Blue Jays replays give a new generation a chance to hear Tom Cheek
With Sportsnet airing some classic Blue Jays games lately, one of the best parts is that a new generation of fans gets to listen to the legendary voice of Tom Cheek.
There are many things that are engrained into my memory from my childhood. Playing youth baseball at “Cactus Park” in my hometown of Estevan, Saskatchewan, stopping for a slushie at “Little J’s” after the game, and of course, the sound of a Blue Jays broadcast, including the legendary voices of Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth.
Howarth remained with the Blue Jays through the 2017 season, so fans of pretty much every generation are familiar with his work. Cheek is a little different story though, as his last broadcast with the Blue Jays was in 2004, and he also made a guest appearance in 2005, which was also the year that he passed away at the age of 66 after dealing with a brain tumour and subsequent health problems.
That means that the new Blue Jays fans that jumped on the bandwagon during the 2015 and 2016 playoff runs probably aren’t terribly familiar with Cheek’s work, despite his importance to the franchise. He was actually there at the very beginning of the Blue Jays’ existence in Major League Baseball in 1977, and worked a remarkable streak of 27 years, including 4,306 consecutive regular season games and 41 post-season games.
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If you fit into the category of a newer Blue Jay fan, you’ll no doubt remember his voice from his call when Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run against the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, saying “Touch ’em all, Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”, which is another childhood memory that I’ll never forget. And the good news is, if you’ve never had the pleasure of sitting down to listen to Mr. Cheek call a game, you have the chance with Sportsnet re-airing many of the Blue Jays’ classic games over the next little while.
For his fine work throughout his career, Cheek was recognized on many different ways, including by the Blue Jays on their “Level of Excellence”, where his name was placed in 2004. He was also the first recipient of the “Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award”, which is obviously named after him and given out by the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, awarding someone who “plays a key role in promoting Canadian sports”.
Cheek was also nominated as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick award for the National Baseball Hall of Fame each year from 2005-2013, finally winning the award in 2013 posthumously. The award is given to a broadcaster who has made “major contributions to baseball”, and Cheek certain qualifies for that standard.
For those of us who had the privilege of growing up listening to “Tom and Jerry”, these classic replays are an opportunity to listen again to what always felt like an old friend, and hopefully introduce that voice to a generation that missed out on a true gentleman of the game.