BOSTON -- Ever the realist, Curt Schilling proved to be prophetic when sizing up his Hall of Fame chances in a phone conversation a couple of months ago.
"I don't think I have a shot this year," Schilling said in a recent interview with MLB.com. "If I remember right, just about all the pitchers are first-ballot guys this year and next year."
In his second year on the ballot, Schilling slipped from 38.8 percent in 2013 to 29.2 percent this year, receiving 169 votes out of 571 ballots. Schilling, as he predicted, appeared to be victimized by the utter strength of this year's ballot.
Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, longtime teammates and ace pitchers for the Braves, were both elected on the first ballot. So, too, was one of the premier sluggers in recent years, Frank Thomas.
Craig Biggio came agonizingly close to being the fourth member elected on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, but he received 74.8 percent of the votes, just two votes shy of the 75 percent necessary.
Huge congrats to the three ABSOLUTELY deserving new members of the hall. Played against them all, never a doubt they were HOF'ers.- Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) January 8, 2014
Next year will also be challenging for Schilling, considering that two of his former teammates -- Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez -- will be on the ballot for the first time. Johnson and Martinez are both considered near locks to be elected on the first ballot.
But Schilling can be on the ballot for as many as 13 more years. And as Jim Rice proved a few years ago, being elected on his 15th and final try, things can change over time.
Schilling's regular-season numbers -- 216-146, 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts -- make him a bubble candidate for the Hall.
However, throw in what Schilling did in October and it isn't hard to imagine him one day in the middle of an induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., at some point in the next few years. In 19 postseason starts, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.
The righty pitched in the World Series four times (1993, 2001, '04 and '07) and for three teams (the Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox). Three out of those four teams won it all, while the '93 Phillies were sent home on a walk-off homer by Toronto's Joe Carter.
"Whether I believe [I belong] or what I think is irrelevant," Schilling said recently. "I know what I did. At the end of the day, when I think about my career, the thing I always tell people that I wanted when I started was, I wanted to have a career where the 24 guys I suited up with, if their life depended on a win or a loss, who would they want to have the ball? I wanted to be that guy."
Schilling is 15th on baseball's all-time strikeouts list. Of the 14 men in front of him, the only ones who aren't Hall of Famers are Johnson, Roger Clemens and Martinez.
"I played with Randy Johnson," said Schilling. "And Pedro wasn't at his best when I played with him, but he should be a unanimous choice. I played with a hobbling Dale Murphy. The guy was the most dominating player in the '80s for a while. I don't understand how he's not in the Hall. If it doesn't work out, I can look at some guys who don't have plaques and say, 'Wow, I'm all right.'"
Two other players with Red Sox ties -- Clemens and Lee Smith -- also came up short on this year's ballot. Clemens, who was also in his second year on the ballot, received 35.4 percent of the votes. Smith, who closed for the Red Sox from 1988-90, got 29.9 percent.
Whether or not Schilling winds up in Cooperstown, he had a career filled with indelible moments.
Who could forget Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, when Schilling had a loose ankle tendon sewn back into place so he could pitch? With blood leaking through to his sock, he won that game, keeping the Red Sox alive in their quest to become the first team in history to recover from an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series.
"We literally were the most focused I'd ever been as a team, or I'd ever seen anyone as a team for that period of time," Schilling said. "And that's why we won."
Schilling went through the painful procedure again before Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, and he silenced a heavy-hitting Cardinals team. The Red Sox swept, winning their first World Series since 1918.
In 2001, Schilling teamed with Johnson to dethrone the Yankees, who had won the World Series the three previous seasons.
"October gave you something you didn't have, from an adrenaline perspective. But I think there was a sense of accountability and responsibility I wanted," Schilling said. "I wanted everything to matter on me. I wanted that. ... There's a couple of statistics or things I walked away from that I remember. And I know stats. I know my stats. I believe the number is five.
"I pitched in five win-or-go-home games. My team was 5-0 in those. I never lost a game that would end my team's season. Every game I took the ball, we won those games. I loved that."
Though Schilling's heroics for Philadelphia in 1993 are overshadowed by what he did for Arizona and Boston, that's where his postseason lore started.
"I remember my first postseason game against Atlanta in '93. We weren't supposed to beat them," Schilling said. "Maddux and Smoltz and Glavine and [Steve] Avery. [Terry] Pendleton, [Ron] Gant. We were the scruffy dudes from Philly. And I went out there and struck out the first five hitters of the game. In five hitters, the entire momentum of the Series, I thought, changed. I realized what I was capable of doing by myself on the mound. I realized -- that's powerful."
While some players have fuzzy memories of their accomplishments, Schilling remembers everything down to the smallest detail.
"In the '93 World Series, we're down [in games], 3-1," Schilling said. "[The Blue Jays] scored 15 runs the night before; this offense had the top three hitters in the American League -- [John] Olerud, [Roberto] Alomar and [Paul] Molitor -- and we win [Game 5], 2-0. I learned in those games that, as a starting pitcher, it's just like being a quarterback. I can change everything based on my actions."
His peak, Schilling remembers clearly, was 2001.
"I still believe that the '01 postseason, those were the best 48 innings I ever threw," Schilling said. "I threw 305 innings that year, and my best 48 were at the end."
Not only craving the October spotlight, but thriving in it, is something that separated Schilling from a lot of others.
"I've talked to guys, great players, unbelievable players, Hall of Fame players who were teammates, who were terrified of October," Schilling said. "They viewed that as a way to screw up everything you did during the season. I was like, 'Wow, what a loser mentality that is.' You realize in life, that's exactly how life is. Fear is a motivator or a paralyzer -- it's one of the two. I was always motivated by it."