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ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian honored by Baseball Hall of Fame with Career Achievement Award


COOPERSTOWN, NY — ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian’s decades-long love affair with the sport of baseball — and everyone associated with it — came to a head on Saturday when he was honored as the recipient of this year’s BBWAA Career Excellence Award.

“It’s the greatest honor of my professional life,” Kurkjian told ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “There’s not a close second. And I wake up every day saying what Cal Ripken said after breaking Lou Gehrig’s record: ‘This can’t happen to me.'”

By accepting the award, which is given annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing,” Kurkjian takes his place alongside the list of heroes, mentors and friends who have already been honored.

“When you look at the names on this list for a long time and then show up with Peter Gammons, Dan Shaughnessy, Jayson Stark, I’m so honored,” Kurkjian said.

Baseball has been a common thread in the fabric of Kurkjian’s life, dating back to his baseball-loving father and two older brothers who played for Catholic University. A native of Bethesda, Maryland, Kurkjian played baseball and basketball at Walter Johnson High School, named after the Hall of Fame pitcher. There he wrote for the school newspaper called “The Pitch”.

“It’s something that has interested me all my life,” Kurkjian said. “It’s not something that interested me after high school.”

Kurkjian was honored in a private ceremony at the Alice Busch Opera Theater at the Glimmerglass Festival outside Cooperstown, alongside the late Jack Graney, who won the Ford C. Frick Award, which recognizes broadcasters for their “contributions majors in baseball.

Kurkjian, 65, is the author of three books about baseball and his experiences. His professional career began in 1979, when he joined the Washington Star. In 1981, he covered the Texas Rangers for the Dallas Morning News, followed by a four-year stint covering the Orioles for the Baltimore Sun.

After more than seven years with Sports Illustrated, Kurkjian joined ESPN in 1998. Since then, he has worked as a columnist and has become a prominent part of ESPN’s baseball coverage. He’s been a staple on Baseball Tonight, contributed to SportsCenter, and worked as a reporter and analyst on game broadcasts. Kurkjian has been honored twice for his work in television.

Kurkjian has transcended his long and varied resume simply by becoming one of baseball’s most beloved figures and a person who exudes genuine joy from the game. The son of a mathematician, Kurkjian has long been known for his habits of meticulous work, such as a 20-year period when he cut out the sheet music from the newspaper boxes of each game and pasted them into spiral notebooks, a practice he only stopped because the sheet music from the printed boxes is become so hard to find.

“I always thought Tim was looking for the good in baseball,” Ripken told ESPN’s Willie Weinbaum.

Kurkjian covered Ripken during his time on pace for the Orioles, chronicling his pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. They became friends because of another of Kurkjian’s passions: pickup basketball, where he showed surprising insight despite being only 5-foot-4½ tall.

“We bonded over basketball,” Ripken said. “I remember he used to take his NBA ball on the road with him when he was covering for us, looking for some kind of game. We logged on and played basketball on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings.

The friendship with Ripken was just one example of the countless relationships Kurkjian built during his time working in the sport as he became known as much for his relentless positivity and generosity as he was for his writing and writing skills. broadcast, not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, on which no tidbit was trivial in Kurkjian’s eyes.

It’s been a love affair and it continues and it reached a whole new level on Saturday when Kurkjian earned a permanent place among the sport’s immortals.

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