Bill O’Boyle: Meeting Tim Kurkjian a true Hall of Fame moment

·4 min read

Jul. 24—WILKES-BARRE — There's nothing better for a baseball fan than finding another baseball fan to talk about baseball with for hours.

In these days of over-focus on the NBA and the NFL, it is refreshing to find another baseball nut to crack open and discuss America's real pastime —baseball.

This all-too-rare pleasure is still the best for a kid who grew up checking box scores and playing Strat-O-Matic on his front porch and collecting and flipping baseball cards with his buddies, Not to mention playing WiffelBall in the backyard with official lineups and battling lefty and rightly as required.

One of these treasured moments happened to me and former TL staffer Joe Dolinsky on Dec, 16, 2016. Dolinsky shares a passion for baseball and he is a long-loyal fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.

On Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, Dolinsky and I attended former Cubs' manager Joe Maddon's annual fundraiser for the Hazleton Integration Project that was held at Valley Country Club in Conyngham. This was a night to remember for sure.

Neither Dolinsky nor I knew who would be there that night, but we knew Maddon, whose Cubs had just won their first World Series in 108 years, always managed to bring a few celebrities to the event.

On this night, Maddon did not disappoint.

While we were standing around stargazing, Dolinsky and I were about to be treated to a night filled with baseball memories.

As we were looking around, I noticed a very familiar face approaching — famed actor/comedian/Cubs fan Bill Murray was making his way through the crowd with a candy cane hanging from his lapel. I casually mentioned this amazing moment to Dolinsky who unbeknownst to me was — and still is — a mega-fan of Bill Murray.

Murray stopped, shook our hands and chatted for about five minuets before having to enter a VIP room for photos and autographs, leaving Dolinsky and I stunned. I managed to get a photo of Murray and Dolinsky.

But as monumental as that encounter was, it was not the highlight of our evening.

Later, again while just standing around, another mega star approached — it was Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, a walking baseball encyclopedia and historian who loves "the game" as much as anybody and who also shares an authentic passion for the game as many true baseball fans do.

Kurkjian stopped, shook our hands and then talked baseball with Dolinsky and me for an hour at this event. We talked Phillies, Yankees and many other baseball issues and historical moments. Kurkjian rattled off memories and stats faster than a speeding bullet and he also listened to everything we had to say and he answered every question we had.

That night, Tim Kurkjian showed everyone why he is a deserved inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame — which happened this weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In my opinion, Kurkjian deserves this honor, not just because of his career and his knowledge and his longevity, but he is even more deserving because of his passion and love of the game of baseball.

When we were in his company, we felt like we had known Kurkjian for years. We felt like old friends catching up on the game and what was happening in 2016 and comparing baseball to "the good old days."

Kurkjian, 65, is the 2022 BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner. He is a Major League Baseball analyst on ESPN's Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, and he is also a contributor to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.

Dolinsky remembers that night as well.

"He talked to us about baseball for an hour," Dolinsky said. "He talked to everybody there about baseball. Baseball reporting is not just what he does for a living — baseball is his life. His knowledge is just unbelievable. It was clear to me that he genuinely loves the game."

In the room where we met and talked to Kurkjian, there was a display of baseball memorabilia to be auctioned off that night, which included items from athletes and personalities, such as former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and catcher Jorge Posada, Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Hayward, ESPN's Chris Berman and Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder.

Joining the field of celebrities in attendance with Murray were former WBC and WBA heavyweight boxing champion Tim Witherspoon and Fox's Ken Rosenthal.

Chicago won its first World Series title in 108 years in 2016, beating the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

The night was a celebration of that and it was highlighted by the appearance of Bill Murray and several others.

But for a true lifelong baseball fan, meeting Tim Kurkjian was a genuine thrill for me.

Call it a true Hall of Fame moment.

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at boboyle@timesleader.com.