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The full Schilling: Show no quarter

Mark McGwire stepped in and out of the batter's box, never once taking his eyes off Curt Schilling. Curt Schilling stepped on and off the pitching rubber, never once taking his eyes off Mark McGwire. And about 25,000 people in Veteran's Stadium could not keep their eyes off either man.

It was a late April game that ultimately was forgettable in its conclusion, but along the way it had moments of sheer exhilaration.

Schilling versus McGwire. McGwire versus Schilling. The ultimate power hitter against the ultimate power pitcher. Schilling was throwing 92, 93 mph against every other St. Louis hitter. Against McGwire he was hitting 97, 98 mph. Three times McGwire struck out. Mixed in was a walk.

This is why Schilling may be the most exciting pitcher today. He has the power to overwhelm. He has the audacity to stare back at the game's scariest slugger. And he has the common sense to admit he enjoyed every danged moment.

"These are the moments you remember," Schilling said later. "The crowd is screaming, and you're looking in at the catcher, and you see the sign for the fastball. There are two strikes and two outs, and you know you can either strike him out or he's going to hit it to the (stadium's) 900 level. And believe me, that's a real option with that guy."

Schilling is in the clubhouse now, with a hefty bag of ice wrapped around his right shoulder and an hour's cushion separating him from McGwire and the Cardinals.

In here, Schilling admits it would be no surprise for McGwire to take him halfway to Hoboken with a poorly placed fastball.

That's the fan in Schilling. The pitcher in him _ the guy who looks even larger than the 6 feet 4, 228 pounds the Phillies claim _ would not give McGwire the satisfaction of that concession.

"You're dealing with a den of hungry rats, and you're looking to sneak a piece of cheese past these guys," Phillies outfielder Rex Hudler said. "They look for emotion. They look for anything that shows a pitcher is letting his guard down. (Schilling) has a game face, he has a nice, firm scowl.

"This is a non-talk sport. You don't talk smack in baseball, so you have to have body language. You see a young pitcher give up a home run, and before it's out of the park, his head is down. You don't want to do that. That's what the enemy wants to see. Great pitchers like David Cone, (Roger) Clemens, Schilling, they have composure. They have the scowl.

"Those are the guys you fear because you never see weakness in them."

That Schilling, 31, has few weaknesses certainly helps. He is either first or second in the National League in complete games, innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts. He throws hard, and he throws to spots.

Last season he set the National League record for right-handers, with 319 strikeouts. Only five pitchers _ Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Rube Waddell, Bob Feller and Sam McDowell _ ever had more in a season.

So the talent is there. The approach is what puts him over the top.

"He wasn't always like that," said Jim Fregosi, Philadelphia's manager when Schilling arrived in 1992. Having confidence is what made him the pitcher he is.

"Getting him to believe in himself took some time."

Schilling had pitched in the minor leagues for the Red Sox, Orioles and Astros before he was acquired for Jason Grimsley in April 1992. A year later he was the ace for the NL pennant-winning Phillies.

Because of bone spurs in his elbow and shoulder, Schilling had surgery three successive seasons: 1994-96. Otherwise, he has gone 50-32 for the Phillies in seasons when he avoided the disabled list.

Along the way he has established a reputation as a pitcher from a bygone day. A pitcher not afraid to dust off a hitter or two. A pitcher who does not willingly hand over the ball when a manager comes to the mound. A pitcher who is willing to stare down a home run hitter simply because he knows he can.

"Hitters are out to prove they can hit anybody," Schilling said. "I'm out there to disprove them.

"I won't use the word "intimidate.' Hitters don't intimidate me. Some hitters, you just have more respect than others.

"But it's not intimidation. That word doesn't belong in a pitcher's vocabulary."