Jack Curry Interview Transcript – 5/16/2023

jc: So, the first thing – I’ll ask a couple of baseball questions, and then I want to do
some music, all right?
Jack: Okay, Perfect. I just feel like… I don’t know. I have this Johnny Cash shirt
here, but I feel like it’s not fitting right. I don’t know what happened. I haven’t worn
it in a while and it feels like it’s all over… I, let me see something here…
jc: I like it! It looks good. This is going to be audio-only anyway.
Jack: Oh, okay, Then we’re good.
jc: I wore my Morrison Hotel shirt for the occasion, so I think we’re set here.
Jack: I love it. I love it. There we go. We’re matching. All right.
jc: All right. So, first things first, I remember one thing that I was able to get out of
your book were the recent interviews you did with (Derek) Jeter, and (David)
Cone, and how much they gave you. They seem to be so unbelievably open about
how really good that team was and how even back then they knew they were good.
I tried to tell people for years when I met Jeter in the clubhouse at Shea Stadium, it
was his birthday. It was the second season of the Subway Series, (Paul) O’Neill hit
that home run, I think off (Mel) Rojas. And Derek had all these stuffed animals
around and I waited for everybody to leave, and I said, “Derek, you got to tell me
how good is this team?” and he waxed poetic for about three or four sentences
about, “Everybody’s good. We’re on a mission.” And I didn’t realize until years
later when he became a closed book with the press how incredibly rare that is. I
wonder when you were covering the team in ‘98, did you get the same vibe as you
got from doing these newer interviews for this book about how confident this team
was then?
Jack: No. I’ve told people that twenty-five years later, I think the pride, and if you
want to call it, the swagger was oozing a lot more, and I’m glad you brought up
Jeter because I wrote a book with Jeter twenty-plus years ago. And in that book, he
didn’t want to touch certain topics. He was still playing; his career was still
ongoing. And Jeter was never the type to criticize anyone anyway. Well, when I
spoke to him about the ‘98 Yankees, his pride was bursting through the telephone.
So, I think that twenty-five years later, these guys were very happy and content

with where they stood in baseball history. And James, I do think it’s easier for all of
us to reflect on our work, if you or I wrote a great article or a great book, and
someone complimented it a week or a month later, I would hope we would both
show some humility, maybe ten years down the line, when you saw where that
book or that article stood in your history, you’d say I’m pretty proud of that. And I
think that’s what happened with these players.
jc: Good point, a little space makes us think we’re commenting on someone else’s
Jack: It’s a great point, and I think what I needed to do as a journalist, and I tried to
do in this book, was to have these guys take me behind the scenes and tell me some
of the things that we hadn’t previously heard. And I have a couple of friends of
mine who covered that ‘98 team and before the book was published, they said to
me, “There were things in this book I did not know about” I mean, I should just
name them. One is Michael Kay, who’s now the play-by-play guy for Yes, one of
my colleagues, and one is Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They were around
that team almost every day. So, when they told me that there were things in there
that they didn’t know, I knew we had ventured down the right path.
jc: Yeah, that’s the beauty of this. It’s the retrospection of it. And I think it’s very
important that you did write this book, because a lot of young people are unaware
of this incredible season, so you did a great service by bringing this back twenty-
five years later.
Jack: Right. And by calling them “the greatest team ever,” this is just not me
opining on a top of a mountain top. I have evidence to support that, I interviewed
other people. Now, of course, the people on the Yankee team may think they’re the
greatest. But one of the most important interviews I did for this book was with
John Thorne. He is Major League Baseball’s official historian – you can talk to this
guy about baseball from the 1870s and he’d be on-point. He thinks the Yankees of
’98 are the best team ever, so that was a very powerful voice. And I think when
you talk about best of all time, James, you got to talk about dominance. And I
could reel off the statistics and how that team dominated. You talked about one
already 125-50. No one’s come close to 125 wins. They had the fourth highest
winning percentage. And then this is an important point that I think people forget,
they had to win three rounds of playoffs, and that’s where baseball has changed for
me, the ‘27 Yankees and the ‘39 Yankees, if you want to say they’re the greatest
ever, I’m going to say that that’s fine, make your argument, but they had to win one

round of playoffs and where do we see teams stumble? In the playoffs. The
Dodgers have been the best team in Major League Baseball across the last decade,
won World Series, and it happened in the shortened 2020 year, because it’s hard to
win in October.
jc: It sure is. And, you know, I’m glad you brought up Thorne, because that was my
next question. In the early 90s I interviewed John when his Total Baseball first
came out. And we all grew up with the Baseball Encyclopedia and we were like,
“What’s this new thing?” So, I had just gotten introduced to him, and, of course, I
had to ask him, “What’s the greatest baseball team ever?” This was in 1990-91.
And he said, without hesitation, which lit a lightbulb over my head, “the 1939
Yankees.” And I’m thinking, you know, the ‘27, ’61 teams. And then, of course,
you know, that team lost (Lou Gehrig), one of the greatest baseball players ever
before the season really starts. But he said, “It’s simple as this, James, you give up
runs or you don’t give up runs, you score runs, or you don’t, and the greatest run
differential was that ’39 team. So, for Thorne to say now, twenty-five years later
that the 1998 Yankees usurp that is a major statement in my book.
Jack: Well, the ’39 Yankees had the highest run differential in Major League
history, but, as you said, the ‘98 Yankees had the highest since the ‘39 Yankees. So,
I think if you’re picking the best four or five teams of all time – it’s the ‘98
Yankees, it’s the ‘27 Yankees, it’s the ‘39 Yankees, it’s the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.
And I’ll leave a wild card out there for number five, because there’s a lot of teams
that could vie for that. The one place where I think John and I disagreed a little bit
is he thinks that you could be considered amongst the greatest of all time if you
didn’t win a World Series.
jc: Right, like the 2001 Mariners.
Jack: I totally disagree. The 1906 Chicago Cubs were 116-36 but didn’t win a
World Series. To me, you’re out if you can’t complete the deal, like the 2001 Seattle
Mariners that you mentioned, you’re not amongst the greatest of all time.
jc: Yeah, I always hear the ‘06 Cubs, right? And they didn’t win either.
Jack: Yeah, exactly.
jc: All right. So last one, I adored some of the personal stories in here. In the early
90’s I was a research assistant for the late, great, Roger Kahn. I am sure you know
Roger’s work, his greatest work being The Boys of Summer, where you really learn
about the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. I learned a great deal from Roger about the

stories of the people behind the season, the accomplishment, the turmoil, and
triumph. You did that so well in this book, and I’m reminded of the Wells’ chapter
most of all. Just magnificent insight into his personality, and what a personality!
And I get the feeling from the book that he and Joe (Torre) never really got over
their battles. There is also the wonderful story of Orlando Hernandez, and you said
at the beginning of the book, “I’m going to tell you right now, I’m going to be
really into Orlando Hernandez in this book.” And even the story of (Daryl)
Strawberry talking to that guy who got cut from that team, Dale Svuem..
Jack: Mike Buddie.
jc: Buddie, right! He was cut from the team the day the team photo wassd being
taken and Strawberry makes him get in the photo, even though he was bummed
from being cut and just wanted to get out of there. And he’s in the photo today. I
love those stories. You’re smiling. So, tell me what your favorite story in the book
Jack: Well, I’m glad you brought up the Straw/Mike Buddie story, because I have a
soft spot for Straw, I loved covering him. I am proud of him as someone who
covered him to see that he has conquered a lot of his demons. But Mike Buddie
was a little used reliever on that team who was sent up and down to AAA five or
six times that season.
jc: I forgot he was even on the team, yeah.
Jack: We’re getting to the time where the roster is going to be set for the
postseason. I think it’s a day away and Buddie thinks he’s finally made the cut. He
gets called into Joe Torre’s office and gets sent down. He doesn’t want to talk to
anybody, and you read it, so you know the story, but he just wants to get out of
Yankee Stadium. His flight isn’t leaving for four or five hours, but he says I gotta
get out of here. He had taken every other demotion gracefully, but this one
bothered him. And as he’s leaving the stadium, he bumps into Darryl Strawberry.
And Strawberry says to him, “Where are you going?” So, he tells him the story,
and Strawberry, showing an incredible amount of empathy says, “You know,
they’re taking the team picture today. You might want to hang around and be in
that, I have a feeling you’re gonna want to let people know you were a member of
this team. If you want me, I’ll go ask Joe if that’s okay. Buddie, recognizing how
right Strawberry is, says “No, I’ll go ask Joe.” Torre sanctions it, and Buddie is in
the picture. And James, he is now the athletic director at West Point, has had a
great career in college athletic administration. And he told me at home that that

picture, the 1998 picture sits in his basement and he said “I could walk in any mall
in the United States that has a sports store and see my picture with that team, and
that’s all because of Darryl Strawberry.” So, I know you do this, you’re a journalist
hunting down stories, so you well know that when Buddie told me that story, you
just start to smile, because, my gosh. I even think I got off the phone because I
interviewed Mike early. I tried to, no offense to him, but I tried to start with some
of the reserves and work my way up to the starters, and I remember getting off the
phone and saying to my wife, “If I get twenty-five or thirty more of those, my
books done.”
jc: Right, because everybody really knows the stories of O’Neill and all these other
guys and Jeter. When I was working with Roger, I was working on a book on the
‘78 Yankees, which was my team. And I remember when the baseball documentary
came out, what was it 1990? – the Ken Burns one? And the next day in USA
Today, they had all these retractions of mistakes in it, and that scared the hell out of
me as a writer. But I remember thinking about Brian Doyle, the kid called up
because starting second baseman, Willie Randolf gets hurt and plays the entire post
season having the time of his life, hitting over .400 in the World Series, that’s the
story everyone wants to know. Where did this guy come from? And you have at
least a half-dozen of those in this book that even if you lived through that season,
like me, you just forget. Shane Spencer is a great example. We all remember
Shane’s crazy home-run September, but what an amazing story that guy had! He
couldn’t even get on a plane because he didn’t have his ID? Amazing. The stories
of the people, that’s what makes this book great.
Jack: Right, Spencer gets called up to the big leagues, had lost his driver’s license.
His girlfriend, who later became his wife, whips out a baseball card – it’s pre 9/11,
so, they let him on the plane. Homer Bush. I thought gave me some insight into his
story. He’s a little used player, a pinch runner. One game he doesn’t really hustle on
a ball, late in September, because he thought it was gonna be a homerun and it
ended up being a double. He still scores and everybody’s high fiving him in the
dugout. And Torre just threw a glare at him and basically said, “You got to hustle.”
And so Bush is down after the game, his shoulders are slumped, and Torre walks
over to him, puts his arm around him and says, “Kid, this is the time where I need
you.” So, it just showed you who Joe Torre was, smacks him down and tells him
you didn’t do the right thing. And then lifts him up and says you can’t let this
happen in the postseason; you’ve got to be there for me. So, just stories like that.
I’m glad you enjoyed the Wells and the El Duque chapters. Those were probably

two of my favorites to write about; two characters that we think we know all about
them. But I’m fortunate that both of them, and many of their teammates gave me
more information than had previously been recorded.
jc: They did. Congrats again. And I love the humor in your book too. I think there
was… I forget the pitcher, but I think there was one line, you surmised that this is a
guy who’s definitely not going be buying this book, because he got pounded by the
1998 Yankees. (laughs)
Jack: Oh gosh, it was um… he gave up fourteen runs… Oquist! Mike Oquist.
Oakland’s bullpen was shot, so Art Howe left him in to get tattooed, I think, for
fourteen runs in five innings. And James, and you’ll appreciate this too, as a
journalist, I tried to hunt down Mike Oquist. I left messages in a couple of places.
And he either got the message and didn’t want to talk about it, or he didn’t get the
message. (laughs)
jc: That speaks volumes. (laughs) “I’m not talking about that!” Because those guys
carry with you carry these wounds for a long time.
Jack: I also tried to reach out to… so the Yankees start 1-4. It’s well-known Torre
has this big meeting before game six. And they go on a run after that. They go 64-

  1. Well, when they won game six, Knoblauch lead off with a homerun and they
    beat the Mariners, I think it was 12-7 or 13-7. The guy who started that game for
    Seattle was the last game you ever pitched in the major leagues. So, his lasting
    memory of the end of his career is that the ‘98 Yankees took off on his back. Jim
    Ballinger. Left messages in a couple of places for him too, but I didn’t end up
    getting a call back.
    jc: Not surprising. All right, I was supposed to let you go at 11:30, so we got about
    fourteen minutes. So, let’s start talking some music.
    Jack: All right!
    jc: I want to know more about your musical tastes and such because I love when
    you Tweet, “I’ve got four minutes before I go on Yes, I have just enough time to
    listen to this song.” You have song-times down. You’re my kind of guy. Alright, so
    here’s a few music questions. What was your favorite band growing up? And what
    is it now?
    Jack Curry: It’s a great question. I’m pretty transparent about this on Twitter. I will
    preface this by saying I grew up in Jersey with a brother that is a couple years older

than me and who’s a music savant. So, the first band/musician that I fell in love
with was (Bruce) Springsteen. But the band that I grew to adore, and I always tell
people is my favorite band of all time, is the Clash. And I was fortunate enough
when I was sixteen, seventeen to see them at Bonds in Manhattan.
jc: You went to that show? Holy shit.
Jack: I went twice! They played twenty shows or something in ten days and I was
mesmerized James, and my brother and I actually got on stage at the end of one of
the shows, but we got pushed off very quickly. (laughs) Yeah, Joe Strummer and
the Clash became my guidepost. I thought that Joe Strummer had a message in all
of his music. I also loved his solo stuff after the Clash broke up. So, the Clash will
always be my favorite band. If you ask me who my favorite band is, today, I’m
probably gonna throw you a curveball; there’s a reggae artist named Chronixx. My
wife and I go to the Caribbean a lot. And several years ago, one of my buddies
over there, a guy named Van Roy, bartender, great dude, said, “You got to listen to
this guy Chronixx, he’s the next Bob Marley.” And I loved him. I’ve seen him
perform about half a dozen times. He’s got very socially conscious music. I’ve
actually interviewed him, because I did a little web series for a while at Yes, where
I would try and incorporate some of my music love. I also love the National. I
would put them high up as another band that I listen to a lot these days. But I’m a
new wave/punk kid from the late seventies, early eighties. So, the Smiths, Talking
Heads, Ramones, and really anybody who sort of sounds like that in the current
genre – Arcade Fire, the 1975 – I want to take a listen.
jc: Where in Jersey did you grow up?
Jack: I was born in Jersey City, which we always called “the sixth borough.” My
buddies and I would head over to Manhattan on the PATH train when we were
thirteen, fourteen years old, heading down to the village to explore record stores,
go to sporting goods stores because we thought they sold better baseball gloves or
hockey sticks than the ones in Jersey City – they probably didn’t (smiles). Yeah, I
lived there for the first twenty-seven years of my life. I got married, I moved out a
little more to suburbia, but Jersey City molded me, it’s a tough place, but I learned
a lot there.
jc: What was the first song that really sparked you? And how old were you?
Jack: We’re probably gonna have to go back to Springsteen. It’s probably
“Jungleland,” something off Born to Run that was so mammoth that it stuck with

me. I mean, obviously, when you’re eight, nine, ten years old, and your parents are
playing music that sticks with you, too. I’m wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt right
now. My father adored Johnny Cash, and my brother and I grew up listening to
that. So, I’m sure when I was ten, I would have told you it was “I Walk the Line” or
“Ring of Fire,” but Springsteen definitely hit me hard as a kid growing up in New
Jersey. And then later on London Calling from the Clash. Because I cover baseball,
people will say, “If you were a baseball player, and were headed to the plate to bat,
what would your walk-up song be?” And I never hesitate, I just say “London
Calling.” I’ve talked to Paul O’Neill (former Yankee great and member of the 1998
team) about this. You need something, especially now with the pitch clock, that it’s
going to hit you in ten or fifteen seconds and “London Calling” has that at the
beginning. That would get me fired up, as I went up there and struck out on three
pitches. (laughs)
jc: You said your parents played music; did they play professionally?
Jack: No, but my father probably should have. My brother and I to this day still
have cassette tapes of my father playing guitar and singing. He had a lot of skills
and a lot of talent but I don’t know that he was as aggressive as he should have
been and getting people to hear his music, because, I can get misty talking about
this, my mom died in ‘94, my dad died in ‘95, so it’s been a long time, but I cherish
the fact that we have these cassettes where my dad is just going off playing music,
just riffing, and doing whatever he felt like. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass on to my
brother or I, but it passed on to the next generation. My brother’s son, one of my
nephews, is in a couple of bands and he can really play the guitar. He’s got some
serious skills.
jc: Yeah, I lost my dad in 2019, and he would have adored this book, Jack, he
really would have.
Jack: I appreciate that.
jc: So, you don’t play an instrument then?
Jack: I don’t. I’ve always loved music. In college, I was not only the sports editor,
but I also did music reviews. I interviewed Billy Idol when I was in college
because he came to Fordham and played on campus, but I’ve never had the skill.
My wife plays the guitar, too, so she’s another one that’s nearby, and I love
listening to her. I took about four lessons playing the guitar, but I was a pretty
honest kid with myself, and I didn’t see it being a skill that I was going to adapt to.

It’s sort of like golf. I have a bunch of friends that tried to get me to play golf. I
tried about five times I said, “Nope, this is not for me.” I love music, but I have no
ability to play anything.
jc: I think self-awareness is a wildly underrated trait. Speaking of my dad, I’ll
never forget his speech to me when I was around fourteen and was a small kid and
had hopes to play high school football. I had played Pop Warner and the like but
was not built in any possible way to play at any higher league. He said, “Son, to
play football, you need speed, size and strength, and you don’t have any of those.”
Set me straight. Saved me from serious injury. (laughs)
Jack: He’s a wise man, he hooked ya up.
jc: What is your medium of choice to listen to music?
Jack: I’ve migrated back to vinyl. It’s interesting that you asked that question
because you get to the age that I am, and my wife will ask, “What do you want for
your birthday? What do you want for Christmas?’ Everybody’s asking me… and
I’ve recently just begun to say, “Just get me this.” And I pick out a record I want.
And it’s been neat to go back and have that to recapture those moments from when
I was a kid. I mean, for the longest time, I bought CDs, I don’t know the last time I
popped a CD in, so it’s obviously streaming music, listening on my phone,
listening on my laptop. But I do get a real kick out of the vinyl experience. On a
rainy day, I’ll sit in my office and just pull out five or six albums, and I feel as if
I’m fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old again, going back and reliving those
jc: It’s true, you’re gonna hate me for this, but I’ll introduce you to… if you don’t
know this, there’s a website called Discogs, D-I-S-C-O-G-S. I don’t know if you
know this, but it’s a great community, very trustworthy sellers and buyers. You
have to sign in. So, it’s not like eBay, which I’ve had success on eBay, but Discogs
is another level. Anything you want to find – albums, forty-fives, imports, stuff
that you can’t even get on CD, or could never get on CD. It’s very dangerous. I’m
just warning you now.
Jack: Well, as soon as this interview ends, I’m going to check it out – not only for
myself, but I mentioned my brother previously, and I’m always looking for
something for him when a birthday or Christmas rolls around. So, you just helped
me out in a couple of ways.
jc: Alright, good. You have kids, right?

Jack: No, I do not. We’ve been married thirty-one years, just the two of us, I have
three nephews, kind of tried to be as vital in their lives as we possibly could, so I
think we, I think we’ve done well with that.
jc: All right, so when you pass on your music love o these other generations. Do
you give them the classics, do you find that you need to give them the Beatles?
What do you do to get them going?
Jack: That’s a great question. I’m going to use my brother as an answer here. I
remember when my nephew Shane was starting to get into bands, my brother
texted me excitedly that Shane had asked him to download a couple of Clash songs
for him. So, we we’re excited about that! I think… I always say this, James, there
are your ears and there are my ears, it’s your sensibilities and then it’s my
sensibilities. So, I don’t try to force my music down anyone’s throat. If someone is
curious, and if someone asks me, I’ll say this is why I’m listening to this artist, or
this is what I like about them. I have to tell you, I had an experience a few weeks
ago, late April, I had never been to Red Rocks in Colorado. So, I went to Red
Rocks in Colorado and saw Bob Marley’s five sons playing his music. You talk
about a spiritual experience and an experience that resonates. Now, when I came
back that is a story I want to tell a lot of people, but that doesn’t resonate with
everybody. I’d say eight out of ten people I shared it with said that’s not their kind
of music. I had one friend, who said… probably not the greatest friend because he
should know me, “You flew all the way to Denver for a concert?” I said
“Absolutely!” I would have flown to Europe for a concert because that’s where my
interests lie.
jc: All right, last one. What song or album or band reminds you of the 1998
Yankees or vice versa?
Jack: Wow, that’s a great question. It would have to be, as I’m struggling to come
up with an answer here, it would have to be an album that every track hit you,
every song hit you, every song was perfect, you wanted to listen to every song. On
the ’98 Yankees, you didn’t want to just see (Chuck) Knoblauch and (Derek) Jeter
hit. You wanted to see (Jorge) Posada and (Scott) Brosius hit at the bottom of the
order. You didn’t want to just see (David) Cone and (David) Wells pitch, you want
to see (Andy) Pettitte and El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) pitch. Wow. I would
probably pick, I’m going heavy on the reggae here, I would probably pick
something from Bob Marley or Johnny Cash or Springsteen or Elvis Costello.
jc: There you go, all your favorites.

Jack: Because those are my favorites, right? And I already talked a lot about the
Clash, but it would be in that wheelhouse, because those are the artists that meant
the most to me.
jc: All right, listen, Jack, I want to thank you again for a fine book. Well done, sir.
I also want to send you a copy of my latest book on “Hey Jude” or any music
books, through your publicist?
Jack: Oh, that’d be great, James. I appreciate that.
jc: Send me the address. And also, if you could, if you see Paul soon, Paul O’Neill,
I heard him mention on one of the broadcasts that his father’s favorite song was
“Hey Jude.”
Jack: So, send it send it to me, and I’ll get it to him.
jc: Would ya? Great!
Jack: I have to look at my schedule. I don’t know when I’ll see Paul next. It might
not be until June or early July, because I’m in the studio most of the time, and he’s
at the stadium a lot. But I will get it to him.
jc: Thank so much. Well, listen, Jack, this has been a blast. I hope you had a good
time. And it was a little different…
Jack: James, as soon as I saw this request come up… it’s interesting, because
thankfully, I’ve had a lot of press for this book, and I truly appreciate it. But when I
see the Vermont Sports Radio wants you on between 6am and 7am. That’s an easy
no, because I don’t think we’re selling any books in Vermont anyway. But when
yours came up, and it included music? I said yes instantly. So, I appreciate it. This
was a lot of fun. More of a conversation than an interview.

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