Out of the park and into politics

By A. James Memmott

October 13, 2007 at 7:33am

When Curt Schilling takes to the mound in the American League Championship series, he’ll be pitching for the Boston Red Sox against the Cleveland Indians.

Off the field, Schilling is one of a relatively small group of baseball players who are willing to pitch for political candidates.

He campaigned for President Bush in 2004, and earlier this year, he said he was backing Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. However, he added that if Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois were the Democratic candidate he would have a hard time choosing between the two men.

The 40-year-old Schilling also indicated that he was not going to take on Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in a 2008 run for the U.S. Senate because he might still be playing baseball.

If Schilling were to run for political office sometime in the future, he could find role models in both political parties.

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky pitched in the Major Leagues for 17 years, recording 224 wins and 184 loses. (Schilling is 216 and 146 through 20 seasons.)

Bunning, who was made a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1996, was first elected to the House of Representatives from Kentucky in 1986; he was elected to the Senate in 1998 and again in 2004.

The most famous athlete on the other side of the aisle, is former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, was a star basketball player at Princeton University and for the New York Knicks.

The other sports stars turned politicians include:

Republicans Jack Kemp, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, who served in Congress; Steve Largent, an NFL player and former congressman; Jim Ryun, a track star and current congressman; and J.C. Watts, a former college football star and former congressman.

Democrats Tom McMillen, a basketball star and former member of the House; Ralph Metcalfe, a track star who became a congressman; and Heath Shuler, a former NFL quarterback and now a member of the House.

Schilling would have money to spend if he decided to run for office. His contract for this year with the Red Sox was for $13 million. Should the Red Sox win the World Series, he’ll get an additional $2 million.

But records indicate that Schilling has not funneled much, or even any, of this money into political causes.

Rather, he and his wife, Shondra, have focused their philanthropy on the battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

They formed Curt’s Pitch for ALS in 1993 to raise awareness about the disease and funding for research, as well as for the support of families dealing with ALS.

Federal campaign contributions records compiled by the website indicate that there are a few baseball players who have made political contributions.

Alex Rodriquez, the New York Yankees third baseman, has contributed $2,300 (the maximum) to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Keith Hernandez, the former New York Mets first baseman, has contributed $1,000 to the current Giuliani campaign, and he has contributed to Giuliani in the past.

However, records indicate that politicians should look to athletes other than baseball players if they want to get big bucks.

Tennis star Andre Agassi has given $108,200 to Democratic candidates, and former National Football league quarterback Bernie Kosar has contributed $68,200 to political candidates, all but $7,000 of that to

But while some athletes have given significant sums, the big donors in sports still occupy the front offices.

The leader in this group is Alex Spanos, the real estate developer and owner of the San Diego Chargers in the NFL, who has given $1,619,627 to Republicans, $29,200 to Democrats. He has donated millions more to charitable causes.

David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, also has deep pockets. He has directed $850,660 to Democrats and $2,000 to Republicans. Sen. Clinton is the only presidential candidate to have received money from Stern this year.

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