Spink winner on the mound, a 1-pitch wonder
* It’s not quite Pat Hentgen form — maybe more Rick Reuschel – as Spink winner Bob Elliott throws out the first pitch at the Rogers Centre Sunday before the Blue Jays hosted the Cleveland Indians. Photo: Alexis Brudnicki ….
He is one of a kind.
He’s helped players. He’s helped organizations. He has promoted the game of baseball like nobody else in history.
Those were a few of the kind words used on Sunday afternoon to describe Bob Elliott as he was recognized by the Toronto Blue Jays in a pre-game ceremony for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Every year he does his Top 100 Most Influential Canadians in Baseball,” National Post writer John Lott said in a video tribute honouring Elliott. “And of course every year he leaves off the guy who probably should have been at least in the top five.
“And that’s Bob Elliott.”
The video was presented before the native of Kingston headed to the mound to a standing ovation at Rogers Centre to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Elliott threw a strike, though he wasn’t happy with the pitch, caught by future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel.
“The video shook me up,” he said.
The touching feature presented photos of Elliott, various pieces of his work, commentary from his friends and colleagues – who he said are one and the same – and, in a moment that brought tears to Elliott’s eyes, a picture of him interviewing Larry Walker.
“I don’t know why I got all choked up when I saw Walker’s picture,” Elliott said, as his eyes welled up with tears once again in the hallway outside of the press box. “He didn’t say anything in the video. I guess it’s because of what he’s done for baseball in this country.”
The pre-game ceremony honoree was impressed and flattered by the kind words of the other journalists in the video, including Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth and Lott.
“They just kept coming,” Elliott said. “They’re all good friends. I’m glad they asked my friends and not my enemies.”
The Canadian Baseball Network creator and curator and Toronto Sun writer and will head to Cooperstown Thursday. On Saturday he will receive his J.G. Taylor Spink award, becoming the first scribe from north of the border to be so honoured. Tim McCarver will be presented the Ford C. Frick award. Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo will be inducted on Sunday.
“I’ve always found that some of the most intelligent sports writing has taken place in Canada,” Griffin said in the video. “And I think that the world is going to be aware of it now that Bob has broken down that barrier and is the first Canadian writer to go into the Hall of Fame.”
Elliott’s influence in the Canadian game has become the yardstick by which other writers feel measured. His passion, drive and knack for nabbing the other side of every story make him a model for aspiring authors.
“He continues to set the standard for us,” Davidi said. “He’s going into Cooperstown this summer, he’s already [in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame] in St. Marys, and he’s the example that all of us want to strive to achieve.”
During the video tribute, all of Elliott’s writing counterparts acknowledged the difference that he has made for America’s favorite pastime in Canada.
“You look at the focus and attention that Baseball Canada gets now and a huge portion of it is due to Bob Elliott,” Davidi said.
Added Lott: “Nobody knows more amateur players, nobody knows more Canadian players, from the lowest amateur ranks to the major leagues, than Bob Elliott … No one’s broken more Canadian baseball stories; no one’s broken more baseball stories in Canada.”
Elliott was without his personal catcher Jesse Lyn, of the Mississauga North Bengals, whom he’d thrown two bullpen sessions with: six pitches in all — three pitches Friday, three pitches Saturday. Elliott suffered an undisplaced fracture of the humerus bone in 1987.
The Toronto chapter of the BBWAA presented Elliott with a signed Sam Bat, signed by fellow scribes, with Elliott’s name inscribed on the barrel. Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons and publisher Mike Power presented him with another bat from Toronto Sun staffers during a party at Simmons house Sunday night.
Not only has Elliott impressed his colleagues and the plethora of friends that he’s made around the game, but he’s also made his mark among many of the players that he’s covered along the way.
“He’s a guy that knows his stuff,” Las Vegas 51s pitcher and North Vancouver native Scott Richmond said. “I like to listen to Bob. I like to sit there and listen to his stories and listen to the information and knowledge that he has from being in the game for so long.
“I always answered his questions as well as I could but I always wanted to hear what he had to say. I love listening to him. If he was talking to a group I would always come over there and have a listen; see what he was talking about, because he’s a very smart baseball guy and I’m super happy for him.”
Michael Crouse, an outfielder with the Lansing Lugnuts who is still a few years away from the big leagues, is someone who’s already encountered and been covered by Elliott numerous times, both in the minor leagues and with Team Canada.
“Congratulations on the Hall of Fame Induction,” the Port Moody BC native said. “He’s a great writer … what he writes about and how he puts his stories together, he does a very, very good job and he’s well-deserving of the Hall of Fame induction.”
Blue Jays third baseman, Brett Lawrie, who Elliott first wrote about in grade nine, years before his electric playing days in Toronto, is happy for his fellow Canadian and was quick to congratulate him on the recognition of his many accomplishments.
“Bob’s a good guy and I tip my cap for him for him being honoured this weekend in Cooperstown,” Lawrie said. “That’s really cool.”