By: Adam Morrison
Canadian Baseball Network
OTTAWA-There will never be another like him.
After 29-plus years as a baseball scribe for the Toronto Sun and for nine years before that covering the Montréal Expos for a pair of Ottawa papers, Kingston, Ontario native Bob Elliott is retiring from the newspaper business.
Respected in baseball circles by executives, colleagues, coaches, players, umpires and scouts alike, Elliott is widely known for going beyond the story, digging for details that leave his readers with a view that is rarely seen.
His accolades speak for themselves, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presented him with the Jack Graney Award in 2010 and he was the first Canadian recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 2012. He has also been inducted into the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians Hall of Fame (2009), the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame (2013) and the Okotoks Dawgs/Seaman Stadium Hall of Fame (2014).
It is safe to say that Bob Elliott has achieved legendary status as a baseball writer. His peers have been penning tribute pieces and social media posts have been flowing in since the news broke late last night when Blue Jays manager John Gibbons started off his regular post-game press conference thanking the longtime writer.
Multiple playoff and World Series games, All-Star Games, Winter Meetings, Spring Training, you name it, Elliott has done an admirable job covering them all, but perhaps his greatest joy has come from covering Canadian baseball stories and Canadian amateur players.
His Canadian Baseball Network website (canadianbaseballnetwork.com) has become the go to source for Canadian baseball information and has provided a medium for many writers, looking to get into the business, a place to hone their craft and learn from one of the best ever (thankfully, Bob will still be operating the website in his retirement).
The National Team also holds a very special place in Elliott’s heart so we thought it fitting to share some of our favourite National Team/Bob Elliott stories!
1) August 1998
The year before professional players were permitted in international competition, Canada sent a college team to the World Cup in Italy with current Baseball Canada Executive Director Jim Baba managing the team. Media interest back in Canada wasn’t very high, but Elliott had to know what was going on and had little information available.
“I remember taking daily calls from Bob at 1am,” said Baba. “It’s funny thinking back on it today with Internet and cell phones, but back then, I remember taking the calls in a small phone booth outside our team hotel.” Elliott got the info he needed, and, we assume, the phone bill that went with it!
2) November 9th, 2003 – Canada Qualifies for Athens in Panama
Team Canada went on an unprecedented run at the 2003 Olympic Qualifier finishing second to earn one of two spots (along with Cuba) in the 2004 Athens Olympics. The squad, managed by Ernie Whitt and featuring the likes of Stubby Clapp, Justin Morneau, Rob Ducey, Russell Martin, Jason Dickson, Adam Stern and Pete Orr knocked off Mexico, 11-1, in the semi-finals to punch their ticket to Athens.
A post-game celebration ensued at a local establishment that saw Director of National Teams, Greg Hamilton bringing players outside, one-by-one, so that Elliott could get reaction for a story the following day. With the conversations lasting for some time, it racked up quite a few minutes on Elliott’s phone. Elliott’s words when Hamilton asked about his boss’s reaction to seeing the phone bill: “Not good, kiddo. Not good.”
3) March 8th, 2006 – Miracle on Dirt
For a man that has saw the team he covered with back-to-back World Series titles and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in modern baseball history, Elliott still regales that his favourite game that he ever witnessed was when Team Canada defeated the United States, 8-6, at Chase Field in Phoenix at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
The WBC was the first time that big league players would be representing their respective countries in a best-on-best format. You can be sure that Elliott was grinning ear-to-ear as he watched the historical win the press box, surrounded by his American colleagues.
4) October 25th, 2011 – Canada wins Pan Am Games gold
Canada found themselves in the Pan Am Games gold medal contest against the United States in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico on a brisk October evening and when the Canucks pulled off an upset 2-1 victory Coach Greg Hamilton’s cell phone rang.
The phone was passed around, from player to player as the group of minor leaguers celebrated on the field and in the clubhouse. Elliott wrote a two-page spread in the Toronto Sun later that week detailing the game and introducing readers to many of the heroes who were largely unknown to baseball fans back home. Reaction from boss upon seeing phone bill: unknown.
5) July 19th, 2015 – Canada captures back-to-back Pan Am Games gold medals
When Pete Orr scored the winning run on a play that many are still trying to figure out how it happened, Elliott was in the make shift press box at President’s Choice Ballpark in Ajax, not too far from his Mississauga home, to witness arguably the greatest win in Baseball Canada’s history. With the euphoria of the win and with the limited access to coaches and players for media, Elliott needed more for his story. Hours after the game had ended and on a noisy city bus carrying the victors back to the athletes’ village on the 401, Team Canada’s Press Officer’s phone rang with Elliott on the other end.
The phone was quickly handed off to Skyler Stromsmoe who had scored the tying run moments before Orr came across with the winning run. Stromsmoe held the phone with one hand while the other hand covered his other ear to limit the noise from the still celebrating bus. Once the bus arrived at the athletes’ village in Toronto, the phone rang again and was passed off to Orr who gave his recount to the events that ended the game. Where was Elliott while conducting these interviews in the wee hours of the morning? Pulled over on the side of the road.
Congratulations, Bob. You’re truly the best!