In 1982, staff writer Tim Kurkjian, then a Rookie reporter for The Dallas Morning News, walked into Texas Rangers manager Don Zimmer's office looking a bit glum.
"What's wrong with you?" asked Zimmer. Kurkjian told Zimmer that he was feeling depressed because the grind of covering a losing team in a stadium empty of fans wasn't what he imagined the life of a baseball writer to be.
"Why don't you just shut up?" Zimmer chided. "You're young, and you've got your whole life in front of you. Look at me. I'm old, I'm fat, I'm bald, I'm ugly and I've got a plate in my head. I'm the one with worries."
"Right then," says Kurkjian, "I decided to quit worrying about how the team I was covering was doing and realize how fortunate I was just to be covering major league baseball."
That attitude has served Kurkjian well. In eight seasons of reporting on the sport, he has seen a lot of baseball. Most of it bad. After four years of covering the dismal Rangers, Kurkjian moved to the Baltimore Sun, where he covered a hapless Oriole team for another three years. "I spent seven straight years without covering a winning team," says Kurkjian. "Before last season, I figured out that my lifetime winning percentage as a beat writer was .412."
His worries that he might be a jinx were forgotten last year, of course, when the overachieving Orioles made their memorable run at a division title. "Last season was incredible," says Kurkjian. "It made up for all those past years combined. My curse was finally lifted."
Kurkjian, 33, grew up in Bethesda, Md., and got an early education in the disappointments of the game when his beloved Washington Senators deserted him for Texas in 1972. He also played infield at Walter Johnson High School—named after the Hall of Fame pitcher—until he realized he was too small to have a future as a player. But he was beginning to see another side of the game as sports editor of the school newspaper, appropriately named The Pitch. Later, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a journalism degree, and had short stints at The Washington Star and The Baltimore News-American before moving to Dallas.
Kurkjian joined SI in November, and, after covering the owners' lockout of training camps, he was glad to see the games begin. His scouting report on the American League starts on page 66, and, beginning next week, he'll be our regular INSIDE BASEBALL notes columnist. And the best part is, says Kurkjian, "I don't have to worry about all that jinx stuff anymore because, theoretically, now I cover every team."
DON B. STEVENSON
Kurkjian will deliver the "Inside" pitch.