As I write this on Thanksgiving morning, I think about all the things in life we should be thankful for. One of those things I personally am thankful for is the boldness of the Red Sox brass in 2003 to fly to Phoenix and bring back a prized possession: Curt Schilling.
The Boston Red Sox, Thanksgiving and Curt Schilling
86 Years. The Curse of the Bambino. Words spoken over and over in Red Sox Nation. History for the Sox was a graveyard of failure and missed opportunities. “Pesky held the ball,” “Bucky bleeping Dent!” “It gets through Buckner” and finally in October of that year “Aaron bleeping Boone.” Seeing Tim Wakefield walking off the mound dejected was what could have been a final straw in Red Sox GM Theo Epstein’s mind. He needed a top guy. Pedro Martinez, although great, was aging, injury prone, and going into free agency following 2004. A top-of-the-line starter needed to be secured. Schilling was the perfect candidate. In the previous three years, he topped 20 wins in two of them ... most notably 2001, where he and Randy Johnson basically put Arizona on their back, and beat the mighty Yankees in seven games to win it all. Maybe Epstein thought Schilling and Martinez could do the same in Boston?
For Arizona, there was an issue … payroll. They got their World Series title, but the cost of doing business was hurting them and they needed some relief. Trading Schilling, who at the time was coming off an 8-9 season; certainly a down year for the then 36-year-old. Schilling had a no trade clause, so someone had to get Schilling to agree to a trade. According to an article written by Chris Henrique, Schilling was winning to either go back to the Phillies, where he spent eight-plus years before going to Arizona, or to the Yankees. Well, after losing out to the Yankees for Alex Rodriguez, the Sox weren’t going to let that happen again.
The Schilling family invited Epstein and assistant GM Jed Hoyer to their home for Thanksgiving dinner to see how committed the Sox were to acquiring his services. For the Sox, this is a make-or-break moment: If they go down and leave only with a full belly, it will be a PR nightmare. If they fill a rotation spot, it will be a huge success.
Well, dinner must have been something special because the next day, the Red Sox agreed to trade Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa, and Mike Goss to Arizona and to extend Schilling’s contract through 2007. The Sox got their man.
The rest as they say is history. Two World Series titles later and one of the best Thanksgiving stories in baseball.