Tom Cheek

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For other people named Thomas Cheek, see Thomas Cheek (disambiguation).
Tom Cheek
Born June 13, 1939
Pensacola, Florida
Died October 9, 2005(2005-10-09) (aged 66)
Oldsmar, Florida
Nationality American
Alma mater Cambridge School of Broadcasting
Occupation Toronto Blue Jays radio sportscaster
Spouse(s) Shirley Cheek
Children 3

Thomas F. Cheek (June 13, 1939 – October 9, 2005) was an American sportscaster. Perhaps best known as the "Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays", Cheek announced Major League Baseball games for the Toronto Blue Jays on radio from the team's establishment in 1977 until his retirement in 2004, in which he had a 27-year streak of 4,306 consecutive games plus 41 post-season games called,[1] which lasted from the first ever Blue Jays game on April 7, 1977 to June 3, 2004. Cheek was inducted to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2004.

Cheek's best-known call was perhaps his description of Joe Carter's dramatic title-clinching home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, when he said, "Touch 'em all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!"[2] He is also author of the book Road to Glory, which chronicled the first 16 years of Blue Jays baseball.

Cheek was selected as the recipient of the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award after being nominated as a finalist for the award every year since 2005.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in the west side of Pensacola, Florida, Cheek, an avid sports fan, was introduced to his first tape recorder at the age of 14, which would lay the foundations for his future in broadcasting. From 1957 to 1960, he served in the U.S. Air Force where he was introduced to the Yankees broadcaster Red Barber. Following his discharge from the armed forces in 1960, Cheek attended the Cambridge School of Broadcasting in Boston for two years.[3]

Early broadcasting years[edit]

Cheek began his radio broadcasting career in Plattsburgh, New York as a Disc jockey on WEAV in 1962. He then moved to Burlington, Vermont where he worked for WDOT and was quickly promoted to corporate sales manager and sports director. He later moved from music to sports broadcasting when he moved to WJOY where his on-air sports work included baseball, basketball, football, and hockey for the University of Vermont. During this time, in 1968, he was almost hired to be the first broadcaster for the newly formed Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, only to lose out to Skip Caray.[4]

At the same time, the newly formed Montreal Expos were looking for a second announcer to complement their primary play-by-play man, Dave Van Horne. Burlington, being only 99 miles from Montreal, although traditionally a Boston Red Sox town, was warming up to the new expansion team. It was later decided that the Expos would go with a guest announcer format, and this is where Cheek would get his first broadcast experience of Major League Baseball, where he filled in occasionally from 1974 to 1976.[5]

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

Beginning in 1977, Cheek became the first full-time announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays alongside his first broadcast partner, Early Wynn who remained with him through the end of 1980. Wynn was replaced by Jerry Howarth in 1981. For the next 23 years, "Tom and Jerry" would be the radio voices of the Blue Jays. Their partnership covered the rise of the Blue Jays through the 1980s, culminating with back to back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. The team was joined by color commentator Gary Matthews in 2000 and 2001.

Cheek, along with Howarth, were perhaps the most respected Toronto sports broadcasters of the era.[6] Cheek's Blue Jays broadcasts originated from Toronto's CKFH "The Fan" 1430, a station that was founded by another legendary Toronto sports broadcaster, Foster Hewitt. For a brief period, his broadcast was heard on 1050 CHUM, but following the purchase of the Blue Jays by Rogers Communications, reverted to "The Fan", which had changed its callsign and frequency to CJCL 590 AM, also known as the FAN 590.

Cheek called many memorable moments in Blue Jays history, including many firsts; the Blue Jays division-clinching game in 1985 and both the final plays of the 1992 and 1993 World Series, the latter of which spawned his famous "Touch 'em all, Joe" quote, when Joe Carter clinched the World Series on a walk-off home run, only the second to happen in World Series history.

The Streak[edit]

Tom Cheek's name on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence.

Cheek announced every single Blue Jays game from the first game on April 7, 1977 until June 3, 2004, when he took two games off following the death of his father – a streak of 4,306 consecutive regular season games and 41 postseason games. During the 2004 season, the Jays raised a banner to SkyDome's (now the Rogers Centre) "Level of Excellence" bearing his name and, in place of a jersey number, 4,306 – his streak of straight regular-season broadcasts.[7]

Other broadcasting activities[edit]

Outside of his Blue Jays broadcasts, Cheek was also a member of the broadcast team for ABC Sports at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

Illness and death[edit]

Cheek was forced to take further time off to undergo surgery on June 12, 2004 to remove a brain tumor.[8] Following the surgery, Cheek was able to call some Blue Jays home games while undergoing chemotherapy, but he was replaced on the road by various guest announcers.

It seemed Cheek had recovered and would call the Jays games in 2005 but the cancer returned and he required treatment at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. Cheek did sit in with new commentator Warren Sawkiw and Howarth to call an inning of the Blue Jays' 2005 opening game, played in Tampa Bay.[9]

Cheek died at age 66 in Oldsmar, Florida, and was buried in Clearwater, Florida on October 14, 2005 with his wife Shirley, three children and seven grandchildren present.

Personal life[edit]

Cheek married his wife, Shirley, of Hemmingford, Quebec in 1959. They had three children, Jeff, Lisa, and Tom and seven grandchildren at the time of his death. While in the Toronto area, he made his home in Burlington, Ontario along with Clearwater, Florida during the winter.

Awards and honors[edit]

Cheek was inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2004 with the number "4306" next to his name, signifying his streak. Canada's Sports Hall of Fame established the "Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award" shortly before his death, for "playing a key role in promoting Canadian sports." Cheek was awarded the first award. During the 2006 season, the Blue Jays wore a white circular badge with the letters TC and a microphone in black beside the letters on their sleeve, in tribute to Cheek.[10]

For nine straight years (20052013),[11][12][13][14][15] Cheek was named among the ten finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The award is presented each year during the Hall of Fame's induction weekend to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball."[16] Cheek was selected as the 2013 recipient of the award on December 5, 2012.[17]

Memorable calls[edit]

  • On October 2, 1991, Cheek described the Blue Jays' win of the AL East this way:

Roberto Alomar has stolen his fifty-third base. A fly ball will win it now. Joe Carter at the plate. The winning run—the American League championship—ninety feet away. The pitch—a swing—and a base hit! And the Blue Jays are the champs! The Blue Jays are the champs of the American League East![18]

  • On October 24, 1992, Cheek called the Blue Jays' first World Series championship:

Timlin to the belt... Pitch on the way... And there's a bunted ball, first base side, Timlin to Carter and the Blue Jays win it! The Blue Jays win it! The Blue Jays are World Series Champions![19]

  • On October 23, 1993, Cheek called the Jays' back-to-back World Series championship with his famous call:

Joe has had his moments. Trying to lay off that ball, low to the outside part of the plate, he just went after one. Two balls and two strikes on him. Here's the pitch on the way, a swing and a belt! Left field! Way back! BLUE JAYS WIN IT! The Blue Jays are World Series Champions as Joe Carter hits a three run home run in the ninth inning and the Blue Jays have repeated as World Series Champions! Touch em' all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life![17]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cheek, Tom; Howard Berger (1993). Road to Glory: An Insider's Look at 16 Years of Blue Jays Baseball. Los Angeles CA: Warwick Publishing. ISBN 1-895629-16-0. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tom Cheek a Finalist for Hall of Fame Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). December 5, 2006
  2. ^ Tom Cheek, 66; Announcer Called Blue Jay Games for 271/2 Seasons Los Angeles Times. October 11, 2005
  3. ^ Cheek, Tom. Road to Glory, Warwick Publishing, 1993. pp.7–30 ISBN 1-895629-16-0
  4. ^ Cheek, Tom. Road to Glory, Warwick Publishing, 1993. pp.31–33 ISBN 1-895629-16-0
  5. ^ Cheek, Tom. Road to Glory, Warwick Publishing, 1993. pp.34–37 ISBN 1-895629-16-0
  6. ^ Broadcaster Cheek passes away Major League Baseball. October 9, 2005
  7. ^ Tom Cheek, Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, Dies American Sportscasters Online Accessed September 29, 2010
  8. ^ Everybody misses Tom Toronto Sun. June 16, 2004
  9. ^ Tom Cheek returns to the booth Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). March 7, 2005
  10. ^ Tom Cheek (1939–2005). The Sports Encyclopedia Online. Accessed September 29, 2010
  11. ^ Tom Cheek a finalist for Hall of Fame. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). December 5, 2006
  12. ^ Baseball Video Highlights & Clips. Cheek and Nuxhall are featured on the Frick Ballot. Major League Baseball. December 1, 2009
  13. ^ Tom Cheek named Frick Award Finalist. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). December 6, 2005
  14. ^ Sixth time's a charm? Rogers Sportsnet. October 6, 2008
  15. ^ Fans get Cheek, Doucet on Cooperstown Ballot. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). October 1, 2010
  16. ^ Cheek one of 10 finalists for Frick Award Major League Baseball. December 4, 2007
  17. ^ a b "Tom Cheek Named 2013 Ford C. Frick Award Winner for Broadcasting Excellence" (Press release). National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. December 5, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  18. ^ Smith, Curt. Voices of the Game. Fireside Publishing, 1992. ISBN 0-671-73848-8
  19. ^ Cheek wins Cooperstown's Frick award. Rogers Sportsnet. December 5, 2012

External links[edit]