Elliott grew up in Kingston, Ontario. He covered the Expos for the Ottawa Citizen from 1978-1986 and then moved to Toronto to cover the Blue Jays.
Elliott started his speech in French, a nice nod to his days in covering Les Expos and doubts about his ability to speak French. In the speech on Saturday, Elliott talked up Andre Dawson and Roberto Alomar as being the best players that he covered in the major leagues.
The speech as aired on the MLB Network was not complete. In fact, you felt like they scrubbed most of the Canadian content out of the program. Here is a transcript of the speech in its entirety.
"I'm from Kingston, Ontario — Canada’s first capital. Some say it still should be. And I am Canadian, like our national treasure here, Fergie Jenkins."
"Mother was aghast, but father convinced her. But I had to meet two conditions: Graduate, and never become like that writer who kept Ted Williams off his MVP ballot. Work and graduate? I can’t do that. Don’t hold a grudge on an MVP ballot? I CAN do that. The Montreal Expos had not been born and the Blue Jays were not yet a gleam in Paul Beeston’s eye. No problem. That was the Sixties. Now kids, go to school, get your education, apply yourself."
"Future Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams broke me in covering the Expos. I’d like to express the sadness Expos fans feel over the losses of Charlie Lea, Woodrow Fryman and Gary Carter. When I moved to Toronto, there was a left-hander named Pat Gillick, who turned out to be a Hall of Famer, too. I enjoyed GMs like John McHale, Jim Fanning and Gord Ash. Managers like Bobby Cox, Jim Fregosi and Cito Gaston, who won two World Series in Toronto."
"Did I mention that I was Canadian? I saw Robbie hit a home run in the 1992 ALCS. I saw Joe Carter hit a three-run homer to win the 1993 World Series. Yet, the most exciting game I’ve ever seen was when Canada beat Team USA 8-6 in the World Baseball Classic at Phoenix in 2006. That was the proudest I’ve ever felt as a Canadian."
"A lot was said about how I helped young Canadian ball players get to the next level. Yes, I wrote about Canadians. But they put in the work to be drafted or earn scholarships. They did it on their own. I have given a lot less to baseball that it has given to me."
MLB.com had a nice story about Elliott's induction into the Hall of Fame. Some of the Canadian related highlights:
But his most interesting comments were reserved for what it meant to be a Canadian receiving one of the highest honors in America's National Pastime. Elliott, a long-time booster of Canadian baseball, said he finally realized the impact of his achievement from his nation's reaction to it.
Just a few days ago, Elliott received an e-mail from broadcast journalist Peter Mansbridge, whom he described as "Canada's Tom Brokaw." And months before that, he received a call from an even more prestigious man, validating a joke made by peer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
"I can remember at our meeting in Dallas, my phone went off and Marc Topkin yelled, 'It's the Prime Minister.' Everybody laughed," said Elliott. "A month later, I got a phone call. 'Yes, this is the Prime Minister's office. Could you please come down to the Royal York on Friday at 4:20?' I said, 'Who is this?' But I continued to talk to them, deduced that it wasn't a gag. And I was there at 3:30."
Elliott, a man and a symbol of national pride, is an unabashed patriot who wrote The Northern Game: Baseball The Canadian Way and has helped develop a website — Canadian Baseball Network — devoted to tracking the achievements of his baseball-playing countrymen.
But perhaps more importantly, he's been both an active inspiration and a guiding force in the lives of countless Canadian sportswriters who have sought his tutelage. Elliott has done things in his own iconoclastic way, but at root, he identifies as a Canadian and as a stranger in a strange land.
"I think as a nation we're as patriotic as you guys are, but we don't show it," said Elliott of his homeland. "Lester Pearson, the prime minister, used to say we had this inferiority complex. If you look at us too long, we get worried. And if you don't look at us enough, we get even more worried."
I learned a lot about Bob Elliott and his role in Canadian baseball. When I hear these stories, I realize I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully, Elliott's induction will help baseball fans realize the Canadian story of their favorite sport.
photo credit: MLB