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Book Review: Is This a Great Game, or What? by Tim Kurkjian
2007-05-21 12:00
by Bob Timmermann

Tim Kurkjian, a longtime beat writer covering the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles as well as a stint at Sports Illustrated and now a talking head for ESPN, has penned an autobiography of sorts Is This a Great Game, or What? And is this a great book, or what? Well, it’s not really a great book.

Kurkjian’s book is a salute to anecdotes. Lots of ‘em. Did you know Cal Ripken was really competitive? If you didn’t know that, Kurkjian has about 40 different anecdotes about Ripken.

Do you like hearing stories from Rich Donnelly? If the answer is no, you might want to skip several chapters of the book.



Do you want to know about how scouts have a tough job and no one seems to respect them anymore? Well, you can read the 16 pages of anecdotes devoted to scouts. It’s mostly just two scouts going on and on, but you can dip in and see if isn’t anything you haven’t heard before.

Do you want to know about things that bug Kurkjian about baseball? Like how fielders can get assists on plays that result in errors. Or how hitting for the cycle is no big deal. Hey, if hitting for the cycle wasn’t a big deal would I bother putting it on the sidebar and creating a complicated alert system? Yellow alert if a player needs a triple or homer, orange alert if a player needs a double, red alert if a player needs a single.

Do you want to know inside details about how Harold Reynolds got fired from ESPN? I think a lot of people would. Kurkjian speaks glowingly about Reynolds and describes him as one of the best people to work with on “Baseball Tonight.” But Reynolds current status is omitted except for one reference to him being a “former ESPN analyst.” Although in this instance, I would assume the ongoing litigation between Reynolds and ESPN likely forced Kurkjian and his publisher to keep quiet on the topic.

Kurkjian loves the game of baseball and loves it in much the same way I do. He likes the day-to-day drama and despite his dislike for the cycle, he relishes much of the minutiae about the sport that I do. But I really wanted more out of this book than just a series of nibbles.

The only chapter where the anecdotes don’t seem to be all about Ripken is Chapter 6 “My Face Was Crushed by a Bowling Ball Going 90 MPH,” where Kurkjian discusses how fear is a major element in baseball. The stories from Kevin Seitzer are somewhat gruesome as is Bryce Florie’s story about getting hit by a line drive through the box from Ryan Thompson. Those anecdotes actually bring a topic that players and managers don’t like to talk out in the open, instead of the other chapters where the anecdotes seem repetitive.

I suppose the book got off to a bad start on Page 9 when Kurkjian described Danny Ainge as “perhaps the best all-around athlete of the past 25 years.” Danny Ainge? Is this a wacky idea, or what?

2007-05-21 12:53:51
1.   Humma Kavula
Rich Donnelly was given space to relate anecdotes?

'Cause I've got an anecdote for you. It involves attending a baseball game at which the third base coach was booed.

I will grant you that the Dodger Stadium faithful have kinda gone overboard on the booing lately, but I'll repeat: they booed the third base coach.

And he deserved it.

2007-05-21 12:58:35
2.   Schteeve
I just...Danny Ainge? Say wha....? Danny Ainge? The white guy from the Celtics? The greates...wha? Of........25 years? Real..reall....really? Danny Ainge? Huh? Am I on peyote or did that dude from Baseball Tonight just say that Danny Ainge was the .... best all around something?
2007-05-21 14:12:01
3.   blue22
He's one of the handful of recent two-sport pros, but I think one Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson would like a word with Mr., on that subject.
2007-05-21 14:26:16
4.   Shaun P

per·haps (pər-hāps')


Possibly; maybe.

Proper Usage Example: Perhaps, having shown the ability to play 2 sports professionally at the highest level, Danny Ainge is one of the best athletes of the last 25 years.

Improper Usage Example: Perhaps Tim Kurkjian is going to be called nuts by writing that Danny Ainge is "perhaps the best all-around athlete of the past 25 years."

2007-05-21 14:28:25
5.   Shaun P
The grammar police might call me on it, so let me amend 4 to say:

"Having shown the ability to play two sports professionally at the highest level, Danny Ainge is perhaps one of the best athletes of the last 25 years."


"Tim Kurkjian is perhaps going to be called nuts by writing that Danny Ainge is "perhaps the best all-around athlete of the past 25 years.""

2007-05-21 15:34:53
6.   blue22
4/5 - "perhaps the best all-around athlete of the past 25 years." (Timmy's words)


"Danny Ainge is perhaps one of the best athletes of the last 25 years" (your words)

I'd be happy to include Ainge in the conversation, along with a number of more deserving candidates.

If one's argument is that Ainge is a once-in-a-generation-level athlete, you best include as many caveats and qualifiers as possible.

2007-05-21 18:04:27
7.   nick
trivia question/prophecy opportunity: will a good book EVER be written by an individual employed by the Great Satan of Bristol?

my call wd be no....

2007-05-21 19:07:28
8.   Jesse
sweet lord jesus, i'm a little drunk on tequilla and listening to bix beiderbecke (should you expect anything less from a east los angeles first year middle school english teacher after a monday?), but sweet lord buddah, my insides are laughing an eternity of laughter at the thought of danny ainge being a better athlete than say... barry bonds, michael jordan, (and i guess we're not just talking baseball and basketball, so...), lance armstrong, f--ing awesome (please contact firejoemorgan for more funny funniness!) !
2007-05-21 19:08:44
9.   El Lay Dave
I'd have considered betting that Keith Olbermann might have one in him, but the only book he's published is a collection of rehash from his TV show.

Maybe the female co-workers of Harold Reynolds?

2007-05-21 19:10:40
10.   El Lay Dave
9 is in reference to 7
2007-05-21 19:17:34
11.   Jesse
rob neyer has written some interesting books. and he interviewed michael chabon once for his espn article, so it seems there is some taste comming from conneticut.
2007-05-21 19:35:20
12.   Suffering Bruin
SI ran an article awhile back about the great athletes are not playing tennis. We're talking years ago. Arthur Ashe was quoted as he always was whenever there was an article about the state of the game. Ashe also lamented how the better athletes were ignoring tennis, saying, "Danny Ainge would be all-world."

The best athlete I saw was Bo Jackson.

2007-05-22 00:27:50
13.   Greg Brock
I've got to believe Jon Kruk has a good book inside him. He probably shouldn't have eaten it (zing)

I can't imagine anybody in the last twenty-five years being a better athlete than Bo Jackson.

2007-05-22 00:36:50
14.   Greg Brock
And FJM is also perplexed by the Danny Ainge thing.
2007-05-22 09:15:52
15.   blue22
14 - KT obviously keeping track of my posts on the Griddle.

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