Written by Richard Behan:
Hall of Fame Saturday kicked off with a press conference featuring both the Spink Award winner Sheldon Ocker and Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Costas at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
Ocker’s portion began with a question from the media which addressed being on the ballot and still voting with Ocker replying jokingly, “I voted for myself 41 times!” He was then asked about the greatest game he ever covered, and there was no hesitation in his answer. Fellow inductee Jack Morris’ 10-Inning Complete Game 1-0 win in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, which netted Morris World Series MVP. Covering Jim Thome’s time in Cleveland was another highlight of his career. Ocker said, “(Jim is) one of the nicest guys you’re ever going to find in baseball, and he’s a genuine person.” His final topic of discussion was about covering the career of the “wild card” Albert Belle. Ocker recalled a story where Belle invited the media to a golf outing to answer all of their questions. After the outing had ended, a reporter went to go ask Belle a question, to which he responded, “Interview session is over.” Ocker thinks Belle’s trouble with the media and length of his career ultimately hurt his chances at the Hall of Fame.
As for Bob Costas, he began by talking about two of the most iconic voices in baseball, Vin Scully and the late Dick Enberg. They were the first two men to call and congratulate him after he won the award, with Scully stating, “Welcome to the club.” Costas spoke on the great privilege it was to win this honor, saying that it was extremely gratifying to receive the phone call, knowing he was voted in by his peers. When asked about the greatest game he ever covered, Costas responded with Ryne Sandberg’s 5-hit game, which included 2 game-tying HR’s. The controversial topic of the DH was also brought up, and Costas detailed why he is a staunch opponent of the position. “The National League game is more strategic and in many ways more interesting,” said Costas. He went on to talk about how some art of the game has fallen to the wayside, like using a pitcher to sacrifice bunt instead of bringing in a pinch hitter. Costas was then asked about his current broadcast partner at MLB Network, Jim Kaat, whom he pushed hard for to be reconsidered for the Hall of Fame, rattling off Kaat’s numbers in his own acceptance speech, making a plea for his good friend. He finished by talking about the impact baseball has had on his broadcasting career. “For the most part, even though each game matters, there’s something a little more relaxed, and whimsical, and anecdotal about baseball.” It is a different kind of storytelling where historical comparisons, rhythm, pace, and flow matter to the greatest degree when compared to other sports.
After the press conference was over, Costas and Ocker received their awards in front of the thousands in attendance this afternoon at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown NY. Congratulations to two of baseball’s best!