As an ace pitcher, Curt Schilling would stand at the back of the mound and pray, pressing his cross pendant to his lips. He would blow on his hands and take a deep breath. He’d peer at his target long and hard before going into his picture-perfect delivery and firing off precision pitches.
If I could offer some advice to the former Red Sox standout, it’d be this: Think about social media the way you used to approach pitching.
And that starts with this: Once the ball leaves your hand you can’t unthrow it, and once the questionable post hits the Internet, you can’t really delete it.
I’m thinking of that near-no-hitter Schilling tossed against the Oakland A’s in 2007: With two outs in the ninth, Schilling shook off catcher Jason Varitek, who had called for a slider, and instead threw a fastball that Shannon Stewart slapped into right field for a clean hit.
“And I get a big ‘What if?’ for the rest of my life,” Schilling said at the time.
So it goes with Facebook, where Schilling posted a meme on Tuesday that assailed the opposition to a North Carolina law mandating that people in public buildings use the bathroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificates. The legislation has riled the transgender community and others, including such Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr.
Schilling, who should be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, apparently deleted the post, but not before the big righthander, who was suspended by ESPN last summer after he tweeted a meme comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis, came under fire anew. And that was after comments he made to a Kansas City sports radio station saying Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail” for using a private e-mail server.
Everyone remembers the bloody sock game against the New York Yankees in 2004, but I’m thinking of another game: Schilling’s Game 6 win over the Cleveland Indians in the 2007 American League Championship Series. His fastball diminished by time, the 40-year-old Schilling picked apart a powerful lineup by pitching to batters’ weaknesses and keeping his opponents off balance. In this performance, as well as his World Series Game 2 win over the Colorado Rockies, Schilling’s legendary preparation was on display.
It’s not unheard of for an all-time great pitcher to turn out to be a real crackpot in retirement, but Schilling is not that. He is a cancer survivor who has made an eloquent pitch to curb chewing tobacco in baseball. He is a student of the game who has spoken often of the advice he got from older players when he was coming up. He is an outspoken and usually thoughtful guy who might want to listen to former teammates who have shot their mouth off in ways that inspire most people rather than offend them.
So next time you really want to fire off a killer tweet, Curt, take a step off the mound. Blow on those hands. Find your inner Varitek, and listen to him.David Filipov can be reached at David.Filipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.