Schilling may find his way back, yet


PHILADELPHIA -- It hurts just saying the names.

Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley for Glenn Davis.

"The second-worst trade in major-league history," Schilling says now, joking.

The worst?

"The one that sent me here."

Ah yes, the one from Houston to Philadelphia, Schilling for Jason Grimsley, the final wake-up call for the man with the spiked hair and tattoos. It happened last April 2. Schilling joined the Phillies' rotation May 19. The rest is one stunning blur.

Schilling has made 36 starts with the Phils, a little more than a full season's worth. In that span, he's 18-10 with a 2.42 ERA, six shutouts and 14 complete games. He has worked a whopping 278 2/3 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly 3-1.

Has anyone pitched better? Put Schilling in the Orioles' rotation, and he'd be right there with Mike Mussina. Go ahead, shed a tear for the staff that might have been -- Schilling, Mussina, Pete Harnisch, Ben McDonald and Arthur Rhodes.

Of course, the trade looked good way back when, but it just keeps turning more grotesque. Schilling, you see, met his wife in Baltimore. He was so disappointed to leave, he swore the only way he would set foot in Camden Yards would be if he landed there by fate.

Now, it might happen.

Now, he might pitch in the All-Star Game.

"Baltimore is a very special place for me," Schilling says. "I have a lot of great memories there -- the fans, Memorial Stadium. It was my first real big-league experience. It's like your first love. You never forget it."

Schilling can't forget it, thanks to his wife, the former Shonda Brewer. The two started dating the day after the 1990 season ended, and got married in Baltimore last Nov. 7. McDonald was an usher. Mike Devereaux and Brady Anderson also attended.

"Everything about us is from there," Shonda says, and now they're building a home between Baltimore and Philadelphia, in West Chester, Pa. A native of Dundalk, Shonda is crossing her fingers about the All-Star Game. "For all the people who laughed at me for being from there," she says, "I'd get to laugh back."

But will it happen?

Schilling is 6-1 for the first-place Phillies. Two nights ago, he climbed out of a sickbed to pitch his National League-leading fourth complete game. Still, you never know.

"The baseball gods, we keep hearing about the baseball gods in my house," Shonda says, smiling.

Schilling, 26, also ranks among the NL leaders in ERA (2.70), innings (80) and strikeouts (53). There's just one problem with his All-Star candidacy: His teammate, Tommy Greene, is ahead of him in virtually every category.

Greene (6-0, 1.98) probably would be the NL starter if the All-Star team was chosen today. The Phillies also have three position players who would merit consideration -- catcher Darren Daulton, first baseman John Kruk and third baseman Dave Hollins.

Schilling, then, could be squeezed, but if he gets 10 wins by the break, how could NL manager Bobby Cox ignore him?

"I'm human. These things cross my mind," Schilling says. "But I'm not going to get caught up in it. A lot of important things are happening here. The bottom line is, I need to win games for the Phillies."

The truth, Shonda?

"He's scared."

If only Schilling were as focused with the Orioles.

At one point, he had an $11,000 stereo installed in his new Corvette, then ordered the car delivered to him at the airport so he could show it off to his teammates coming off a road trip.

To the horror of club officials, Schilling sped into the night with the stereo blaring at earthquake-simulation volume. He also wore an earring at that time and displayed other eccentric traits that make him a perfect fit for the maverick Phillies today.

"That was the whole thing when he got traded -- they wanted him to grow up," Shonda says.

"I should have met him six months earlier."

Whatever, it has all worked out, and maybe now Schilling finally will get to visit Camden Yards.

Gregg Olson invited him to visit when the Phillies had a day off last season, but Schilling declined.

"It wouldn't be painful going there," he says. "I just promised myself I wouldn't do it."

Unless he had reason.

Unless he could prove everyone wrong.

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