ESPN Erases Sports History: Network Edits Schilling’s ‘Bloody Sock’ Game Out of Red Sox Versus Yankees Documentary

ESPN admits it selectively edited out a key portion of a sports documentary to alter the content, claiming it made the changes due to broadcast time constraints not because of animosity toward ex-Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling.

ESPN2, before the Red Sox and Yankees played Sunday evening on ESPN’s main channel, aired a truncated version of the network’s 30 For 30 documentary on Boston’s 2004 epic comeback against the Bronx Bombers.

Down three games to none in the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox—helped by Schilling’s performance in Game Six, where he pitched on an injured ankle bleeding into his sock—came back to win the series and then go on to win the World Series. The World Series win was the first for the team in 86 years, and effectively broke the Curse of the Great Bambino—which afflicted the Red Sox ever since Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees in 1919.

30 For 30, the ESPN documentary program, produced an hour-long made-for-TV documentary on the “Four Days In October” a few years ago which walks through the four games in which the Red Sox fought back against the Yankees to win the AL Pennant.

The film is broken into four segments: Games four, five, six and seven of the 2004 ALCS. To Sox fans, each game was dramatic and a unique moment in sports—and Red Sox-Yankees—history. Game four at Boston’s Fenway Park saw the Red Sox win in extra innings after trailing most of the game. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Kevin Millar—who was infamous in the club house for his high energy, and calls for the team to “Cowboy Up” and jokes that he and his teammates were “idiots”—walked. The Sox sent in pinch runner Dave Roberts, who stole second, and third baseman Bill Mueller singled off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, tying the game at 4 runs apiece—and sending the game into extra innings. In the twelfth inning, designated hitter David Ortiz hit a walk off two-run-home-run to win the game and keep the Red Sox alive for game five.

Pedro Martinez, another Sox ace, started Game Five at Fenway—which is also heavily featured in the documentary—and that game also went deep into extra innings. In the bottom of the fourteenth inning, Ortiz—with Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez on base due to walks—hit a single to center field on the 10th pitch of his at-bat scoring Damon and winning the game.

That set up the most iconic game of the series, Game Six. Back in Yankees territory in the Bronx in New York City, Schilling was set to start the game—but he had a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle. Red Sox training staff performed a surgical procedure on his ankle in the locker room, suturing it together barely. The procedure the team’s doctors used was unprecedented and it was unclear from the outset whether the veteran big game pitcher was going to be able to start, and if he was whether he would be effective and last long enough to help the Red Sox pull off another unlikely victory.

When he took the mound, it became clear his wounded ankle was bleeding through his sock—and the blood stains on his sock only grew larger throughout the night. Schilling pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run and even covering first base for major out on a ball hit to Millar at first base. The win from Schilling has gone down as one of the biggest and most memorable in sports history, and this unedited documentary—according to the Washington Post—actually devoted 17 whole minutes to Schilling’s performance.

The Sox would go on to win Game Seven, also at Yankee Stadium, thanks in part to explosive offensive production and strong pitching from starter Derek Lowe. That game is highlighted in the documentary as well.

But, most sports and Sox fans agree, Schilling’s Game Six performance was the most incredible of the whole series. And for some reason, that is the segment ESPN decided to cut in what it claims were time constraints that could not be made up later because of live event coverage earlier in the day. ESPN2 was carrying the Arizona versus Oregon college softball game beforehand, which ran long. So the network cut Schilling’s Game Six segment from the Four Days in October documentary to fit the documentary down to about 45 minutes, so it could air from approximately 5:45 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. After the documentary, according to the network’s schedule, ESPN2 aired a SportsCenter special called “Draft Grades.” So ultimately, the network made the decision to cut Game Six entirely out of the documentary.

“When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows,” an ESPN spokesman told the Washington Post. “In this case, we needed to edit out one of the film’s four segments to account for the extra length of the softball game.”

It is unclear why ESPN made the decision to cut this particular game—but the timing is certainly peculiar. ESPN just fired Schilling from being a Sunday Night Baseball analyst—and this documentary on ESPN2 clearly set up a Red Sox-Yankees game on the main ESPN network, which was airing the latest iteration in the century-long rivalry between the two teams as its Sunday Night Baseball feature on Sunday night—and now the network cut the most important game from a documentary about the most iconic battle between the two teams? It is almost as if, since ESPN does not like Curt Schilling because he is politically conservative and open about it, the network is aiming to erase him from history. USA Today, for instance, notes that ESPN “surely could have cut a different scene rather than a crucial talking point of the entire documentary.”

Schilling, for his part, is furious with this, arguing on Twitter on Sunday night that ESPN is not a credible network.

The network did not remove Schilling from the documentary entirely, as there still are scenes that include him in the version it aired on Sunday evening on ESPN2. But this current explanation from ESPN is unlikely to hold up under further scrutiny, which the network is sure to face in the coming days. Looks like Schilling is winning again. That didn’t take long.


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