Tom Cheek Gets His Due

By TSM

I don’t hide too much from you all. I’m 40 years old and I’ve told you that I used to fall asleep as a kid to the sounds of 1430 on a little radio that sat next to my bed, be it the voice of Joe Bowen or Tom Cheek.

Tom and Jerry I think are largely responsible for the fact that I am a baseball fan today. It didn’t matter when or where you tuned in, Tom Cheek was a master story teller. I always remembered feeling like he was sitting in the same room as I was explaining what was going on during the game. He made it real, he made it fun and he told great stories.

When I went to college, there was a little diner in the heart of Burlington Vermont called the Oasis. I was taken there, and being a proud Torontonian I was sporting a Blue Jays hat. This was 1990 by the way. The diner was lined up out the door and by the time I was seated it was at the counter. The cook turned around and said Blue Jays! My best friend is the voice of the Blue Jays! It was the start of a wonderful 4 year relationship. Others got all the classes they wanted, I never had to wait or order at the Oasis. In the old diner there was a photo of Bill Clinton who had visited and there was Tom. It was an awesome place, as Tom was an awesome broadcaster. The image of Clinton is above, that’s Tom’s buddy clapping his hands, and his son who ran the place for a few years after he retired behind him.

Mike Wilner doesn’t present as the warmest of people in his baseball shows but he’s written a brilliant tribute to Tom that you can read here.

“About a minute before we went on the air, Tom turned to me and said: “All these microphones are on, all game long. I don’t care if you’re Sadaam Hussein, if you have something to contribute to the broadcast, go ahead and say it.”

Say what you want about Wilner, he made it his business to get Tom into the hall, and while he may not have done all the voting, he is largely responsible for getting out the vote. Well done Mike. Your hero would be proud!

Richard Griffin has a nice story too:

“Initial memories? I remember this tall, gangly guy driving up from his Burlington, Vt., radio job to fill in for Dave Van Horne with the Expos at Jarry Park from 1974 to ’76. I had started with the Expos in 1973 and was keeping a detailed score sheet for all the games, to be used in an early form of arbitration. Sometimes Tom would kick me out of the booth I used as my personal headquarters because he needed to practise.”

Bob Elliott in what I am sure will be part of many tribute to his old friend got a wide range of comments here

He filed this report too:

“It’s been a good week for the Cheek family: Induction to the Vermont Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Saturday and now winning the Frick.

“The emcee said: “Okay, sit back, close your eyes and listen,” and they played a clip that the Blue Jays had sent of Tom’s call,” said Shirley. “We had 18 people there and, at $25 a head, it was an open bar for an hour, hors d’oeuvres, a gift box with a pewter snowflake, filet mignon with a lobster tail.”

Elliott was on PTS with McCown and Brunt and it’s good radio, well worth listening to. The link is to the entire hour so I don’t want to post it. Tune into the 8 minute mark where Elliott breaks down. He clearly is proud of and really misses his dear friend.

I love the quote from Dan Shulman in John Lott’s column:

“He never tried to become the show,” said Shulman, who grew up to become the Jays’ TV play-by-play man and later an eminent ESPN broadcaster. “He always understood that what was happening between the white lines was the show. He had such a folksy, intimate way of talking to people, you felt like he was broadcasting the game just for you and you alone.”

BTW, it’s 950pm on the left coast and the NHL talks keep on trucking. That’s a good sign.

TSM

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