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Thomas F. Cheek (June 13, 1939 - October 9, 2005) was an American-born broadcaster who announced Major League Baseball games for the Toronto Blue Jays on radio from the team's establishment in 1977 until 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!" (MP3 download of Tom Cheek calling Carter's home run) He is also author of the book Road to Glory, which chronicled the first 16 years of Blue Jays baseball.

Contents

Biography

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Early life and career

Born in Pensacola, Florida, Cheek attended the Cambridge School of Broadcasting in Boston, Massachusetts and began his career in Plattsburgh, New York. He moved to Burlington, Vermont as corporate sales manager and sports director. His on-air sports work was varied: besides baseball, Cheek's play-by-play experience also included basketball, football, and hockey for the University of Vermont. Cheek also broadcast college basketball for the Mutual Radio network. From 1974 to 1976, Cheek was the swing man on Montréal Expos radio broadcasts on television nights.

Toronto Blue Jays

Tom Cheek is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays' Level of Excellence.

Beginning in 1977, Cheek became the full-time announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays. Early Wynn was his first broadcast partner, from 1977 through the end of 1980. Beginning in 1981, Cheek's play-by-play partner was Jerry Howarth. The team was joined by colour commentator Gary Matthews in 2000 and 2001.

Cheek was perhaps the most respected Toronto sports broadcaster of his era, with a reputation arguably surpassed only by that of Foster Hewitt. Cheek's Blue Jays broadcasts originated from Toronto's CKFH 1430, a station that was founded by Hewitt—it later changed its call letters to CJCL and still later became FAN 590.

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 the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

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 4,303 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, an incredible feat; the difference represents three rainouts that were also counted.

Play-by-play highlights

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![1]

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

Look 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!

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! 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!

Illiness and death

Cheek quickly returned to the booth, but was shortly thereafter forced to take further time off after undergoing surgery on June 12, 2004 to remove a brain tumor. Cheek was able to call some Blue Jays home games at the end of the 2004 season after his surgery, 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 had treatment at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and at the 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.

By September 2005, Cheek's condition had deteriorated and he was reportedly in grave condition. He could no longer speak and was at his home in Florida. He 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.

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.

Ford C. Frick Award finalist

For five straight years (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009), Cheek was named among the ten finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The award is presented each year, during the Hall of Fame's induction ceremonies, to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball."

References

  1. ^ Smith, Curt. Voices of the Game.

External links


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