Tribute to Tom Cheek

Perhaps it was fitting that the Blue Jays suffered a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to the hometown Tigers this afternoon. After all, today — April 4 — will always be linked to a low moment in Toronto Blue Jays history. It was on this day, just two short years ago, that the legendary Tom Cheek called his last game from the Blue Jays broadcast booth.Tom_cheek_2

Though he didn’t plan to work that 2005 season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Cheek volunteered to step in for the top of the fourth inning, and longtime partner Jerry Howarth was more than happy to oblige. As if on cue, outfielder Frank Catalanotto doubled to lead off the inning and was followed by back-to-back homers from Orlando Hudson and Vernon Wells that gave the Blue Jays a 3-1 advantage (they would go on to win 5-2)

Though players and managers came and went during his nearly 28 years announcing Blue Jays baseball, Tom Cheek remained a constant, calling a remarkable 4,306 consecutive regular season games plus an additional 41 postseason contests. The streak, that began on April 7, 1977, when Cheek introduced Major League baseball to Toronto, came to a conclusion on June 3, 2004 when his father passed away.

Unfortunately, just days later Cheek was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery 10 days after his father’s passing. When he returned to Toronto, a crowd of 44,072 delivered a standing ovation on August 29 when the Blue Jays added Cheek to the Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre. It was truly a special moment in Blue Jays history.

Cheek was set to return to the booth in 2005, but his health got the better of him. After an additional operation in March, he passed away on October 9, 2005.

Tom Cheek saw it all during his tenure covering the Blue Jays, including the famous ‘glory years’ of 1992 and 1993 when Toronto captured two straight World Series titles. It was in ’93, in fact, that Cheek made his most memorable call, heard by millions of baseball fans across Canada. As Joe Carter rounded the bases following his series-winning home run, Cheek announced, “Touch ’em all Joe … you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

With the arrival of spring, I have recently been reminiscing of my childhood and the amount of time that was spent playing catch in the yard with my brother, listening to the Blue Jays telecasts on a nearby radio. On behalf of everyone who grew up listening to your broadcasts, I simply want to say, “Tom, you touched us all.”

Click here to listen to Cheek’s call on Carter’s home run …

It was a wild affair on Tuesday afternoon, and despite scoring seven runs in the top of the eighth inning, the Blue Jays couldn’t push across the tying score in the ninth against closer Todd Jones … A.J. Burnett’s season debut was a disaster, as the right-hander delivered more balls (29) than strikes (26) while allowing six runs in just 2.0 innings. … Toronto’s seven-run rally was highlighted by reserve infielder Jason Smith, who drove in three with a bases-clearing triple as a pinch-hitter for Royce Clayton … With a record of 1-1, the Blue Jays will send Gustavo Chacin to the mound to face the Tigers’ Justin Verlander on Wednesday at 1:05 pm …

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