Senior Editor Larry Burke, a devotee of baseball since he was old enough to turn on the TV, has learned from the breaks of the game. For instance, when fellow 13-year-olds started bending curveballs past him in eighth grade 17 years ago, the Nutley, N.J., native knew that his career as a "no-hit, no-field first baseman" was doomed. Likewise, when a foul ball screamed through the press-box window at Chicago's Comiskey Park and smashed his laptop computer while he was stringing for the AP two years ago, he took this as a sign that his days as a baseball writer were numbered too. But setbacks like these never dampened his enthusiasm for the sport. "There are a lot of ways to enjoy the game," says Burke. "Professionally speaking, the best way for me is from behind a desk."
Burke could be found this winter pursuing his passion from the safety of his Manhattan office, where he helped create the premier edition of SI PRESENTS' baseball preview, which hits the nation's newsstands this week with 14 different regional covers. SI PRESENTS, our year-old sister publication that also produces commemorative issues and basketball and football previews that are available only on newsstands, began preparation of its in-depth baseball issue in December. Thus Burke could turn his thoughts to the 1996 season just weeks after the end of the '95 World Series. "The fire at the SI PRESENTS hot-stove league burns all winter," says Burke.
Before joining SI in July 1994, Burke covered a variety of sports, first as a student at Notre Dame, where he served as a football writer and editor at The Observer, the school newspaper, and later at Scholastic, Notre Dame's weekly magazine. After graduating in 1987, Burke spent eight months as a sportswriter for the South Bend Tribune before moving to Chicago as an editorial assistant at Inside Sports magazine. Through a combination of "ambition and attrition" he rose to the position of top editor within six years, all the while dodging foul balls at night on behalf of the AP. Somehow Burke also found the time to write The Baseball Chronicles, a decade-by-decade history of the game, as well as to court Beth Bosso, whom he married in '92. Beth's a good sport: She once accepted Larry's invitation to a classic Windy City doubleheader, an afternoon game at Wrigley Field followed by a night game at Comiskey Park.
With the baseball preview finished, the Burkes are off on a Florida vacation, where they plan to attend several spring training games. Editing a 188-page baseball annual for three months didn't sate Larry's appetite for the upcoming season. "I guess I'm the journalistic equivalent of a player who spent the off-season in winter ball," he says. "I'm ready for the games to start."
In Florida the Burkes are being accompanied by their 17-month-old son, Casey, who, we assume, will be at the bat as soon as he can hold one. "I hope he likes the game," says Larry, aware that fatherhood offers him yet another avenue for pursuing his favorite sport. "I could see coaching Little League," he says. "I'd like to be involved somehow." We have no doubt that he'll find a way.