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Voice of Jays' Cheek will live forever in Cooperstown

YouTube of Tom Cheek's most famous call: Joe Carter, Game Six, 1993 (The CBS call by Sean McDonough is in the final 20 seconds).

Tom Cheek will get to touch 'em all again this summer in Cooperstown.

Cheek, the voice of summer in Canada at the microphone for Toronto Blue Jays games from 1977-2005, was named the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence today at the Winter Meetings in Nashville and will be honored by the Hall of Fame in July.

New cheek4306Cheek called every Blue Jays games -- 4,306 of them in the regular season -- for the franchise's first 27 1/2 seasons before missing a 2004 game in Oakland due to the death of his father. That's why 4,306 is the "uniform number" posted for Cheek on the Jays' Level of Excellence in Rogers Centre (left). He died in 2005 at 66 after battling a brain tumor.

Tom_Cheek-2Cheek, who was actually groomed as a broadcaster in Vermont, called some Expos games with 2011 Frick recipient Dave Van Horne before getting the mic from day one in Toronto with Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn in '77. In 1981, Jerry Howarth came on board and the Tom and Jerry Show ruled Canada for more than two decades.

"Touch 'em all, Joe. You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life" was how Cheek called Joe Carter's World Series winner in 1993 in the video above. An unmatched classic.

Howarth remains on the air as the main voice of the Jays now. Mike Wilner of flagship station FAN 590, who does great work as a reporter and on the postgame shows while adding some in-game commentary, spearheaded a grassroots lobbying effort the last couple of years to get Cheek high in fan balloting and at the forefront of Frick committee members. And it has paid off.

I met Cheek several times, both in the Rogers Centre press box and at Blue Jays caravan trips in the late 80s and early 90s to places like the Marriott in Amherst and in Niagara Falls, Ont. He was a huge man (I'm guessing 6-5, 6-6) with big hands and always asked, "how are things in Buffalo?" During the Bisons/Indians heyday of the late 90s, Cheek would see me at the press box soda fountain and joke, "How many more stars does the Tribe have down there anyway?"

And when you grew up in Buffalo in the 70s and 80s, the Yankees and Mets were on cable and the Blue Jays were the only thing that came in clear on the radio (h/t to CJRN AM 710). 

The FAN 590 has a full page up on Cheek, including some great audio I've culled here.

Here are some of Cheek's classic calls

Here is Cheek's emotional Level of Excellence Speech he gave in Toronto in 2005.

You want a really neat find? Someone -- thank you, whoever you are -- has posted the audio of the entire bottom of the ninth from Game Six in 1993. Great stuff.

And here's another full page of Cheek calls that has popped up, including the first home run in Jays' history by Doug Ault in the Toronto snow on April 7, 1977.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |