Tim Kurkjian’s career is that of a likable individual. I’ve long thought he is exactly that and this book does absolutely nothing to change my opinion of the man, for the first 200 or so pages. During that span, the former Baseball Tonight mainstay comes across as one of the most likable blokes to ever gain any amount of fame as a talking head about the sport of baseball. For the first few chapters, Kurkjian’s book is just as likable as his personality. Then, I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies becomes more about Kurkijian and what he finds interesting about baseball than it does about the players he covers.
The first five or six chapters of I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies are great in the ground they cover and the questions they ask. It’s always interesting to hear the thoughts from baseball players about what is happening in the game. Whether it’s today’s superstitions or the changing athleticism within the game having players willing to speak frankly about these topics makes for interesting reading.
The best of these chapters is the one about the unwritten rules of baseball. I spent the entire chapter shaking my head at the stupid “look at me, I’m so tough, this is a man’s game” takes coming from the players. At the same time, I appreciated that Kurkjian was able to get these players to lay bare for all to see why the unwritten rules are so endlessly silly. They didn’t believe they were doing that, nor did Kurkjian truly understand that he was allowing their silliness to be exposed. Yet, exposed it was, and in that chapter, the stupidity and rawness of the modern “The unwritten rules are important” type of baseball player were made obvious for all to see.
After the unwritten rules chapter the book meanders for the rest of its time. Kurkjian spends various chapters detailing the many idiosyncrasies that define his love for the game of baseball. While they are interesting to him they aren’t all that interesting to me and don’t make for a good read. Had they been limited to one chapter I don’t think they would have damaged the book all that much. However, Kurkjian allows multiple chapters of I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies to be consumed with a desire to recant minutiae that lost me as a reader after a few paragraphs.
The final chapter of I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies is an attempt to wrangle the book away from Kurkijian’s eccentricities. While Kurkijian accomplishes this in his look at the current state of the game he also does something that didn’t seem possible, he comes across as eminently unlikeable. He spends a few scant pages railing against the personalities of the stars of today. He takes issue with the emotion and flair they bring to the modern game in such a way that I was left thinking that Kurkjian would be better left in the dust bin of baseball relics. It’s not a good look for someone whose entire career is predicated not on hard-hitting journalism, but rather on being a likable guy who is fun to talk baseball with.
I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies starts off strong, loses steam, and finished with a giant dud. For the first few chapters, I thought this was going to be a highly enjoyable jaunt. Then the book became less about baseball and more about Kurkjian. Not only wasn’t that too interesting but it also provided a glimpse into Kurkjian’s inner self that pretty much ruined his likable personality. Then again, a professional journalist who can’t be bothered to add accent marks to the names of Latino players probably was never all that likable, to begin with.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – St. Martin’s Press