Indians' longtime press box supervisor gets 'Popper' honor

Cleveland BBWAA establishes John Krepop Special Achievement Award

Indians' longtime press box supervisor gets 'Popper' honor

CLEVELAND -- John Krepop only informed a select few people that he was calling it a career and moving to Florida. In the days following Game 7 of the World Series, word began to spread that the Indians had just played their final game with the man affectionately known as "Popper" watching from the Progressive Field press box.

It was true to Krepop's character that he kept his news quiet.

"The press box will never be the same," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' senior vice president of public affairs. "There's only one of him and we're going to miss him terribly. He was part of us. He was such a fixture."

That is why the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America has decided to honor Krepop with the creation of the John Krepop Special Achievement Award, which will honor career achievement, or dedication and service to the Indians organization. Nominees will be discussed annually, though the award will not necessarily be given out each year.

Krepop will be the first recipient, following his 44 years working for the Indians as a press box supervisor.

"I'm very touched and very honored," Krepop said from his new home in Florida. "I appreciate it very much. I had a lot of fun."

There is no easy way to summarize Krepop's job description. For every home game, he sat in the second row of the press box, serving as a helpful hand to the public relations team, broadcasters and reporters. With a special love of history, Krepop took joy in hunting down facts and statistics that would find their way into the daily game notes or writers' stories. That barely scratches the surface of the duties he took on for so many years.

His time with the Tribe began in 1973, and only after a bit of good luck.

"It was just one moment," Krepop said. "The right spot at the right time, and it changed my whole life."

Back then, Krepop was working at a wastewater treatment plant, but he tried to attend as many Indians games as he could at Cleveland Stadium. Following a game in '73, he and his friend, former Indians' statistician Freed Heyer, ran into the Indians' PR director, Dino Lucarelli. When Lucarelli said the Indians were looking for someone to compute batting averages in the press box, Heyer said that Krepop was the man for the job.

Krepop never imagined he would remain in the press box more than four decades later.

"Never," Krepop said. "I thought it would just be maybe a couple years and done and that would be it. I just got hooked on it and just kept coming back every year. No one said not to come back, so it was like an unwritten rule. It was an open-ended contract. You come as long as you want and the job is yours."

The job with the Indians led to other opportunities and quite a year to wrap up his time in Cleveland.

Krepop has worked for Quicken Loans Arena since 2007 and -- thanks to the Cavaliers' NBA title last season -- he will receive a Cavs championship ring. Krepop also served as the long-time visiting dressing room attendant for the Cleveland Monsters' hockey team at The Q. Last year, the Monsters won the American Hockey League championship, and Krepop got to hoist the Calder Cup on the ice.

Then, of course, the Indians reached the World Series.

"You couldn't write a better script," Krepop said.

Back on May 29, 1981, Krepop had to leave the Indians' game with his wife, Barb, who gave birth to their son, Todd, that day. For Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs last month, Todd drove up from Cincinnati and took in the historic game with his dad at his side. It was a fitting conclusion to Krepop's selfless career with the team.

"It was the full circle," Krepop said. "The only thing is they didn't win, but hey, you get there and anything can happen."

Popper's presence in the press box, however, was always a certainty.

The second row will feel a lot different from now on.

"He's a remarkable guy," DiBiasio said. "His passion for baseball is only exceeded by his passion for people. He came to work every day in our press box with the sole goal of taking care of people. The research, which he was phenomenal at, was just a byproduct of his passion for the sport and its history.

"He's the most humble, wonderful, kind, giving guy that I've ever met. It all translated in how he went about making our press box incredibly special."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.