Tom Cheek Remembered

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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Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits

Blue JaysAt this time of year I always get nostalgic for the days when Blue Jays baseball in late August actually meant something. There's an entire generation of ball fans growing up in this city who barely recall playoff baseball in Toronto. That's so sad.

When I get nostalgic about pennant races from yesteryear, I start thinking about Tom Cheek. I've written so much about Tom Cheek I've got an entire category in his honour. Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth were the voices of Blue Jays baseball when I would listen to every game possible on the radio. In honour of Tom Cheek, I'd like to share his greatest calls with you all.

The First Home Run in Blue Jays History
I was two years old when Doug Ault hit the first home run in franchise history on April 7, 1977, so I don't have a memory of the moment. You can relive the Jays debut in the CBC archives and hear Tom Cheek's call of Ault's first dinger below. "A tremendous shot."

Our First AL East Pennant
I've got great memories of this fantastic day and I shared those memories in this entry. You never forget your first, whether it be home run, no-hitter, cycle, World Series or pennant. Here's Tom Cheek's call of that final out on October 5, 1985. "Bell is there... he's got it!"

Dave Stieb's No-Hitter
I was working at the CNE on this day, but that didn't stop me from sharing my memories of Sir David's no-hitter. You don't want to miss Tom Cheek's call of the first no-hitter in Blue Jays history from September 2, 1990. "He's done it! He's done it!"

The First World Series Championship
I don't believe I've ever written about that fantastic night the Blue Jays clinched their first World Series title. It was quite the surreal night that was capped by Dave Winfield's clutch RBI and the sudden disappearance of my Canadian flag. Listen to Tom Cheek's historic call of Otis Nixon's bunt to Mike Timlin. "The Blue Jays win it!"

Joe Carter's 1993 World Series Ending Blast
I've saved the best for last. This is, without a doubt, the best call of Tom Cheek's career. Here's an extensive write up about Joe's three run homer off Mitch Williams. You'll want to play this one over and over and over again. "Touch 'em all, Joe!"

If you want more Blue Jays memories, thoughts, observations and rants, check out my Toronto Blue Jays category page. Enjoy these audio gems I consider to be Tom Cheek's greatest hits.

New Update (posted December 5, 2012 in honour of this):
1993 World Series Game 6 Bottom of the 9th, as called by Tom Cheek.

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Show Tom Some Frick'n Respect

microphoneDenny Matthews is the Ford C. Frick Award winner. Matthews is probably a fine broadcaster, covering the Kansas City Royals, but he's no Tom Cheek.

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.

Next fall I'll urge you all to vote for Tom once more, but I'm losing hope that he'll ever make it to Cooperstown. It's a Frick'n shame.

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My Blue Transistor Radio

giftIn my lifetime I've probably received hundreds of Christmas gifts, but there are a few I remember best. I never lobbied for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle so what I got on Christmas morning was always a surprise. On one particular Christmas in the early to mid-eighties I received a little blue transistor radio.

It was freedom. The radio would go everywhere I went. I used to sleep with it. In the summers, I listened to 1430 CJCL which was carrying Blue Jays games called by Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth. Other nights I would crawl the dial just to see what I would pick up. I'd start at one end and slowly make my way to the other side, stopping for a bit whenever I pulled in a station. I guess it was sort of a low tech scan. I'd do this for FM and then switch to AM. I loved that damn radio.

It's a love affair that has continued to this day. The primary reason I have an iRiver instead of an iPod is because the iRiver has a radio built in. I want my MP3, but I'm not ready to give up my radio entirely. In this day of MP3 players and satellite radio there's little room in a kid's life for a transistor radio. I'm just glad there was room in my life for one that Christmas morning.

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The Ford Frick Award

bluejaysIn his column today, Toronto Star journalist Dave Perkins reminds us that voting is open for the Ford Frick Award at Despite the fact I stuffed the ballot box last year, Tom Cheek didn't make the Hall in 2005. I think this year will be different.

If you're a Tom Cheek fan as I am, get over there once a day and cast your vote for him. He was something special.

Other entries about Tom:

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Blue Jays Clinch AL East Pennant in 1985

bluejaysI've been sharing my memories of the Toronto Blue Jays, absorbed during the fanatical years of 1983-1993. I started by writing about the ten home run attack in September of 1987 and this time I'm tackling the clinching win in 1985.

I thought we were going to clinch on October 4th. With our magic number at 1 for the first time ever, we were tied with the Yankees and the Terminator Tom Henke was on the mound in the ninth. I was listening to the radio in my bedroom, clinging to every pitch called by Tom and Jerry. Butch Wynegar burned Henke for a home run with two out and our celebration was postponed a day.

October 5th was a Saturday and we were off to my Grandmother's house, just outside of Midland, Ontario. We listened to the first half of the game in the car and then watched the rest on television. By the end of the third inning we were up 4-0 and Doyle Alexander was on cruise control. Ernie Whitt, Lloyd Moseby and Willie Upshaw went deep, Alexander pitched a complete game 5-hitter and with two outs in the ninth at Exhibition Stadium, Ron Hassey was at the plate. In only my third year of die-hard devotion, we were about to enjoy our first taste of celebration. Hassey hit a fly ball that George Bell easily caught for the final out. I remember him down on his knees rejoicing, receiving a high five from Tony Fernandez. We had clinched the AL Eastern division pennant.

I carved up the next day's Star to add to my scrap book. Here's the Exhibition scoreboard following the 5-1 win, George Bell's celebration after the catch and the cover of the sports section declaring us "The Champs". I was elated. Kansas City was up next, but we had the big bats and starting pitching behind Alexander, Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and young Jimmy Key. Up three to one in the ALCS, I was dreaming of a World Series championship. Here's "The Drive of '85" section reminding us there's "only 1 to go". What happened next is another story for another time.

Although I didn't hear it live, here's Tom Cheek's call of that Hassey fly out to Bell on October 5, 1985. For this eleven year old, it was a defining moment, and assurance that my commitment to these birds of summer would be rewarded.

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It Won't Be The Same

JaysSo far, so good for our Blue Jays. The newbies came through and Roy Halladay pitched another gem as we beat the Twinkies 6-3 in front of 50,449 at the ballpark fomerly known as SkyDome.

All was perfect, but something was missing. For the first time in the history of the franchise, Tom Cheek was not in the booth to call a Jays opener. I tuned into the radio broadcast prior to the game to hear Jerry Howarth talk about his former partner and when I heard about Tom's wife Shirley making it to the booth but not being able to step inside, I almost lost it. Cheek called 4,306 consecutive regular-season games, plus 41 more in the postseason, and passed away last season. Here he is calling Joe Carter's World Series winning homer. Here are some other entries I've written about the man over the years.

It won't be the same without Tom Cheek calling Blue Jays baseball.

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Vote For Tom

VoteThe Ford C. Frick Award is an award bestowed annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball." This year, our very own Tom Cheek is on the ballot.

Visit the 2006 Ford C. Frick Award Nominee Voting page between now and November 30 to cast your vote for Tom. Be advised that only one ballot per person, per day, will be accepted.

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The Drive of '85

Blue JaysI don't want to let the 2005 baseball season end without paying tribute to The Drive of '85. Twenty years ago, our Blue Jays won their first divisional pennant and got their first taste of post-season play. Can you believe that was twenty years ago?

In 1983, my first full season as a die hard Jays fan, we had a good young team that made some noise in the American League East. In 1984 the Detroit Tigers got off to a torrid start and practically buried all others in the East but the Jays clawed back to make it interesting, only finishing four games back. Then it was 1985 and our turn to shine. The Toronto Star, my primary source for sports news as a ten and eleven year old, referred to it as The Drive of '85. It was a magical season.

When I went through a couple of old boxes on the weekend, I found a few memories stashed away. Between my stamp collection and old Maple Leafs programs were a series of newspaper clippings from The Drive of '85...

I still can't believe that was twenty years ago. I remember that entire season as if it was last year. We were one win away from the World Series before the Royals beat us three straight to win it in seven. George Brett found an extra gear and the rest is history.

There's only one fitting way for me to end this entry recalling The Drive of '85. Here's Tom Cheek calling the final out in the clinching game.

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Tears Are Not Enough

TeardropThe earthquake that hit South Asia on Saturday may kill 35,000 people. As horribly as I feel for these victims, I haven't shed a single tear for them. Taryn has.

I didn't cry for the victims of the recent natural disasters in Louisiana or Southeast Asia either. It's not that I didn't care about their plight, it's just the casualties were so many and I felt so removed I was unable to conjure up the necessary emotions to produce tears. Last night, Taryn asked me why I couldn't shed a tear for a possible 35,000 people who may die in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan when I cried after learning of Tom Cheek's death. I also cried when writing Thinking About Tom and listening to his final broadcast. How could I, a man who very rarely cries, weep for a broadcaster I've never met and not for massive death tolls across the globe? It's a fair question, and I chalk it up to natural emotional defense mechanisms.

If I were to personally feel the pain for 35,000 victims, I'd break down. It would be impossible to persevere and live life if every sad event and every crisis or catastrophe affected me in that manner. A number like 35,000 is so large our natural defense mechanisms simply can't digest it on such a level. They are 35,000 people I didn't know and the sadness I feel in my heart doesn't touch the nerve that may actually result in tears.

I mentioned I rarely cry, and this is true. Looking back over the past five years I remember having tears in my eyes exactly six times. Watching images of people jumping out of the World Trade Center following 9/11, watching a documentary about a man who saved hundreds of children during the Holocaust, watching "Big Fish" and previously mentioned moments revolving around Tom Cheek. Specifically when he called that half inning on April 4, when I recently spent some time thinking about those glorious summers listening to his comforting voice and Sunday when I learned he was gone. Taryn will cry following a sentimental Hallmark ad on television. I won't can't don't.

We all have buttons that when pressed result in either tears of joy or sadness. I am so aware as to where these buttons are, I know exactly what thoughts to avoid if I don't want to cry. I know what scenes in which movies strike this nerve and what memories or thoughts hit this button. I am in mad love with my two kids, and watching their arrival into this world was absolutely thrilling, but I was way too excited to cry. If I want to cry, I could conjure up the necessary emotion by re-reading this entry. As a matter of self perseverance, I can't feel those emotions for the 35,000 victims of the earthquake in South Asia.

To do so would render me completely useless.

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