The widow of former Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek says her late husband would be “humbled” by the award she will accept in his honour this weekend.
Cheek, who died in 2005, broadcast 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays games, including the club’s two World Series victories, from Toronto’s first contest until June 2, 2004.
Shirley Cheek will be in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Saturday with her family to accept the 2013 Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting excellence as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction weekend.
“I think Tom would be humbled and say ‘There are others that are more deserving,“’ she said on a conference call Monday. “That’s just how Tom felt. He always felt that we was doing the job that he loved to do, that it was an honour for him to be doing it, a boyhood dream.”
Cheek’s most memorable call for Blue Jays fans was his description of Joe Carter’s home run that won the club’s second straight World Series in 1993 when his deep baritone voice shouted into the microphone: “Touch ‘em all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
A recent inductee into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Cheek was added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre in 2005.
“I don’t think Tom ever really realized the impact he had until the day they put his name up on the Level of Excellence. He realized at that point how important he was to the club,” said Shirley Cheek, who will deliver an acceptance speech Saturday. “He had so many people say he was the voice of summer, ‘I listened to you on the lake, I listened to you on the tractor out in Saskatoon.’
“I think it really hit home when he saw that his name was going up on the wall and how much he had meant to the fans listening on radio.”
Shirley Cheek says it will be an emotional weekend, but she hopes that her grandchildren will begin understand what the family’s patriarch meant to Canadian baseball fans.
“The younger ones really don’t know much about him, so I think they’re kind of in awe about all of this,” she said. “I think it will really hit home to them what the true meaning of what their grandfather did for Canada and for the Toronto Blue Jays.”
Former Montreal Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne won the Frick award in 2011, making Cheek the second recipient who spent the majority of his career with a Canadian team.
Cheek was born June 13, 1939, in Pensacola, Fla., and began work as a backup announcer to Van Horne on Expos broadcasts.
He landed the job as the radio voice of the expansion Blue Jays in 1976 and became a hallmark of summer in Toronto.
Cheek called every regular-season and post-season Blue Jays game from April 7, 1977, through June 2, 2004, ending his streak to attend his father’s funeral.
He sensed he was not right physically upon his return and underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour on June 13, 2004 — his 65th birthday. Unfortunately some of the tumour was unreachable and he died a little more than a year later.
“(What) I remember most about my husband was his sense of humour, his one-liners. He was famous for his one-liners,” Shirley Cheek said. “(But) I miss his voice most of all.
“He had such an amazing voice.”