The Washington Times - March 24, 2009, 12:35PM

Curt Schilling hadn’t pitched since 2007 because of shoulder troubles, but despite his age - 42 - and the fact that he’s already hoisted the World Series trophy on three occasions, the veteran right-hander still held out hope of a return - until Monday, that is. Schilling used his blog, 38pitches.com, to call it a career, writing, “The party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world’s best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official.”

There’s no question Schilling has a place in baseball history, but will he have a place in Cooperstown? His regular season numbers would seem to put him right on the bubble. In part because he spent several years in relief early in his career and in part because he wasn’t always durable - he made fewer than 30 starts in 10 of his 20 big league seasons - Schilling ranks just 79th on the all-time wins list with 216. Though he finished second in the voting on three occasions, he never won a Cy Young Award. His 3.46 career ERA wouldn’t exclude him from the Hall but doesn’t help his cause all that much, either. On the other hand, he posted three 20-win seasons and ranks 15th all-time in K’s (3,116) despite being just 95th in innings pitched (3,261).

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Very few, if any, pitchers in baseball history can match Schilling’s postseason dominance. He was a key member of three World Series teams - 2001 with the Diamondbacks, and 2004 and 2007 with the Red Sox - and captured NLCS MVP honors by pitching the Phillies into the 1993 World Series. Schilling shared World Series MVP honors with D-Backs teammate Randy Johnson in 2001 and came up huge for the Red Sox despite a painful ankle injury in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees in a game that will forever be remembered for his blood-stained sock. In 19 career postseason starts, Schilling went 10-2 with a 2.23 ERA - the lowest in history among pitchers who have made 15 or more playoff starts.

My gut feeling is that Schilling will get in, though not on the first ballot. His adequate regular season resume (by Hall of Fame standards) combined with his outstanding postseason performance should be enough to earn him a place among the game’s immortals. The fact that he appears to have played clean - and succeeded - during the height of the Steroid Era will only help his cause. National Pastime’s Nick Leco summed up Schilling’s case for the Hall of Fame thusly in his Cooperstown Bound? column last summer: “Ask yourself this question: In a big game, who would you want pitching for your team? Even when compared to the best hurlers of the past 20 years, Schilling is the clear choice, and that’s what being a Hall of Famer is all about.”

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected]

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