodletting of the past two years. Even an iconic artifact like Schilling's sock loses some of its luster in the shrapnel.

Where once it could have fetched $500,000 or more, now it's hard to say if it will go for $25,000 or $1 million or somewhere in between, though all it takes are two determined bidders.

Schilling's critics will doubtlessly revel in this latest news, and I'm certainly not going to begrudge any Rhode Islanders who chafe at how their millions financed a failed venture.

But I guess I'm a just sucker for mythology (Mark McGwire for the Hall!), and something simply feels wrong about one of the most recognizable symbols in Red Sox history ending up in some random millionaire's study.

At least the millionaire it used to belong to earned it.

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