The book: “I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love”
The author: Tim Kurkjian
The vital statistics: St. Martin’s Press, 256 pages, $26.99. To be released May 3
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com, at the publishers’ website.
The pitch: We were fascinated to find out that if you searched Amazon.com for “Tim Kurkjian,” you’ll come across someone insane enough to sell you an authentic batting practice-used Rawlings baseball signed by the ESPN baseball analyst/columnist for $59.95.
Deal, or no deal?
And if you really looked at the signature and had no idea who it was, you might think: Stan Kasten?
Kurkjian’s valued opinions on “Baseball Tonight” over the years, and now as an occasional game analyst in the booth on top of what he writes for ESPN.com, was in some apparent need of updating.
It’s been a good eight years since he produced a “for the love of the game” tome – the one he did in 2008 called “Is This a Great Game, or What? From A-Rod’s Heart to Zim’s Head – My 25 Years in Baseball.”
The same way that was favorably embraced, this will likely be appreciated as well by those who see the game as a way of life, flaws and all, and because of its flaws, crafted by someone who we’ve thought of endearingly as a compilation of Huell Howser, Bill James and Joe Garagiola. And with the voice of a yet-to-be named character on the Cartoon Network.
As for the title …
Chapter 7 is dedicated to just why a simple stat like a SF in the book has the 59-year-old who has covered the game for the Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun and Sports Illustrated before joining ESPN in 1998.
Kurkjian even notes that “the best and most famous broadcaster ever, Vin Scully,” still refers to the play as a “scoring fly ball” because the sacrifice fly wasn’t even an official statistic tabulated when he began doing games in 1950 – it was a stat at the Elias Sports Bureau from 1908 to 1930, but then kind of forgotten until 1954.
How odd can the sacrifice fly get? One can get credit for it, but also hit into a double play at the same time. Or get credit for a hit in addition to it. Or can drive in more than one run.
So, you see, sacrifice flies are “not meaningless, humorless, pointless,” he writes on page 121. “They are very interesting and, yes, even fascinating.”
Kurkjian will take you from some of the most ridiculous stuff he can dig up – things he’s apt to call “Quirkjians” – to a compelling chapter on why it’s difficult to find good official scorekeepers, to a poignant piece on what he remembers about recently deceased like Tony Gwynn, Don Zimmer, Earl Weaver and Mike Flanagan.
A spoiler alert: On page 227, Kurkjian ends the book by declaring: “Baseball is the best game.”
As if there was any sort of argument to be made, whether or not George Will offers his endorsement.
WWTKS — What Would Tim Kurkjian Say? — isn’t a wrist band we’re endorsing, but one to think about when you see an off-kilter statistic. Like, today, this offered by BaseballReference.com:
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) April 18, 2016
(And the picture is of Parra trying to field the ball ….)
A story teller who works on all the media platforms available these days, and one liked enough by players and colleagues that they enjoy trying to impersonate his voice-cracking delivery and sense of wonderment, it may almost be better to suggest waiting to see if an audio version of this title comes out.
Otherwise, when this book does arrive soon, you’ll likely enough hear Kurkjian’s voice in your head as your page through it.
And, Tim, if you have any sort of take on that stat above, please post on your Twitter account. We’re trying to figure out how this matters in some way.