During Saturday’s Hall of Fame ceremony honoring the 2013 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, Shirley Cheek took the podium and accepted the award for her late husband Tom Cheek, reading some poignant thoughts from her husband’s personal notes. Those thoughts, written during the final days of his struggle with cancer, aptly summed up Tom’s passion for the game, his beloved Blue Jays, and his desire to talk about the game he loved to no end.
On Saturday, Cheek was honored for that commitment to the game and to the Toronto Blue Jays, with the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award.
The Ford C. Frick Award is presented yearly by the National Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster who has shown excellence in his or her field and made major contributions to the game of baseball. The recipient is selected by a 21-person board, including the 16 current living recipients and 5 historians/columnists. The eligible candidates, who served a minimum of 10 years of continuous service with a club, network, or both, are judged based on longevity, honors, national assignments, and popularity with the fans.
Tom Cheek encompassed all of these qualities, with a dignity and class that you would expect from the man who would come to be known as The Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays.
From the birth of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977 until June 3, 2004, Cheek would call 4,306 consecutive games, ending the streak only to attend the funeral of his father. Nine days later, Cheek was forced to take further time away in order to have a brain tumor removed. He would return later in the season, but would be held to calling home games only. He would call a portion of the Opening Day game for Toronto in 2005 before stepping aside permanently.
Tom Cheek would succumb to cancer on October 14, 2005.
Now, after being a finalist for the award for nine straight years, Cheek was finally honored as the Ford C. Frick recipient, adding to his legacy that includes a spot on the team’s Level of Excellence (signified by the number “4306″) and the “Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award”, presented yearly by the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
While it was Cheek’s personal thoughts on baseball that may have meant a lot to Blue Jays fans throughout the years, it was a a note sent from a fan, shortly after Tom’s death, that was the most fitting of his legacy as a broadcaster.
“It has been said that our birth and our death are two things we cannot control, only the interval in between.”
For Tom Cheek, that interval between birth and death was a sweet one, and Blue Jays fans are ever the richer for sharing that time with them.