2018 BBWAA Career Excellence Award Winner Sheldon Ocker
Sheldon Ocker, who covered the Cleveland Indians for more than three decades, was surprised when informed he was now the focus of the story.
“It’s turning out that I know more people than I thought," said Ocker after he was named the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner. "They actually admit to knowing me.
"I didn’t think I was going to win. I guess most people feel that way. I was kind of surprised I won. I’m just thankful this happened."
Ocker, the 69th winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award since its inception in 1962, covered the Cleveland Indians with the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal for 33 years before retiring in January 2014 as one of the longest-tenured writers in the business at the time.
Born and raised in Akron, the Ohio State graduate’s first job out of college came with the Sandusky (Ohio) Register, where he spent a year before joining the Beacon Journal.
“I got into sports writing by accident because that was the first interview I got out of school,” Ocker said. “I always liked sports so I figured this is good. I would have taken a news writing job – it didn’t matter at the time. I just needed a job, but it happened to be sports in Sandusky, Ohio, covering a small Catholic high school. It was fun.
“And then after a year I got a call from Beacon Journal and covered the Cleveland Cavaliers for 10 years. Then our paper was looking for a baseball writer and they asked me to do it and I said yes. I’ve always really liked baseball. And I was never that good of a baseball player, but I liked the mental part, the strategy of the game. Just hitting a baseball was something that was such a different skill that you didn’t have in other sports. I liked the idea of that.”
Ocker was renowned for his work ethic, rarely missing a game whether it was during the regular season, postseason or Spring Training.
And during his tenure covering the Indians, Ocker had to report on some of the best and worst squads in franchise history.
“There was a seven-year period (1985-91) where they lost 100 games three times,” Ocker said. “I was use to writing a lot of bad team stories. That was kind of my specialty until about 1994.
“But you meet some really great people. And despite what the popular feeling is about players being arrogant, most of them are really good people. It’s rewarding just to get to know all these people.”