Presidential Medals of Freedom, Pitchers’ Duel for the Hall of Fame

12 08 2009

First, today’s Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are SO interesting and eclectic, not chosen by grades or standards or statistics but for whatever unique power of story the current president sees in each one and what they represent for America.

I may blog more on this but here, see what you see in this group of 16 from Sandra Day O’Connor and Billie Jean King to Sidney Poitier, Stephen Hawking (“a mediocre student”, says the president to laughter) and Desmond Tutu.

Oh, and don’t forget Chita Rivera and Harvey Milk. Ted Kennedy. I am awash in power in story!

From the July/August Atlantic Magazine comes
“Pitchers’ Duel: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Hall of Fame standards in the steroid era”:

[I’ll explain this part to Nance later! 😀 ]

Clemens won 354 games over his career, racking up a shelf-buckling seven Cy Youngs in the process; by the numbers, he was arguably the best pitcher of all time. Schilling’s 216 wins, like most of his career statistics, are very good; still, by the numerology that has traditionally governed Hall of Fame voting, he is at best a marginal prospect.

But baseball numbers no longer inspire the same faith that they used to.

. . .“As he got older, [Schilling] became more and more a student of the game,” Berardino explained. He paid his dues in the weight room, but it was his mental preparation—meticulously charting opposing hitters, watching for tendencies he could exploit on the mound—that distinguished him. The “bloody sock” game, in which Schilling threw 99 pitches off a badly injured right ankle—beating the Yankees 4–2 and continuing the Red Sox’ improbable march to the 2004 World Series—was as much a testament to concentration and craft as it was a physical marvel.

“Everything is looked at differently now,” Berardino told me. As steroids have devalued statistical comparisons as measures of greatness, what remains is something more organic and impressionistic.

If Schilling makes the Hall, it will be on the back of his particular iconography, something Clemens’s career largely lacked—the bloody sock; an electrifying pitching performance in the deciding game of the 2001 World Series that lifted the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks over Clemens’s mighty Yankees; and an overall knack for postseason brilliance, for coming up big, again and again, in the biggest of games. Even Schilling’s body, thin-legged and pot-bellied, might be an asset of sorts in an era where heaped muscle is viewed with suspicion. . .

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Schilling gets in and Clemens doesn’t,” Berardino told me. “But I hope it’s not true with Clemens, all the steroid talk. Because there was no need. . .

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