Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling shows his support for Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown at a campaign rally to fill the U.S. Senate seat left empty by the death of Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jan. 17, 2010. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Shortly after the New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to reach their ninth Super Bowl since 2002, President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations to the team and the architects of that epic run, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. That was not a surprising message, particularly given the support those three have shown for Trump in the past, but the president quickly followed it up with a more out-of-the-blue message related to sports.

“Curt Schilling deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening. “Great record, especially when under pressure and when it mattered most. Do what everyone in Baseball knows is right!”

That got an immediate and grateful response from Schilling, who tweeted, “Thank you Mr President! Do NOT give in on any of it! We are behind you!”

Trump had provided a major clue as to why he was tweeting about Schilling by adding the Twitter handle of a show featuring Mark Levin, who also hosts a Fox News program. Sure enough, Schilling had just made an appearance on the TV show, in which he discussed why thought he had not been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and how he felt that conservatives in sports were generally treated.

A former star pitcher on World Series-winning teams with the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, Schilling has subsequently gained notice for his outspoken views on social and political issues. He maintains a very active presence on social media and was fired by ESPN as a baseball analyst in April 2016 for “unacceptable” conduct after sharing memes that compared extremism in the modern Muslim world to Nazi Germany in 1940 and that disparaged transgender people while weighing in on so-called bathroom laws.

Schilling also has been a sharp critic of Hillary Clinton, saying in 2016 that she “should be buried under a jail somewhere” for using a private email server while secretary of state, and he has been a major supporter of Trump. Referring to Clinton as “one of the most evil, despicable corrupt lying phonies ever to walk this earth,” he endorsed Trump’s presidential candidacy in May 2016, saying in a blog post, “I trust that at every crucial point, when a decision has to be made, he will make the decision that’s best for our nation, and not the best for votes.”

On Levin’s show, Schilling said, “Trump’s gonna win in 2020,” saying there was “no feasible way” he would not, “unless the Russians and Democrats get together again and try to rig another election.” Schilling added that when Trump’s re-election occurs, “the left will be “apoplectic, more so than they are now.”

When asked whether his exclusion from the Hall of Fame thus far was “political,” given his “tremendous record” in the sport, Schilling replied, “Part of it is. I mean, it’s not a guess, the people that have not voted for me specifically because of the things I’ve said or did, they’ve said it.”

Over a 20-year career, Schilling notched a 216-146 record, with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts to 711 walks. He was selected for six All-Star games, finished second in Cy Young Award voting three times and earned a reputation as a clutch performer in the postseason, particularly after his “bloody sock” outing for the Red Sox during their comeback triumph against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

According to JAWS, a metric that aims to assess a baseball player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by using other advanced statistics to compare him with those at his position already enshrined, Schilling ranks 27th, putting him above dozens of pitchers currently in Cooperstown. However, he has been unable to come particularly close to the 75 percent approval he needs on annual balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, posting marks of 51.2 percent in 2018 and 45.0 in 2017, with this year’s tally yet to be announced.

When asked by Levin whether the association’s voters should only be looking at his baseball career, not his “conservative views,” Schilling noted a “character clause,” as well, but said there were “a couple of issues with that.”

“First of all, I’ve seen recently, I’ve been put in the [Roger] Clemens and [Barry] Bonds category,” the 52-year-old said, referring to superstar players who have been excluded from the Hall because of their associations with steroid use. “It kills me because Roger Clemens has been such a big influence on my career, but I don’t doubt for a second that he cheated. They are equating me, and something they think I’ve done or said, with guys who willingly — Lance Armstrong, in a sense — destroyed other people’s lives to preserve their legacy. We’re on the same moral turf, somehow.”

To Levin’s assertion that “leftists in sports can do pretty much whatever they want,” including “take knees,” while “conservatives in sports have to be very careful because even the sports media is quite left-wing,” Schilling pointed to himself and former Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas as examples.

Thomas helped lead his squad to a Stanley Cup title in 2011 but declined the ensuing trip to the White House and issued a statement expressing disappointment with the policies of then-President Barack Obama. Schilling said Thomas was subsequently treated like “Voldemort, he who must not be named,” and added, “Me, I said, ‘Vote Bush’ in 2004; it blew up.”

“The Patriots who refuse to go to the White House, they’re icons, they’re people to follow,” he continued. “And so, like the Hall of Fame vote stuff, I can’t live my life for those people, because they’re never going to like you. … The reasons they don’t like me have to do with, I think, character and integrity, and morals and ethics and honor and all the things that my dad taught me to believe in.”

Schilling said in 2016 that he was considering running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, but he told Levin that he had no such plans at this point. He mentioned the contentious Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh in saying, “When you look at what the left has done to people that they don’t like, especially politicians, when I watched the Kavanaugh hearings, and realized the conservative wives, spouses and children are now in play for the media — my family doesn’t deserve that.”