I can remember the first time I read a byline from Jack Curry.
I was in fifth grade when one of the teacher’s aides interrupted the drudgery of our class to pass out our mimeographed school newspaper, conceived and produced by Curry, who was in seventh grade. Telling stories was in his blood, even back then.
“That was the start for me,” recalls Curry as we reminisce about our time together at St. Anne’s grammar school in the Heights section of Jersey City.
“I loved writing and baseball and even though my ball playing in high school might indicate otherwise, I was determined that the career that I chose would have baseball in it.”
That determination paid off. Curry joined The New York Times in 1987 and became the Yankees beat writer in 1991. He was the newspaper's national baseball writer for many years, authoring more than 4,500 articles, covering 18 World Series, 11 All-Star games, 10 MLB winter meetings and two World Baseball Classics. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Reporting at the Times in 1999 for co-writing a series on the demise of New York high school sports, and won multiple Publisher Awards at the Times, monthly awards that recognize the best journalism at the paper. Curry has also been the chairman of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Curry, who traces his Irish roots to Co. Cork on his mother’s side, even brought his love of baseball to Ireland. He visited Ireland after seeing The Emerald Diamond, a documentary about the Irish national baseball team.
With no fields, equipment or game experience, Ireland began play in the 1996 European Championships. Despite a series of lopsided losses the Irish persevered, building one of Europe's fastest growing national baseball programs. It was an underdog story that proved irresistible to the veteran reporter.
“I visited Ireland in 2007 after I’d written about the documentary,” he recalls. “I wrote about Irish baseball. I was at the forefront at a time baseball was picking up steam in Ireland. I got to know many of the players there and had the time of my life!”
Perhaps sensing the decline of print media, he made the jump to the YES Network in 2010 as a Yankees studio analyst, program contributor, and a columnist on the Emmy Award-winning YESNetwork.com. The nattily dressed, telegenic Curry is a natural for on-camera reporting, which seems to have come as a surprise to him.
“I didn’t know or expect this would be the way my career would go,” he says. “I was always a newspaper guy. I had people nudging me in this direction. I left one dream job for another.”
Though he has added his commentary on many television and radio shows throughout the years, including MSNBC and WFAN sports programming, he says making the move to YES Network was an adjustment. There is on-camera work to produce, along with a blog to maintain, not to mention interacting with sports fans on social media.
It’s a far cry from his days on the newspaper, when he would have to sit by the phone in his hotel waiting for George Steinbrenner to call before the age of cell phones!
“The thing about the change of journalism is how much it has expanded and grown,” he marvels. “It’s now a 24/7 concern. You had to lug around these bulky word processors when I was starting out and you would download everything at the end of the night for copy the next morning.
“Now, you can be on the field covering spring training by typing 400 words on a smart phone and sending it over to your editor so that it gets loaded real time onto the YesNetwork.com website.”
Thought the times has changed, Curry prefers the hectic pace of online reporting.
“I like the immediacy of this,” he says. “In the digital world and in broadcasting there is an instant gratification.”
I ask him about another big change that occurred once he left the Times. After spending so many years reporting on the Yankees, his move on camera for the YES Network means he is now part of the brand. He dismisses the assertion his objectivity was traded in the deal.
“In this TV world, I approach my job the same way I did when I was in the newspaper world,” he says. “If there is a decision I don’t agree with, I never felt I had handcuffs on. No one has ever told me not to talk about that.”
Curry, who also co-wrote a bestselling book with Derek Jeter entitled Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams, believes that keeping a distance from his subject matter is the key to objective reporting.
“I’ve always tried to remember there is a relationship I want to develop but it’s a professional relationship, much like someone in the cubicle next to them,” he reasons.
“It’s never been my approach to be a friend. The objectivity remains because of that. That never interests me and that distracts you from doing your job.”
That objectivity must have come in handy this past year, when it seemed the New York press couldn’t get enough of the Alex Rodriguez steroids saga. Though Curry admits it was a hot story, he puts it in perspective.
“Look, it’s part of the Yankees, so we cover A-Rod as well,” he says. “We just didn’t overdo it, like they did on talk radio. If our pre-game is 22 minutes, of course it will be part of our pre-game discussion for a few minutes. Then we move onto the starting pitcher. We are not going to report six straight hours and continue to harp on it.”
Being on camera raises Curry’s profile, which also elevates the level of criticism he faces at every turn.
“Twitter is a complete time-sucker,” he jokes. “I love it 90 percent of the time but you have to use it how it benefits you.
“There is a cesspool element that has profanity and negative comments. You have to have a thick skin on the commentary you get on the pre-game and post-game coverage. I respect everyone’s opinion. I wish everyone respected mine.”
Perhaps one of the toughest critics he’s had to face came from the Yankees organization itself. On the YesNetwork.com archives, he wrote eloquently about his complicated relationship with the late Yankees owner Steinbrenner, who nicknamed him Jackson. I ask Curry what Steinbrenner would think of the coverage he gave to his beloved team on the network he owned.
“I would never speak for Steinbrenner but he always asked you to be fair,” Curry replies. “I’d like to think my coverage has always been fair. I am going to tell you what I see and believe.”
As it was in seventh grade, so it is now. To find out how Jack Curry sees it, tune in before and after the next Yankees game on YES Network or log onto www.yesnetwork.com.