Years ago, it might have been Curt Schilling's glove or a game ball on display in Cooperstown. Instead, the cleats and the bloody sock he wore in his only World Series start for the Boston Red Sox are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Perhaps nothing better signifies the 86 years of perseverance, the 86 years of pain, that Red Sox players and fans had endured since the team last captured the World Series title in 1918.
Despite the searing pain of an Achilles injury, Schilling pitched six strong innings to earn the victory in Game 2 of Boston's four-game series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. Television cameras focused on the pain in Schilling's face and the blood-soaked sock that covered his sutured tendon.
Which is why the Hall came calling for it. And why it almost became one of the most valuable pieces of sports memorabilia.
In February, Schilling had expressed interest in auctioning off the sock, with proceeds earmarked for ALS research. Bryan Lyons, a Red Sox fan and collector who owns many game-used items, said he would bid on the sock and predicted it would sell for at least $600,000.
"Initially," Schilling told ESPN.com, "the sock from Game 6 [of the ALCS vs. the Yankees] got thrown away, and it's funny it happened because I remember taking it off after the game and throwing it on the floor and thinking, 'You know, I should probably save that. But nah. No big deal.' But I saved the one from Game 2."
|GET YOUR FETISH ON|
From jock straps to bone spurs, chewed gum to old dentures, fetish memorabilia collectors are on a quest for the bizarre. Story|
• Price on history: From Schilling's bloody sock to O.J.'s white Bronco.
• Blood, sweat and gear: Players are cautious about what they throw away.
• Buyer beware: Determining the authenticity can be an inexact science.
Though the significance of the sock makes it unique, it is hardly unusual that a single piece of clothing worn by a player can become so coveted by fans.
The phenomenon first came to light three years ago when Ruben Rivera was caught pilfering the belongings of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. It was only a glove and a bat, which Rivera reportedly had sold for $2,500. Pocket change for a big leaguer, even if he was a journeyman. The incident, though, ushered in a new reality for today's professional athletes who guard their valuables, whether it's a gold wristwatch or an elastic wristband, from finding their way from their lockers to the black market of sports collectibles.
Now, after answering probing questions from the media about how they feel after winning or losing the games, today's players linger a little longer around their lockers, using a black Sharpie to mark out their names or a pair of scissors to cut out their numbers from garments both outer and under.
"Anything with my number or 'Rocket' on it comes up missing," Roger Clemens told reporters after the Rivera incident in 2002. "I can't even throw underwear away. I have to cut my number out of it or they'll take it. I guess it's meaningful to some people."