Tom Cheek Remembered

A Swing and a Belt and Shirley Cheek's Speech for Tom

A Swing and a Belt and Shirley Cheek's Speech for TomTo honour legendary Blue Jays radio broadcaster Tom Cheek's Ford C. Frick Award, Saskatoon rapper Matt Brotzel aka RationaL released "A Swing and a Belt". If you grew up with Tom Cheek calling Jays games, you'll probably dig it too.

Tom Cheek was honoured with the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting at the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Here's the speech Tom's wife Shirley delivered.

Thank you Jane Forbes Clark, Jeff Idelson and members of the Hall of Fame. On behalf of our family I’d like to express sincere thanks to the members of the Frick committee for voting Tom this wonderful honor.

Also thanks to Brad Horn, Whitney Selover and Becky Ashe for looking after my family and guests so well this weekend.

Congratulations to Paul Hagen of Philadelphia for winning the Spink award. Also tomorrow’s inductees and honorees.

Since December 1, Tom has been honored by the Vermont Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and now, the pinnacle of awards, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum here in Cooperstown.

“Hello Toronto Blue Jays fans!…”

Those of you who have travelled here today to be a part of this ceremony. It means a lot to all the Cheek family that you are with us to celebrate Tom receiving this prestigious award. Thank you so much for coming!

I would like to introduce my family; Tom and I were truly blessed by having three wonderful children, Tom, Lisa and Jeff. All three have made us proud. All are here to see their father honored, along with their wives and husband … Lisa, Amanda and Karl. The Cheek blood lines run deep: we have seven wonderful grandchildren Megan, Thomas and Matthew, plus Erik and Branden, Jackson and Jennings.

Tom’s sister Linda and her husband John are with us today , unfortunately her twin … Elizabeth and her husband David could not be with us today but we are all thinking of them.

Also my sister Ethel … and 25 nieces, nephews and cousins and many close friends.

Tom grew up in Pensacola, Florida and he never forgot his roots. I came across some notes he had made to begin a second book. These are Tom’s words, “a defining moment from whence my awareness and love for the game sprang would have to go back more than 60 years to the dusty roads and crackling heat of the Florida Pan Handle. You would have had to know Will Lindsay, my grandfather, who took me to see my first professional game at Legion Field in Pensacola, Florida, my home town”! Tom would tell everyone that Pensacola Beach was the whitest beach next to White Sands, New Mexico. Tom loved surf fishing and looked forward to vacations in Pensacola as often as possible.

He served in the United States Air Force in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where we met. Our journey together was incredible. A month after we were married in 1959, Tom was sent to Ben Guerir, Morocco to a SAC Air Force Base where he completed his tour of duty. While there, he played on a basketball team and met Leo Padelino, who is with us today!!

After his discharge, living in Champlain, N.Y., one mile from the Quebec Border, Interstate 87 connecting Montreal to New York City was under construction. Tom needed a job and a paycheck. He was hired. He often told this story about his foreman leaving him in charge to make sure the cement poured for the overpass was the right mix … example XYZ combo and not YZX … Tom was never quite sure that it was the right mix but … 50 plus years later I’m happy to report that overpass is still “STANDING”!!!!

Next venture took him to Saranac Lake, N.Y. as a night supervisor where construction had begun on a missile site. The first thing Tom did when the foreman unrolled a blueprint was to make sure the signature was on the bottom right hand corner indicating the diagram was right side up … talk about “bluffing your way into a job“!!!! The best day of Tom’s life was when the government declared the missiles “obsolete!” Clearly construction was not Tom’s forte!

Driving home to Champlain he’d hear a commercial about pursuing a career in radio broadcasting. The message spoke to Tom. He followed his dream and enrolled into the Cambridge School of Broadcasting in Boston.

His first radio job was in Plattsburgh, N.Y. … then a jump across the lake to Burlington, Vt. Tom began as a DJ working every shift. He grabbed a rate card and sold “air” and eventually covered sports. He was the voice of St. Michael’s College basketball and covered football and hockey for The University of Vermont.

Hard to believe … but yes, he even had a Sunday afternoon bowling show … on radio! If Tom were here he would want to say “thanks to Frank Balch and George Cameron,” two men who believed in him and supported him thru his years in Vermont radio.

As sports director at WVMT Radio, one of the network stations carrying the Montreal Expos, Tom was asked to guest announce on Wednesday night games while Dave Van Horne moved over to TV. This turned into a three-year stint and began a life long friendship with Dave.

It also led Tom to Len Bramson who had obtained the radio rights for the Toronto Blue Jays. Tom was always grateful for Len’s support and belief in him, Len would be very proud of Tom today. As a native of Hemmingford, Quebec this had special meaning to me. The Expos were the foundation for Tom’s baseball broadcasting career.

Tom’s first assignment for the Blue Jays began in January 1977. He, along with manager Roy Hartsfield travelled all over Ontario and Up-State New York talking about a baseball team that really didn’t take form until spring training. This became an annual event, and referred to as the Caravan. Tom would emcee introducing and interviewing players and coaches and telling stories. He loved meeting the local people, from big cities to small farming towns exchanging stories and learning the history of the area. He was the constant over the years for the ball club and the link to the fans.

After Tom’s consecutive game streak ended he received several letters congratulating him on his achievement. Many people would refer to Tom as the “Ironman” on his consecutive game streak …. so it was nice to receive one such letter from the true ironman … Cal Ripken Jr.

Another came from George Steinbrenner … he put it this way … “27 years, 4,306 games is a very long time to announce baseball. Let me put it another way – if you announced only one game a week at your current high; it would take you 83 years to get to 4,306. Now that’s impressive”!

What truly amazes me, impresses me and shows once again what a powerful medium radio is, is the fact that after seven years fans across Canada have not forgotten Tom. I’ve heard from Blue Jays fans from British Columbia to Newfoundland expressing support and congratulations. Each year Jay’s fans voted and voted for Tom. From the bottom of my heart … thank you!

I’d like to extend my thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays and extended family, especially Paul Beeston, Howie Starkman, Pat Gillick, Gord Ash, Jeff Ross, Doctor Ron Taylor and Ken Carson.

Time does not allow me to name all who have supported Tom. You all know who you are from the clubhouse up to the front office … many of you took his money playing golf…. I think everyone has a “Tom Cheek golfing story.”

You listened to him complain about not getting a king size bed or a hotel room high enough to block the traffic noise, or to much light in the room … thumb tacks were a must in Tom’s travel kit … tacking the curtains to the wall to block that sliver of light … and yes, many of you still mention to me how you miss Tom singing on his way from the clubhouse up to the radio booth.

Yes, he even serenaded me with his rendition of Elvis!

There were 10 managers and numerous coaches during Tom’s 27 years broadcasting baseball. Two coaches who are present today are Galen Cisco and John Sullivan. One manager that certainly stands out is Cito Gaston with back to back World Series Championships!

Thanks Cito … Galen and John for being here today.

In 1981 Jerry Howarth joined Tom in the radio booth and remained his partner until spring training 2005. Thanks Jerry!

Thanks also to Mike Wilner, the third man in the booth and his tireless effort getting the word out to vote. Over the years without the men and women behind the scenes there would not be a broadcast.

A special thank you Paul, Tom, Gerald, Nelson, the two Sue’s, Dale, Frances, plus Vicki … who never gave up the good fight lobbying for Tom, and all who worked hard to make the broadcasts run smoothly, and of course engineer Bruce Brenner.

Tom was proud of a lot of things he accomplished … one he was most pleased about was mentoring a former Jays catcher who gave the booth a try after he retired. He’s now the television voice of the Blue Jays. Thanks to Tom’s dear friend and golfing partner, Buck Martinez, for a lifetime of support.

Thanks to all who worked on TV, there are too many to mention but you all know who you are … also the newspaper writers who have always been so kind to Tom. Thank you!!!!!

A few weeks after Tom passed away I came across a notebook that he had jotted down memories. One of the pages were his reflections on baseball. These were Tom’s words:

Reflections on Baseball

BASEBALL is: Hot dogs and peanuts – scoring a close game on a warm afternoon, sipping on a cold beer.

BASEBALL is: “Down in front”, the 7th inning stretch, say hey, and the President throwing out the first pitch.

BASEBALL is: “Joltin’ Joe”, “Big Train”, “The Splendid Splinter” and “When the fat lady sings.”

BASEBALL is: the greatest game in the World and it belongs to YOU and ME!

Many fans contacted me when Tom passed away, with emails and cards; they began by saying “Tom, was the voice of summer.” One fan wrote this: “It has been said that our birth and our death are two things that we cannot control – only the interval in between. “WOW”, what an interval this class act enjoyed!”

Another wrote “Tom, touched a city, a province and a country bringing people together with a game!” They would also tell me that his most famous sentence was “Touch ‘em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!” Yes, Tom you have come a long way from that dirt street in Pensacola to realizing your dream and today being recognized and honored by your peers.

To our grandchildren, Megan, Thomas, Matthew, Erik, Branden, Jackson and Jennings … you don’t remember much about “Pop Pop” but he loved you unconditionally … this is your legacy!

Now to paraphrase … ”thank you all for coming, from the oldest Cheek (that’s me) … to the youngest we’ve never had a bigger day in our collective lives. You have touched us all!”

Thank you!

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The Last Inning Tom Cheek Ever Called

The Last Home Run Tom Cheek Ever CalledOn April 4, 2005, I wrote about Tom Cheek calling the fourth inning of the Jays opener in Tampa Bay. I wrote about it because it was surreal... almost as if it was out of a movie. I had no idea at the time that it would be the last inning of Blue Jays baseball Tom Cheek would ever call.

Here's what I wrote that day, followed by actual audio of his call of Orlando Hudson's home run. There's a reason I titled this entry "Emotional Rescue".

RadioIt was like a scene out of a movie, only it was very, very real. I was listening to the radio call of the Blue Jays opener against the Devil Rays when the Rays came to bat in the third. Joining Jerry Howarth and the rookie in the booth was a very familiar voice. It was Tom Cheek.

His voice was a little off and he was slightly shaky, but that tone was there. That baseball sensibility and love of the game was evident in every syllable uttered, every sentence strung together. In the top of the fourth, with the Blue Jays at bat, the emotional storybook moment occurred.

Against all odds, Tom Cheek took over the booth and began calling the game. The Jays had gone nine up and nine down up to this point, but with Cheek in control less than two weeks after very serious brain surgery, you knew something magically was going to happen. Right on queue, Frank Catalanotto hit a double for the Jays first base runner. Then, with Cheek still at the helm, Orlando Hudson went deep. "How about that!" was Cheek's reaction as Vernon Wells came to the plate. What did Wells do? He clobbered a homer deep to left. The Jays were in the lead for good.

The last voice I expected to hear on the radio today was that of Tom Cheek. His body is weakened but his love of baseball is strong. His role behind the microphone was minimal but for that half inning in the fourth he was back and the Jays were in charge.

It was damn sweet.

Here's Tom Cheek calling Orlando Hudson's home run that April 2005 day in Tampa.

If you missed it, Tom Cheek has posthumously won the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting excellence. It was well deserved.

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Tom Cheek Wins 2012 Ford C. Frick Award

Ford C. FrickTom Cheek has won the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award. The Ford C. Frick Award is the highest honour for baseball broadcasters.

I've been rallying fans to vote Cheek in for eight years so I'm incredibly pleased he's finally won. Tom Cheek called Blue Jays games since day one, calling 4,306 of them in a row. During that time Toronto won two World Series championships and a few additional division pennants. He was the voice of my summers.

Sadly, we lost Tom far too early. If you remember Tom Cheek, you'll be happy to learn I've archived all of Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits. Click over and remember the glory days of Blue Jays baseball. And if you don't remember Tom Cheek, click on over and see what you missed.

Congrats to Shirley Cheek and the Cheek family. Every summer, I miss Tom Cheek more and more.

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Tom Cheek Deserves the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award

Ford C. FrickTom Cheek deserves to win the Ford C. Frick Award. The Ford C. Frick Award is the highest honour for baseball broadcasters and they're now accepting votes as they select the final ballot for the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award. Go to http://www.facebook.com/baseballhall now and vote for Tom Cheek.

This is the eighth year I've encouraged you to vote for Tom Cheek as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award, and I take it personally that he's not yet in Cooperstown. Removing my extremely biased perspective for a moment, Tom Cheek called Blue Jays games since day one, calling 4,306 of them in a row. During that time Toronto won two World Series championships and a few additional division pennants. He was the voice of my summers.

Here are previous entries I've written about Cheek's eligibility for the Ford C. Frick Award.

And yes, I shall use this opportunity to remind you that I've archived all of Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits. Click over and remember the glory days of Blue Jays baseball. And don't forget to vote for Tom.

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Tom Cheek Deserves the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award

Ford C. FrickTom Cheek deserves to win the Ford C. Frick Award. The Ford C. Frick Award is the highest honour for baseball broadcasters and they're now accepting votes as they select the final ballot for the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award. Go to http://www.facebook.com/baseballhall?v=app_20678178440 now and vote for Tom Cheek.

This is the sixth year I've encouraged you to vote for Tom Cheek as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award, and I take it personally that he's not yet in Cooperstown. Removing my extremely biased perspective for a moment, Tom Cheek called Blue Jays games since day one, calling 4,306 of them in a row. During that time Toronto won two World Series championships and a few additional division pennants. He was the voice of my summers.

Here are previous entries I've written about Cheek's eligibility for the Ford C. Frick Award.

And yes, I shall use this opportunity to remind you that I've archived all of Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits. Click over and remember the glory days of Blue Jays baseball. And don't forget to vote for Tom.

Discuss "Tom Cheek Deserves the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award" (2 comments so far)


Let's Get Tom Cheek His Ford C. Frick Award (Pls RT)

Ford C. FrickTom Cheek deserves to win the Ford C. Frick Award. The Ford C. Frick Award is the highest honour for baseball broadcasters and they're now accepting votes as they widdle the list of 200 down to three. Go to http://www.facebook.com/baseballhall?v=app_20678178440 now and vote for Tom Cheek.

This is the fifth year I've encouraged you to vote for Tom Cheek as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award, and I take it personally that he's not yet in Cooperstown. Removing my extremely biased perspective for a moment, Tom Cheek called Blue Jays games since day one, calling 4,306 of them in a row. During that time Toronto won two World Series championships and a few additional division pennants. He was the voice of my summers.

Here are previous entries I've written about Cheek's eligibility for the Ford C. Frick Award.

And yes, I shall use this opportunity to remind you that I've archived all of Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits. Click over and remember the glory days of Blue Jays baseball. And don't forget to vote for Tom.

Discuss "Let's Get Tom Cheek His Ford C. Frick Award (Pls RT)" (7 comments so far)


Do It Again Blue Jays

jaysYou can smell spring in the air. Today, Canada takes on the USA in WBC baseball action at the ballpark formerly known as SkyDome. The Blue Jays are playing spring training games in Florida and I'm getting excited about another season of slo-pitch.

In this spirit on this fine Saturday in March, here's a great Blue Jays song featuring the voices of Blue Jays baseball, Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth. Hearing Tom on this track talking about Devo leading off and Robbie and Joe following him in the line-up makes me miss those glory days of Blue Jays baseball. Yes, I'm old enough to remember playoff baseball in this city.

Turn it up, get your groove on and Go Jays Go!

Other awesome Blue Jays audio from Toronto Mike:

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When Joe Touched Them All: 15 Years Later

rewindWhen I threw my support behind the Phillies, I referred to something that happened in this city fifteen years ago. It was fifteen years ago Saturday, to be precise.

In Touch 'Em All, Joe I revisited that moment.

Joe Carter came to the plate in the ninth inning of game six of the World Series. My Toronto Blue Jays led the series 3 games to 2, but trailed in the game 6-5. With Mitch Williams on the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies and Ricky Henderson and Paul Molitor on base, Joe hit a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall at SkyDome to give the Blue Jays their second World Series in a row.

I can't accurately describe how my brothers and I reacted to this moment. When that ball cleared the fence, the feeling was ecstatic. The joy was overwhelming and we all shed tears. Heck, just thinking about that moment is causing my eyes to swell.

Dammit, there's some strange salty substance seeping from my eyes as I type. That moment was sort of a double-edged sword. It was a tremendous moment of collective elation, but it raised the bar to a point we may never see again. How the hell do we top that? An overtime goal by a Maple Leaf to win the Stanley Cup perhaps? Not much else comes to mind.

Listen to this call again. It was broadcast 15-years ago and few people heard it live as we were all watching the game on television. If you want more Tom Cheek Blue Jays memories, go here.

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Cheek's Ford C. Frick Award

microphoneLet's try this again. This will the fourth year in a row I've encouraged you to vote for Tom Cheek as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award. You can vote here at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Here are previous entries I've written about Cheek's eligibility for the Ford C. Frick Award.

In that 2nd last entry, I went off after Denny Matthews won the award.

Removing my extremely biased perspective for a moment, Tom Cheek called Blue Jays games since day one, calling 4,306 of them in a row. During that time Toronto won two World Series championships and a few additional division pennants. Tom Cheek's no longer with us.

Dave Perkins wrote about this in today's Star, but I was thinking the exact same thing, I swear. If Tom Cheek had called games in the United States of America, he'd have won the Ford C. Frick award long ago. Of this I am certain. There's a definite bias against recognizing baseball achievements in this country and Tom Cheek is a victim.

And yes, I shall use this opportunity to remind you that I've archived all of Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits. Click over and remember the glory days of Blue Jays baseball. And don't forget to vote for Tom.

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The Annual Ford C. Frick Award Plea

voteFormer Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek is back on the ballot for the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in baseball broadcasting. Cheek, who died at 66 from brain cancer in 2005, is among the 10 finalists for the honour. He called 4,306 consecutive games from 1977 to 2004.

I first lobbied for Tom to win this award in 2005 and then again in 2006. When he was beat out once more, I suggested it was an anti-Canadian bias at work. If Tom Cheek had called games in the United States of America, he'd have won the Ford C. Frick award long ago.

The winner of the Ford C. Frick award will be announced on February 19, 2008. If the weather outside has you feeling cold, warm up with Tom Cheek's greatest hits.

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