Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone


Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone

NEWARK, NJ The similarities between Tim Thomas and Curt Schilling are striking.

Both were playoff heroes adorned with awards and adulation. They were lauded as folk heroes in Boston after bringing champions to a sports city drunk on success. Both are highly intelligent individuals with interests well beyond the respective sports theyd mastered.

Both defined nebulous, vague terms like "clutch" and "gutsy" while overcoming odds in situations that couldnt possibly have harbored hopes for success.

Thomas was never supposed to make it after falling through the cracks of pro hockey and winding up in Finland as a goaltender as renowned for his love of cheeseburgers as his ability to stop the puck. Instead he became only the second goalie in NHL history aside from Philadelphia Flyers legend Bernie Parent to capture the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season.

Schilling has the bloody sock hero footage and the paeans written about him after he helped slay the Yankees in 2004. The Big Schill endured game-day surgical procedures on his ailing right ankle to Frankenstein his way through pitching a baseball game, and dominated the best teams in baseball on one leg.

Those feats of strength take the kind of fortitude, courage and determination that both Thomas and Schilling have in spades as they walked the walk of champions.

But unfortunately time doesnt stand still for sports heroes, and thats been the case for this pair of athletes quickly plummeting from grace.

The tragic part: their fall has been due to some of the same qualities that made them great in the first place.

Schillings 38 Studios video game company has been nothing short of a business nightmare.

He took tens of millions of dollars from the state of Rhode Island before working himself into a corner where he couldnt meet payroll or make loan payments back to the state that bankrolled him. The always-opinionated Schilling was finally at a loss for words for once in his life something that many of his teammates never thought theyd see out of the bombastic blowhard.

For Schilling, the video game company sprouted from the same outsized ego that brazenly proclaimed he was coming to Boston to end an 86-year curse.

Unfortunately creating a phenomenally successful video game in such a competitive market proved much more difficult than unleashing a 96-mph heater on the outside corner.

The sight of the outsized Sox pitcher rushing through long lines of media members while hurriedly refusing to answer questions about where all the money went is something nobody could have envisioned eight years ago.

But it all started with the belief that Schilling knows everything about everything.

By the same token, Thomas me-against-the-world mentality has long insulated him against the long odds and sure-to-be disappointing ending his career seemed headed for. He braved through the minors and Europe looking for a chance, and he finally got that in Boston.

The burning desire to prove others wrong pushed him to a pair of Vezina Trophies and four All-Star appearances in a career that had most recalling Johnny Bower.

But that isolated, self-involved view also erected a giant wall between the 38-year-old goaltender and the rest of his teammates.

That wall was constructed on harsh words while blaming defenseman for mistakes in front of his net that led to goals, or just plain bizarre behavior from an eccentric personality that at times seemed like hed have been more comfortable in a Michigan militia rather than serving brilliantly as a hockey playoff hero.

Now Thomas has uprooted his family from their full-time home in Boston for a sprawling property in Colorado near Colorado Springs that sources indicate has a bunker in case any wrath of God type stuff starts happening around the world.

His no-trade clause expires on July 1.

Thomas isnt in control of the situation for the first time in a long time as trade rumors swirl around him after a tumultuous 2011-12 season that saw him butt heads with ownership and management. Skipping out on the White House and using his Bruins bully pulpit for his own political agenda is something that scares the heck out of advertisers and sponsors. At a certain point, word came down from high that he needed to shut up, and he complied for the remainder of the season.

But Thomas isnt a guy that likes to be told he cant speak his mind, and the Bruins as an organization have tired of the bizarro world stuff their goaltender has concocted over the years.

So what does Thomas do when it appears his NHL address might change at 38 years old? He once again puts up his me-against-the-world blinders and sends out whispers that hes considering taking a leave of absence for the entire 2011-12 season.

Sure Ken Dryden once took a sabbatical and Dominik Hasek took off a season at 38 years old before playing four more years. (Hasek actually wants to return to the NHL next season.)

But dont be foolish: Thats not what this is about.

Is it a leverage play by Thomas so he wont be traded away from the Bruins?

Is it a threat so that the Bruins will only trade him where he wants to go?

In true passive-aggressive fashion hes not talking about it, just as he refused to talk about his politics when he started making big waves by refusing to take part in a team-wide photo opportunity with President Obama. The stubborn Thomas clearly believes hes been wronged, and hes going to do everything in his power to make life difficult for those he feels have wronged him.

Its impossible for Thomas to let slights brush off him or hide his true feelings when its colored each of his actions and words since January.

That dead-eye determination and unwillingness to bend is what made Thomas a sports savior for the Black and Gold in the first place.

But just like Schilling, what has made once made Thomas great is also proving to be at the heart of his undoing.

Both Boston sports legends were true larger-than-life folk heroes, but now theyre once again flawed human beings, staining legacies that were better left untouched.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.