"To say I've been blessed would be like calling Refrigerator Perry 'a bit overweight.' The things I was allowed to experience, the people I was able to call friends, teammates, mentors, coaches and opponents, the travel, all of it, are far more than anything I ever thought possible in my lifetime."
The 42-year-old Schilling last pitched in 2007. As it turns out, his final performance was a win for the Red Sox in Game 2 of the World Series, helping pave the way for Boston's four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
Right shoulder problems prevented Schilling from pitching in 2008, during which he was under a one-year contract with the Red Sox.
"You rack up that much mileage that at some point you pay the price," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I don't doubt what he did in '04, he paid for it the next year and probably, ultimately down the road. But I don't think he would change that. I don't think we would either."
A free agent this offseason, Schilling continually hinted he might retire, though he kept open the possibility of pitching a partial season for someone, like Roger Clemens did the last couple of years of his career.
Schilling, however was fulfilled enough with his accomplishments -- both from an individual and team standpoint -- that he didn't feel compelled to return.
"Just his name on the mound would make the hitter from the opposite team flinch, and he knew that. That's how he was."
-- David Ortiz, on Curt Schilling
"Four World Series, three world championships. That there are men with plaques in Cooperstown who never experienced one -- and I was able to be on three teams over seven years that won it all -- is another 'beyond my wildest dreams' set of memories I'll take with me," Schilling wrote in his retirement blog post.
"The game always gave me far more than I ever gave it. All of those things, every single one of those memories is enveloped with fan sights and sounds for me. Without the fans, they would still be great memories, but none would be enduring and unforgettable, because they infused the energy, rage, passion and 'feel' of all of those times. The game was here long before I was, and will be here long after I'm gone. The only thing I hope I did was never put in question my love for the game, or my passion to be counted on when it mattered most. I did everything I could to win every time I was handed the ball."
Schilling compiled a career record of 216-146, notching 3,116 strikeouts. In the postseason, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts.
"He was one of the best big game pitchers that I know," said veteran John Smoltz, entering his first season with the Red Sox. "I only wished I could have matched a few more times against him, but he certainly led his team to fantastic finishes. I can remember the Arizona one vividly, because I sat in the bullpen waiting to pitch, but he and Randy Johnson dominated and beat us [in the 2001 National League Championship Series]. I wish him the best in retirement."
Schilling was part of three World Series championship teams -- the 2001 D-backs and the Red Sox of '04 and '07.
"When Curt was around here, he was one guy that would encourage you to do positive things," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "He did nothing but good things to help this ballclub to win championships. I think you can't ask for anymore than that."
Schilling also pitched for the pennant-winning Phillies of 1993, and is the only pitcher to win a World Series start for three different teams.
"He's a very competitive guy," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "He never backed down from any challenge. One of the things people don't realize about Schill is that he was really motivated by fear a lot -- fear of failure. He did not want to fail. He was very cognizant of his fear of failure. He worked himself up through his nerves to go out and dominate to the best of his ability every time he took the ball."
In Boston, he will long be remembered for boldly saying that he was coming to town to help snap an 86-year World Series drought and then playing a crucial role in doing just that.
It was only through an innovative surgical procedure -- Schilling had a loose right ankle tendon sutured to the bone -- that the righty was able to pitch Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees.
Bloody sock and all, Schilling turned back the Bombers, setting up Game 7, which the Red Sox won to complete their historic comeback from a three games to none deficit.
"I saw the guy getting surgery, and then two days later he was pitching in one of the most important games and dealing with it," said Ortiz. "It was freezing, rainy, cold as hell, and the guy just had open surgery on his ankle, bleeding to death. A lot of people came up to me and asked me, 'Was he bleeding for real?' I'll tell you what, man, he showed me a lot of guts. I have a lot of respect for Curt. I wish him the best now that he's not going to play baseball anymore, and let him know that he has a friend here he could count on."
Schilling repeated the surgery a few days later, allowing him to pitch -- and win -- Game 2 of the World Series against the Cardinals.
"I go back to '97, my first year as a Major League manager, he started the first game I ever managed [in Philadelphia]," said Francona. "It's been a long time. A lot of good pitching. He'd give you everything he had and every time he pitched, you felt like you had a good chance to win."
Of course, aside from Schilling's talent and will to win, there was also his preparation. Long before laptops became common in clubhouses, Schilling lugged one around, scouring for any information that could give him a competitive advantage. He had thick binders on every hitter he faced.
"[He was] very methodical in the way he plotted things out," Smoltz said. "He was, I guess, a big charts guy, a big statistics guy and studied it at a rate that I could not do -- so more power to him."
A power pitcher from the word go, shoulder woes chopped significant velocity from Schilling during the latter stages of 2007. Still, he managed to go 3-0 that postseason, including a dazzling performance (seven scoreless innings) to finish out the AL Division Series sweep of the Angels in Anaheim.
"He asked for the ball," said Ortiz. "He knew that we needed him. Just his name on the mound would make the hitter from the opposite team flinch, and he knew that. That's how he was."