Over the past few months, my MLB Nighttime Viewing Program of Choice has slowly migrated from ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” (my favorite sports segment for many, many years) to the upstart MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight.” Part of this migratory process is directly attributable to the “live-look-ins” and significantly greater amounts of “live baseball” MLB Tonight includes as part of its show, and part of it is predicated upon the presence of Harold Reynolds, who is my favorite baseball analyst (at the moment).
What I can say with certainty, however, is that my gradual “falling away” from Baseball Tonight is in no way connected to the presence of ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, whose KurkGems serve as regular reinforcement for the age-old claim that you “see something new every day at the ol’ ballpark.” For years, Kurkjian has been coming up with the most bizarre, unexpected baseball facts imaginable, from such tidbits as “this year, the White Sox became the first team to use five pitchers in a game where all five recorded three strikeouts” to “the Blue Jays got home runs from Jose Bautista, John Buck and Travis Snider, the first time in Toronto’s 34-year history that its 7-8-9 hitters homered in the same game” to “Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Ryan Zimmerman homered in the same game, the first time that players with the last name starting with U, V and Z did so in the same game.”
His secret for coming up with such “gems?” A life-long devotion to scouring those most fascinating and frustrating vehicles of baseball history: the daily box scores. For my money, the box score is the only thing from a “regular” newspaper that I would rather have on paper than online; there is something fundamentally enjoyable about running one’s ink-smudged fingers over the tiny columns accounting for yesterday’s MLB events that cannot be duplicated on a monitor.
Sadly, Kurkjian writes, this physical review of baseball’s (recent and ancient) past is no longer a key part of his day’s preparations:
A most absurd streak quietly ended in 2010: For the first time since 1989, I no longer clip every box score of every baseball game from the nearest newspaper and tape each one into a spiral notebook, a daily task that I’ve estimated, at roughly 15 minutes per day, has cost me 40 days of my truly pathetic life.
This official announcement comes with some sadness because I love box scores. I’ve always loved box scores. From 1990-2009, I never missed one day of clipping and taping box scores, a streak that our best baseball fans must acknowledge is far more impressive than Cal Ripken playing in 2,632 consecutive games.…
But now, it’s over. Now I read the box scores most days on ESPN.com on my computer. I’m not comfortable doing it but I have no other choice….
But I still read box scores with the same vigor and interest every day for there is so much to learn in box scores, almost everything you need is in box scores, especially with the expanded ones that tell you, in some cases, more than you wanted to know. Twice a year, I have lunch and talk baseball with George Will and Dr. Charles Krauthammer, who write and speak about important issues in the world, such as war and gay marriage. At one lunch, Krauthammer said, “I read the front page for 30 seconds every day, then I go straight to the box scores.” To which Will said, “Why do you waste the 30 seconds?”
Yet another era draws to a close. I wonder how much longer it will be before newspapers cease publishing box scores altogether. The time of the analyst (or even the casual baseball fan) is nearly over; that of the collector approaches.