By: Danny Gallagher
It was in 1975 in Ottawa somewhere on a ball field and I looked over to the bench of the opposing team, the Alta Vista Ritchies of the Interprovincial Senior Baseball League.
I was playing for the Renfrew Red Sox and there I saw a familiar face, Bob Elliott of the Ottawa Journal, keeping score for the Ritchies, a team I would play for in 1979-80.
Elliott looked familiar because I would see his mug shot in the Journal. Anyway, two years later on another ball field, venue unknown at a tournament, I saw Elliott coaching the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians, a team I would play for in 1980 when Elliott was the team’s GM. At that point, I was playing for the Sudbury Shamrocks.
Know what, I finally shook Elliott’s hand for the first time in the fall of 1979 in the University of Ottawa gym where we were on assignment covering a basketball game, he was working for the Ottawa Citizen, I was working for the Ottawa Journal. During the winter of 1979-80, we would be competitors on the beat covering the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. We would make bus trips listening to country music that was enjoyed by many of us including 67’s coach and GM Brian Kilrea, assistant coach Gord Hamilton and Elliott.
So that was the beginning of a relationship/friendship that is now 36 years old. Over the years, we have communicated from time to time, meeting up in press boxes, dugouts, on the field prior to games, behind home-plate screens, talking on the phone or exchanging emails.
For a few years now, I have been writing for Elliott’s web site, the Canadian Baseball Network.
Many of us in the country came to realize a few years ago how cherished a figure Elliott is in Canadian baseball circles. He has helped promote amateur baseball in Canada with his writing in the Toronto Sun and on his own site. He tells us about anyone or most anyone who has received a scholarship to a U.S. college or university. He tells us how different players are doing on those scholarships and how many or all Canadians, who are toiling in the minor leagues or in the majors.
Elliott probably knows by heart the names of those who are in the minors and big leagues. He’s an encyclopedia of Canadian baseball information. So is his Canadian Baseball Network. He is the champion of the underdog, writing about grass roots ball in the amateur ranks. It could be a coach, a scout, a volunteer, whomever. Nothing is beneath him in his search for letting us know about what is going on.
In some small way, he is a reason why there are so many Canadians playing in the majors. Some small way. His writing going back years and years has encouraged more and more youngsters to start playing and some of them have ended up in the big leagues. He’s that powerful. He’s that cherished.
His induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame June 13 is richly deserved. He has gone into the hall before as the Jack Graney Award winner for sports writing and this induction is for his contributions to baseball in general.