Okrent graduated in 1969 from the University of Michigan. Most of his career has been spent as an editor, at publishers including Alfred A. Knopf, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Esquire Magazine, New England Monthly, Life Magazine, and TIME, Inc.
Okrent is famous for being the inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball, the best-known form of fantasy baseball, so named because the group of friends he pitched the idea to in 1979 were meeting with him at La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant in New York City.
In 1994, Okrent was filmed for his in-depth knowledge of baseball history for the Ken Burns' documentary Baseball. His book Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center (Viking, 2003) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
In October 2003, Okrent was named public editor for The New York Times, serving much of the same function as an ombudsman. He is known for coining Okrent's law during his tenure, due to 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.
- The Ultimate Baseball Book (1979)
- Nine Innings: The Anatomy of Baseball as Seen Through the Playing of a Single Game (1983)
- Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center (2003)
- Baseball (1994) Documentary | Directed by: Ken Burns
- Sweet And Lowdown (1999) | Role of: A.J. Pickman | Comedy-Drama | Directed by: Woody Allen