Daniel Okrent (born April 2, 1948) is an American writer and editor. He is best known for having served as the first public editor of The New York Times newspaper, for inventing Rotisserie League Baseball, and for writing several books, most recently Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, which served as a major source for the 2011 Ken Burns/Lynn Novick miniseries Prohibition. In November 2011, Last Call won the Albert J. Beveridge prize, awarded by the American Historical Association to the year's best book of American history. "Old Jews Telling Jokes", a theatrical revue he co-wrote and co-produced with Peter Gethers, opened at the Westside Theatre in Manhattan on May 20, 2012.
Education and career
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Okrent graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit in 1965 and from the University of Michigan where he worked on The Michigan Daily. Most of his career has been spent as an editor, at such places as Alfred A. Knopf; Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich; Esquire Magazine; New England Monthly; Life Magazine; and TIME, Inc. His book Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center (Viking, 2003) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
On May 3, 2014, the University of Michigan awarded Okrent an honorary degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.
He is known for coining "Okrent's law" during his tenure as a comment he made about his new job. It states: "The pursuit of balance can create imbalance because sometimes something is true," referring to the phenomenon of the press providing legitimacy to fringe or minority viewpoints in an effort to appear even-handed.
Okrent invented Rotisserie League Baseball, the best-known form of fantasy baseball, in 1979. The name comes from the fact that he pitched the idea to his friends while dining at La Rôtisserie Française restaurant in New York City. Okrent's team in the Rotisserie League was called the "Okrent Fenokees", a pun on the Okefenokee Swamp. He was one of the first two people inducted into the Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame. Okrent was still playing Rotisserie as of 2009 under the team name Dan Druffs. Ironically, despite having been credited with inventing fantasy baseball he has never been able to win a Rotisserie League he has ever entered. His exploits of inventing Rotisserie League Baseball were chronicled in Silly Little Game, part of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary series, in 2010.
Okrent is also credited with inventing the baseball stat, WHIP. At the time he referred to it as IPRAT, signifying "Innings Pitched Ratio."
In 1994, Okrent was filmed for his in-depth knowledge of baseball history for the Ken Burns documentary Baseball. During the nine-part series, a red-sweater-wearing Okrent delivered a detailed analysis of the cultural aspects of the national pastime, including a comparison of the dramatic Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds to the conflict and character development in Russian novels.
- The Ultimate Baseball Book (co-editor, with Harris Lewine) (1979)
- Nine Innings: The Anatomy of Baseball as Seen Through the Playing of a Single Game (1985)
- Baseball Anecdotes (co-author, with Steve Wulf) (1987)
- The Way We Were: New England Then, New England Now (1988)
- Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center (2003)
- Public Editor #1 (2006)
- Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2010)
- Baseball (1994), (2010) | Documentary | Directed by: Ken Burns
- Sweet And Lowdown (1999) | Role of: A.J. Pickman | Comedy-Drama | Directed by: Woody Allen
- Wordplay (2006) | Documentary | Directed by: Patrick Creadon
- The Hoax (2007) | Role of: Real Publisher #1 | Comedy-Drama | Directed by: Lasse Hallström
- Silly Little Game (2010) | Documentary | Directed by: Lucas Jansen and Adam Kurland
- Prohibition (2011) | Documentary | Directed by: Ken Burns
- Derry, Jim (March 28, 2011). "Ready for your fantasy baseball draft? Here are some simple rules to live by". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
- "Getting the 'Lowdown'". Entertainment Weekly. 7 January 2000.
- The New Yorker. Issues 1–10 80. F-R Publishing Corporation. 2004. p. 244.
- Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame
- Roberts, Russ (June 7, 2010). "Okrent on Prohibition and His Book, Last Call". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.
|New title||Public Editor for The New York Times