For half a day, a throwaway statement made on the airwaves here about one of the most bizarre pieces of baseball history threatened to rock the sturdy foundation of Red Sox Nation.
It seemed as if the other sock had dropped and - maybe, just maybe - it wasn't bloody after all.
But in separate discussions with the media at Camden Yards yesterday, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne and Boston backup catcher Doug Mirabelli said "a miscommunication" led to Thorne's on-air statement that Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's legendary bloody sock from the 2004 postseason was a fake.
"I did what I thought was right and what I believed," Thorne said before yesterday's game. "And it was an honest mistake on both sides."
The controversy emerged in the fifth inning of Wednesday's Orioles-Red Sox game, as Thorne idly chatted with partner Jim Palmer.
"The great story we were talking about the other night was that famous red stocking that [Schilling] wore when they finally won, the blood on his stocking," Thorne said to Palmer on air. "Nah. It was painted. Doug Mirabelli confessed up to it after. It was all for PR."
After hearing about the comments post-game from a Boston Globe reporter, Mirabelli, Schilling and Boston manager Terry Francona were livid. Mirabelli denied the allegations - and denied even knowing who Thorne was - and a baseball firestorm erupted on national television and radio shows yesterday.
Thorne, a sports broadcaster for 30 years in his first season with MASN, phoned Mirabelli yesterday and said he now believes the catcher was being sarcastic when they talked briefly about Schilling's sock during a clubhouse conversation in 2005.
"He said one thing and I heard something else," Thorne said. "I reported what I heard and what I honestly thought was said. After talking to him today, there is no doubt in my mind that's not what he said, that's not what he meant."
Mirabelli said he doesn't remember having the conversation, but pieced together some of it after talking to Thorne yesterday.
"What he said was, as he was walking away, 'How about the bloody sock?' " Mirabelli said. "And he said I said, 'Yeah, we got a lot of publicity out of that.' And that was it. That's all he can recall me saying. He said he just assumed that's what I meant, that the sock was fake and it was all a publicity stunt. By no means was that what I meant. There was never a doubt in my mind there was blood on that sock."
Thorne said he was "flabbergasted" the story had such legs.
"The comment was made and we went on because I didn't think it was any big deal," he said.
Oh, but it quickly became a big deal. Because it involved baseball, Boston and one of the most memorable performances in the game's history.
Schilling, a former Oriole, ruptured a tendon in his right ankle during the 2004 postseason, but doctors made a wall of stitches to keep it in place and Schilling went on to win Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and Game 2 of the World Series. In each game, TV cameras showed red splotches on his right sock - thought to be blood oozing from the wound.
It became a national symbol of Schilling's fortitude, and the sock from the World Series - the Red Sox's first title in 86 years - was sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"We have no reason to doubt Curt," said Jeff Idelson, the Hall's vice president of communications. "He has a profound respect for the game and the history of the game. His in-laws drove the sock up here. I don't think that they'd drive a painted sock to Cooperstown."
Schilling declined to comment yesterday, his wife, Shonda, a Baltimore County native and melanoma survivor who visited a Dundalk elementary school to promote sun safety, said she was disturbed by Thorne's comments.
"I'm disappointed. I'm from Baltimore and I expect more, I really do," Shonda Schilling said. "We're always known as such a good sports town, a responsible sports town, and that just took me for a loop that it happened here."
Shonda Schilling and Idelson were asked whether they thought the sock should undergo a DNA test to prove it indeed contains blood. Both said no.
"I don't want it destroyed. I don't want to see anything happen to the sock," Shonda Schilling said. "For us, it's insulting. It's like asking me to DNA my daughter. I had her, I was there, I know. So to me, that's how ridiculous this is."
Those looking to hear Thorne's original comments could go to the Internet site YouTube, where the game clip was available all day. MASN's daily replay, however, did not include the bottom of the fifth inning because of "time constraints." MASN spokesman Todd Webster said it wasn't cut to avoid re-airing the controversy.
"These have to be cut down to a certain length to air," he said."
Although Thorne's remarks sparked some tense moments, within an hour of game time yesterday, the atmosphere had mellowed. Thorne addressed Francona on the field and as the two shook hands, Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, a teammate of Schilling's on the 2004 Red Sox, yelled, "Hey, Gary, it was paint."
During warm-ups, Millar wore a sock that was partially colored red.
"Only in Sox Nation will you find something 2 1/2 years later that is a big deal," Millar said. "The sad part is it 100 percent was blood."
Thorne said he doesn't believe the comments will taint his reputation as a broadcaster. The irony, he said, is he always thought too much was made of the sock and it overshadowed just how great the pitcher was in October 2004.
"Schilling was unbelievable. He did the warrior stuff. The sock to me ... I guess I don't get it," he said. "I mean, it's great ... but the story is much deeper and much bigger, about the people and about the team and all that went down that year."
Sun reporters Peter Schmuck, Bill Ordine, Ray Frager and Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.