"Touch 'em all, Joe," is Shirley Cheek's favourite of Tom Cheek's many radio calls. Not because of its eloquence or simplicity or timelessness, as much as because it was the call of a man who simply cared about what was happening in front of him.
Joe Carter had just homered to win the 1993 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Cheek wanted to make sure he touched the bases, that's all.
"Maybe it's because I've heard it so many times, but that really is my favourite call of all time," Shirley Cheek said Wednesday on a conference call after her husband, the long-time Blue Jays broadcaster, was named the winner of the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball – in the process, earning a richly-deserved place in Cooperstown.
"It was so off-the-cuff," she said. "Tom was just an off-the-cuff guy, whatever came out of his mouth came out of his mouth. He didn't have a preplanned home run call, it was how it happened. When Joe Carter was running around those bases, it looked to Tom like a kangaroo jumping up and down, and he was mentally telling him: 'Joe, don't miss a base.'"
Cheek, who was born one day after the National Baseball Hall of Fame formally opened its doors, and who died on Oct. 9, 2005, at 66, will be honoured as part of the 2013 Hall of Fame weekend, July 26 to 29.
The Florida native called the first 4,306 regular-season games in Blue Jays franchise history and 41 postseason games (his streak ending when he left for two days to attend his father's funeral), and will enter the Hall two years after the voice of the Montreal Expos, Dave Van Horne. Cheek spent two years as Van Horne's backup, before becoming the Jays radio voice in 1977.
Cheek was chosen from a list of 10 Frick Award finalists, three of which were chosen by fan balloting. Cheek was first in the fan balloting, followed by Expos French-language broadcaster Jacques Doucet and Bill King, the long-time voice of the Oakland Athletics.