Midnight was when Tim Kurkjian turned me into a journalistic pumpkin, damn near every single night. Midnight would strike, and the first edition of the Baltimore (Morning) Sun would publish. In those pre-Internet days I would call an editor or staffer inside the building to grab a copy – yes, hot off the presses – and convey the latest damage Tim had inflicted upon me, his supposed competition at the Baltimore (Evening) Sun.

This went on for three years, from 1987 to ’89, when Tim and I covered the Orioles as beat reporters, along with Richard Justice of the Washington Post. I was just starting out as a baseball writer. I could not keep up with either of them. Tim, my more direct competitor, literally prevented me from sleeping; games were shorter then, and good luck after midnight to confirm anything he reported in the first edition. Tim vs. Ken was the baseball-writing equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals, and Richard also recorded his share of dunks on me. Oh, and did I mention that in actual basketball both Tim and I were point guards, and in pickup games he would crush me, too?

Competition on a beat can spark jealousy, friction, even outright bitterness. But with Tim, I never felt any of that. Truth be told, I worshipped him. And all these years later, I am welling up with the announcement that Tim is this year’s winner of the Career Excellence Award from the Baseball Writers Association of America, formerly known as the Spink Award. The honor, quite frankly, is overdue.

Though many fans and younger BBWAA members know Tim mostly from his work on television with ESPN, he has never stopped writing, bringing joy and wonder and humor to the game he loves. He has been at it for more than four decades now, viewing the sport through his own unique lens.

Tim was one of the top newspaper beat writers covering baseball from 1981 to ’89, first with the Dallas Morning News, then with the Sun. He moved to Sports Illustrated from 1989 to ’97 and has been with ESPN ever since, drawing legions of followers with his warmth, his passion, his encyclopedic knowledge of all things baseball.