Ask Bob Elliott about going to Cooperstown, being recognized with the prestigious Taylor Spink Award in July, and he humbly talks about not being that great a writer.
Fact is Elliott is Sun Media’s baseball treasure. A man who has earned the respect of not only the writers all around him, but those who make millions of dollars throwing 95-mph fastballs and hitting 400-foot home runs.
Few get the Hall call. For Elliott, it was fourth time lucky. Though luck really wasn’t much of a factor in the selection.
“I finished second the three previous years,” says Elliott. “They were calling me (Bert) Blyleven. I’m not going to kid you, two of those nights, were real rough. They phone you at 7:30 in the morning to tell you you’re in. I’ll say this, when that 7:15 wakeup call comes ... and then it’s 7:30 ... then it’s 25 to 8 ... I was happy when I got the call from (BBWAA secretary-treasurer) Jack O’Connell and not the wakeup call this time.
“He said: ‘Congratulations, I’m happy to make this call.’
“I guess I said thanks and then there was silence. He said: ‘Bobby, Bobby, are you there.’
“I said, ‘Yes, I just can’t say anything.’
“I was a terrible, terrible athlete, but I just knew my father would be so proud of me.”
Turns out a lot of folks are proud of the amazing Mr. Elliott, who will be honoured with a fundraising dinner, thrown by the Ottawa Nepean Canadians and East Nepean Little League, Feb. 23 at the Ukrainian Hall, 1000 Byron Ave. Tickets are $50 each or $400 for a table of eight. Check out oncbaseball.com or eastnepeanbaseball.com for more information.
Elliott’s journalism career got kickstarted with the Kingston Baseball Association senior league when he was 16 and suddenly found himself keeping score, then writing the boxscores and totalling up the stats.
“It was Monday, Wednesday, Friday and rainouts on Sundays. I got paid $100,” says Elliott. “I thought I was a millionaire.”
It’s been a wonderful ride ever since. Time at the Kingston Standard was followed by stops at the Ottawa Journal and Citizen. He joined the Toronto Sun in 1987 and seamlessly moved on from covering the Expos to the Blue Jays.
Elliott’s father Bob and grandfather Chaucer were Kingston sport legends.
Chaucer is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a ref and linesman, but was also a superb football and baseball player. It was from Bob Sr. that the younger Elliott inherited his passion for baseball.
Elliott is a co-founder of canadianbaseballnetwork.com, which tracks the top Canadian draft candidates, college players and minor-league players.
Elliott agreed to appear at the Ottawa fundraiser after a bit of coaxing.
“I’m known for two things: Bad spelling and being a terrible speaker,” says Elliott with a laugh. “But I said all right. I can tell baseball stories. And there’s no spellcheck on the mic. I’m not nervous about Cooperstown right now. But I’m nervous about Ottawa and Kingston (two nights later).”
Elliott is modest about his talents.
“I’m not that good a writer,” he says.
“But it worked out OK. (Former Toronto Sun sports editor) Wayne Parrish used to say there were three things you needed: Ideas, work ethic and the ability to write. He said I had two of them.”
Don’t be fooled.
Whether it be on a sandlot in the Dominican Republic, Yankee Stadium, a palm tree- lined ballpark in Florida or Rogers Centre, Elliott always seems to be on the job.
Next stop: The Humble Hall of Fame.