Curt Schilling is comfortable in his own skin.
The six-time Major League All-Star and career 216-game winner is probably best known for his courageous Game 6 performance in a 4-2 win over the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series. In that game, he pitched with a torn tendon sheath in his ankle which resulted in a bloody sock.
The Red Sox won the series and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.
But Schilling also is a controversial, outspoken figure who has feuded with management, the media and teammates. He was fired as an ESPN baseball analyst for sharing a Facebook post about North Carolina’s controversial law that banned transgender people from using bathrooms other than the ones designated for their birth gender.
He was sued by the state of Rhode Island when his 38 Studios company, designed to build computer and video games, went bankrupt after securing a $75 million loan from the state.
The state received approximately $61 million in settlements.
Schilling, a married father of four who is a born-again Christian, is a conservative Republican and proud of it. He will decide within the next 10 days whether he will make a run for a congressional seat in Arizona.
“I’m leaning very heavily toward doing it,” Schilling said Saturday while visiting Bangor for the “Cookout with Curt Schilling” sponsored by Jeff Solari’s Rock Lobster Media company, his Maine Sports Chowdah newsletter and Dirigo Pines.
Schilling, engaging and charismatic, accepts who he is and owns up to his failures.
“Obviously, hindsight being what it is, I would like to have done some things a little differently,” Schilling said. “But I sleep good at night. I know who I am. I know I’ve made some mistakes. I’m not popular with a group of people who I’m not supposed to be popular with.
“But I’ve never hit my wife, I’ve never driven drunk. I’ve never done drugs, and I’ve never done anything that would get an athlete put on the front page,” Schilling said. “I have a voice and my pride in being a conservative.”
He said he’s never done anything racist or bigoted and doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet.
In spite of his impressive statistics, including three 20-win seasons — two coming during World Series championship runs with Arizona (2001) and Boston (2004) — his 215-146 record, his 3.46 earned run average and his 3,116 strikeouts in 3,261 innings, he hasn’t been voted into the Hall of Fame yet.
Schilling, who was 11-2 with a 2.26 ERA in the playoffs, received his best voting support in the 2019 Hall of Fame balloting (60.9 percent), but he needs 75 percent to be inducted.
“I really don’t care,” said Schilling, who turns 53 next month and has been on three World Series championship teams including the 2007 Red Sox. “No matter what happens with that, I’m never going to lose my three trophies or my three rings or my memories. It is voted on by human beings who have their biases and things like that.”
Schilling said he knew during spring training in 2004 that the Red Sox had something special — even though on paper the Yankees had more talent.
“But you don’t win these games on paper. You win them in the clubhouse and, with all the World Series teams I played on, you had a group of guys who would kill for each other,” he said.
Schilling said once Boston rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, there was “no doubt in our minds we were going to win the World Series.”
He will never forget the 3 million people who lined the streets of Boston for the victory parade after the 2004 World Series win.
But he said the 2001 World Series championship was just as important to him because he is from Arizona. It was the state’s first professional championship, and it came in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Schilling weighed in on the Red Sox going from being World Series champs in 2018 to not making the playoffs this season.
“It’s the hardest schedule in pro sports and you’re going up against the best players [in the world] every night,” Schilling said.
He believes the decision to have a closer-by-committee approach rather than re-sign closer Craig Kimbrel or another veteran was costly.
“When the [bullpen] phone rings, nobody knows who it’s for,” he said.
Schilling feels baseball is in good shape, but said if he were the commissioner, he would like to see more Saturday doubleheaders to give the players more days off during the season.
He said baseball must have a greater appeal to young sports fans, but that society has developed kids in a way that is detrimental to the game.
“You’ve got to get kids back in the ballpark,” Schilling said.
“We have an instant gratification generation and baseball isn’t an instant gratification sport. It’s a long, played-out kind of sport,” he added.
Schilling said players should wear microphones during games to help engage fans.
“The fans would love it,” said Schilling, who doesn’t expect the Red Sox to be able to keep 2018 Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts due to the salary cap.
“There’s no way they can re-sign him because they want to reset their tax threshold,” he said.