Hall of Fame debate: Curt Schilling’s memes complicate pitcher’s dominant legacy

A six-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, Curt Schilling was one of the best pitchers of his generation, winning 216 games with 3,116 strikeouts across a 20-year career.

But entering his ninth – and penultimate – year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Schilling's biggest stumbling block continues to be the memes.

A far-right firebrand, Schilling has a propensity for offensive social media posts. He has denigrated Muslims and the LGBTQ communities. He has advocated for the lynching of journalists. More recently, he proudly suspported the pro-Trump riots at the U.S. Capitol and referred to last summer's social-justice protests, which Schilling recalled as "liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens."

With all that said, many voters have invoked the Hall of Fame's "character clause" – consciously or otherwise – to keep Schilling from reaching the required 75% vote share required for induction.

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Schilling nearly made the cut in 2020, finishing with 70% (20 votes shy) but is running out of time.

The case for

One of only six players in history with at least three 300-strikeout seasons, Schilling ranks 15th on the all-time list with 3,116 – behind 13 Hall of Famers and Roger Clemens.

Schilling's career was largely defined by the narrative that he was a postseason hero – and the numbers back up the hyperbole. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career postseason starts, After surrendering six earned runs in his 1993 World Series debut, Schilling gave up just five more across his next 41⅔ innings in the Fall Classic, helping the Diamondbacks (2001) and Red Sox (2004 and 2007) win titles.

Schilling was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five career elimination games, most famously sporting a bloody sock as he helped Boston force a Game 7 in the legendary 2004 ALCS. His 56 strikeouts during Arizona's 2001 run remains the most ever in a single postseason.

From 1988-2007, Schilling's 83 complete games trail only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux.

Schilling won World Series titles in 2001, 2004 and 2007. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

The case against

Schilling never won a Cy Young award, though he finished runner-up three times. That's not a huge deal, but serves to illustrate (to some extent) that he was never the best pitcher in baseball and overshadowed by contemporaries like Clemens, Johnson and Maddux.

In a 2017 interview, Schilling admitted that he may not measure up to Hall of Fame standards – at least in his book.

"I think I was pretty good," Schilling said. "I think I was better than anybody else in the history of the game in October, but do I think I'm a Hall of Famer, in my Hall of Fame? No."

Ultimately, the case against him comes back to the memes.

"We live in a time when the content of one’s character increasingly means something," wrote the USA TODAY Sports Network's Mark Faller in a column explaining his decision not to vote for Schilling.

"What is not tolerable is intolerance," Faller explained. "I agree with those who suggest that many current Hall of Famers would not stand up to modern scrutiny. That’s not something, however, today’s voters can control.

"I can control my ballot. Curt Schilling’s name still will not be checked on it."

Voting trends

Schilling's induction had been looking inevitable – up from 45% in 2017 to 70% in 2020 – but having missed out by just 20 votes last year, the question is whether he's hit a wall and can find enough new votes in his final two appearances on the ballot.

Through Tuesday, Schilling is hovering around 75% in Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame ballot tracker. That said, he has historically overperformed in the pre-results, and according to the ballot tracker, has actually lost support from returning voters this year.

  • 2013: 38.8%
  • 2014: 29.2%
  • 2015: 39.2%
  • 2016: 52.3%
  • 2017: 45%
  • 2018: 51.2%
  • 2019: 60.9%
  • 2020: 70%


It's hard to say definitively if Schilling will be able to find the few dozen or so votes he needs by next January – but it wouldn't be surprising to see a 2022 class of final-ballot character clause All-Stars in Schilling, Clemens and Barry Bonds.

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