During last year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election, former standout pitcher and three-time World Series champion Curt Schilling finished with the highest number of votes of any player who wasn’t elected. Schilling earned 60.9 percent of votes (75 percent is required to earn induction) and appeared to be well on his way after a contentious voting history in previous elections.
And it was contentious because Schilling’s overwhelming on-field accomplishments with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox were counterbalanced by a number of ugly and hateful quotes and social media posts away from it. Of which, some of the most prominent were multiple transphobic memes (some of which were truly grotesque) that Schilling shared with his followers.
Among other controversies that included the endorsement of another meme advocating the lynching of journalists, Schilling’s transphobia played a large role in his languishing for eight years on the Hall of Fame ballot.
But a player who was as media-friendly as Schilling was during his career still maintains a few allies in the press. And after coming so close in the most recent HOF election, legendary baseball writer, Hall of Fame award-winner and Schilling confidante Peter Gammons recently penned an op-ed in The Athletic advocating his election this year. (FYI: This article is behind a paywall.)
Most of Gammons’s piece was dedicated to Schilling’s considerable statistical accomplishments and postseason triumphs. But Gammons also briefly attempted to address Schilling’s anti-trans beliefs, blaming his willingness to share them for his long wait to get into Cooperstown.
“Steve Carlton had some odd beliefs not totally different from Schilling, but he didn’t usually talk to the media about them; if ‘Curt from the Carphone’ hadn’t spoken so often about his, he might already have a plaque on the Cooperstown wall...”
To refresh your memory, here is one of the memes that Schilling shared on his Facebook feed, back in April 2016:
This is not “some odd beliefs.” It’s straight-up bigotry. And it cost Schilling his job with ESPN.
And to casually dismiss this kind of anti-trans hatred with an “odd beliefs” euphemism like it was some kind of charming eccentricity diminishes the very real pain that every trans person endures when confronted by it.
Incidentally, the “odd beliefs” of Steve Carlton that Gammons refers to date from a 1994 Pat Jordan profile where the Hall of Fame pitcher proclaimed that there were “twelve Jews in Switzerland who control the world.” Again, this isn’t an “odd belief.” It’s anti-Semitism and needs to be labeled as such.
This isn’t intended to put Gammons on blast or a call to cancel him. He remains one of the greatest baseball writers of all time and he almost always errs on the side of standing up for players, which is a refreshing breath of fresh air in his industry.
But as his recent piece demonstrates, sometimes taking a player’s side involves a blind spot that dismisses the pain of a marginalized group like the trans community. And even if that dismissal might be inadvertent, it needs to be noted before any further damage is done.
The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the results of 2020 Hall of Fame balloting on Jan. 21.