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Monday, January 16, 2017

I'm Fascinated By Sacrifice Flies: A Review

Baseball has an ability like no other to provide infinite anecdotes and recollections. Tim Kurkjian’s I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love (2016; St.Martin’s Press) captures that unique proclivity. The renowned ESPN personality/journalist has accumulated some of the best stories and oddities that he has collected during his decades of close involvement and observation of the game and turned them over to the fans for their own enjoyment.

A baseball writer and reporter for ESPN for nearly two decades, Kurkjian has been around the block more than a few times and has the unique perspective that has allowed him to accumulate some great gems. His fascination with quirky stats and interesting anecdotes has been fueled by his obsession for collecting and reviewing box scores of all games.

The book is chock full of insights from current and former players, who dish on things like what it feels like to be hit by a pitch; how it feels to go against some of the best in the game; and what they actually hear from fans in the crowd. There is also a laundry list of superstitions, rituals and other things players use to get (what they believe) to be the best out of their skills.

Kurkjian, as indicated by the book’s title, is obsessed with the sacrifice fly. He has an entire chapter devoted to the subject and pulls out many obscure nuggets like how catcher Bob Boone nearly doubled (78 to 47) the number of career sacrifice flies of Hall-of-Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle.

Make no mistake, baseball is a game made up of numbers and quirks. Kurkjian does a good job of encapsulating that with this book. This is somewhere between a collection of brief memories and trivia. Baseball fans who can’t get enough of these things (and there are many) will likely be drawn in by what is offered. However, this is not a book that one can sit down and easily digest in big chunks at a time. The writing style is fine it’s just that the sheer amount of stats, anecdotes and observations make it difficult to stick with it for any great length of time.

Kurkjian is one of baseball’s best known reporters/analysts. His passion for the game is palpable and he has transcribed many of his memories and research into this book. He is not reinventing the wheel here but will find that he has an enthusiastic audience for I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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