Griffin: Bob Elliott first Canadian writer to win Spink Award
Good news for Canadian Baseball. Kingston, Ontario native Bob Elliott, currently the 62-year-old baseball columnist for the Toronto Sun, on Tuesday became the first Canadian journalist to enter the Hall-of-Fame at Cooperstown as the 2012 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing.
Elliott received 205 votes out of the 455 cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News finished second with 169. Russ Schneider of Cleveland was third.
In the room wanting to be present for the announcement at the BBWAA's annual winter meetings session on Tuesday morning was Hall-of-Fame executive Pat Gillick who sparred with Elliott over insider info, reliable club sources and broken news as the Jays' GM for 10 mutually respectful years, including two World Series. They have remained good friends.
To me, that is always the key to Elliott's success through the years as the top authority on all things Canadian in the game of baseball. He does his job, reports what he knows then afterwards, when the gloves are off, personally cares about the people that he works with, whichever side of the equation they are on. It's a rare attribute and Hall-of-Fame worthy if not in Cooperstown, if not in the Canadian Hall at St. Marys, then in life. Bob has all three.
I remember Bob from the first moment he stepped through the doors of the Expos press box, into the clubhouse and at Florida spring training in the late '70s and early '80s, where I served as the club's media relations director. Even back then, he had the same unique, low-key persona as a sports writer that he still shows. He obviously loved the game he covered and in the early days of writing about the Expos for the Ottawa Citizen, driving to Montreal and staying in hotels for the length of a homestand, he was a clubhouse favourite, among players, coaches, front office people and fellow media members for his knowledge of baseball history and always a late night companion to share a libation with and talk about the game, past and present. And laugh.
His early willingness to learn the ropes of covering the major-league game, his willingness to help others, both print and electronic and a dry wit that has only improved with age were his hallmarks. Everyone Elliott has crossed paths with, whether they moved on to become coaches, scouts, executives or just returned into their communities as family men and baseball fans, they have remained his friends and lifelong contacts.
I remember one night in the mid-'80s sitting in the front row of the Expos press box at Olympic Stadium after a game doing whatever post-game stuff it is that PR guys do. All of a sudden I felt a presence to my right and looked up. It was Bob Elliott, but instead of his normal inquisitive, smiling demeanour, he looked worried. Something was bothering him.
"Richard, I've been offered a job in Toronto with the Sun," he began, carefully. "It's a great opportunity. It's something I've always wanted, but I'm not sure I can do it. Ken Fidlin is a great writer. What do you think?"
I said, "Bob, that's great. You have to take it. You're a good baseball writer. You have the knowledge. It's a chance for a bigger audience and that's what you wanted. You can make that adjustment. If you don't go, you'll never know how good you can be."
After Tuesday's announcement of the Spink Award we now all know how good Bob Elliott can be. Congratulations Bob and cherish your entry to Cooperstown. You have earned it.