Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

December 13, 2012

Voice of Blue Jays wins award

The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Perhaps the biggest moment in Toronto Blue Jays history came in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter’s walkoff homer clinched the title.

Tom Cheek said of Carter’s shot off of Philadelphia Phillies reliever Mitch Williams thusly: “Touch ‘em all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

Cheek, who died Oct. 9, 2005, was named Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced.

“Tom Cheek was the voice of summer for generations of baseball fans in Canada and beyond,” Hall President Jeff Idelson said in a media release by the Cooperstown shrine. “He helped a nation understand the elements of the game and swoon for the summer excitement that the expansion franchise brought a hockey-crazed nation starting in the late 1970s. He then authored the vocal narrative of a team that evolved into one of the most consistent clubs of the 1980s and 1990s. We are thrilled to celebrate Tom’s legacy with baseball broadcasting’s highest honor.”

Cheek became the second Frick winner in three years who spent the majority of his career in Canada. Longtime Montreal Expos radio man Dave Van Horne earned the honor in 2011. Tim McCarver won the award last season.

Along with J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Paul Hagen, Cheek will be honored during the Hall of Fame’s Awards Presentation on July 27 in Cooperstown.

Cheek covered the first 4,306 regular season games and the first 41 postseason games in Blue Jays history, a franchise that started play in 1977.

In 1974, Cheek began work as a backup announcer to Van Horne on Expos broadcasts. Then in 1976 at the age of 37, he landed the job as the radio voice of the expansion Blue Jays. Paired first with Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn and then with Jerry Howarth in 1981, Cheek’s baritone voice and his passionate approach helped fans embrace Toronto’s role as an American League outpost.

He called every Blue Jays game from 1977 through June 4, 2004.

The next day, Cheek took the first of two days off to attend the funeral of his father. Upon his return, Cheek sensed he was not right physically when he couldn’t retain information he had read minutes earlier. On June 13, 2004 – his 65th birthday – Cheek underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor, some of which was unreachable.

A little more than a year later, Cheek died.

Cheek was inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2005. That same year, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame established the Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award, with Cheek being honored with the first award.

Cheek was chosen from a list of 10 finalists selected in October, featuring three fan selections from an online vote and seven broadcasters chosen by a research committee from the Hall.

Also on the ballot were Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, John Gordon, Bill King, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel, Eduardo Ortega, Mike Shannon. Dewayne Staats. Cheek, along with King and Doucet, were the fans selections on the ballot.

The 21-member panel that included 16 former Frick winners voted on the award