Saturday, September 6, 2008

About Tom

If you're a Blue Jay fan, you've probably already read a dozen (or so) Tom Cheek posts over the last few weeks, so I won't be offended if you feel like you've had enough and skip this one. I won't be offended, but you're still an asshole if you do.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tom Cheek. I never had the chance to speak to him through a radio call-in show, never sent him any emails, never traded any correspondence. But I can say this with absolute certainty - I really feel like I knew Tom Cheek.

You see, I never spoke to Tom, but he spoke to me - about 150 times a year (unlike Tom, I probably took a few sick days here and there) for as far back as I can remember up until the 2005 season, when Tom's health problems kept him out of the booth for good. You might think I'm making this up, but I can actually remember where I was when I read the news that Tom Cheek had passed away. And I'm not going to lie to you here - it got a little dusty in my office when I did. I spent the next few hours sifting through articles and online tributes, thinking back to a time when a perfect summer day was lying around listening to the game, then tossing a ball around for hours with a friend.

The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball". I once had a very brief email exchange with the esteemed Keith Law, who happens to be ex-Jays management and one of my favorite baseball writers (yes, Baseball Writer - ie: fuck you, BBWAA), when I wrote him asking how he felt about Tom's continued exclusion from the Hall of Fame. Law's take was that it's pretty hard for a fan of any single team to judge, due to the unfamiliarity of the work of the other candidates. I can't dispute that point, and won't try - and I'll even go so far as to ignore the consecutive games streak, the now-famous calls, his tenure with the club - everything. But here's the thing:

Tom Cheek was the voice of baseball not only for Toronto....but for an entire country. Generations of baseball fans north of the border owe their knowledge and familiarity of the game to Tom and his inimitable delivery. To once again look past his candidacy for this award is, quite simply, to ignore that fact. I've come to accept, I guess, that the awards committee will continue to play a little Alphonse & Gaston with the voting process for this honor, but that doesn't make it right.

So, tell me again why this team can't contend (next year)?
Another game, another victory against a playoff contender. Jesus - 6 in a row? Are we having fun yet?

It's almost enough to keep a guy optimistic about next season....


dave said...

Great post.

The Ack said...

thanks dave. know a variation of this type of post appears annually when the Frick award comes up - I mean, I ended up editing the picture I used because I didn't realize Tao had used the same one on a Tom Cheek post from earlier this year.....but I just wanted to say my piece on a guy who meant a great deal to me growing up.

And now I'm done and will get back to my regularly scheduled bullshit!

Brendan said...

Great post.
Tom was a huge part of baseball for me growing up, listening to the games on my way home from my own games, or outside playing, or late at night after I was supposed to be in bed. He was "the soundtrack" of my summers, so to speak.
That said, in principle, I agree with Keith Law regarding broadcasting awards(and got flamed for it earlier this year on DJF and elsewhere for saying so). Tom touched my life, and the lives of countless others with his great work. The memories of his voice and the moments it described are good enough for me.

Darren Priest said...

Regarding optimism for next year, this story makes me want to take a crowbar to Riccardi's face:

Is he being coy?

Brendan said...

A crowbar might be more than appropriate

That was my take on it.

eyebleaf said...

excellent post, I really hope each and every one of us can do our part and get Tom into the hall. he deserves it.

this team is finally playing like we knew it could. now, how we do replace the 16 wins that AJ is goin to take with him? that's the question.

The Ack said...

I'm not going to get too worked up about Ricciardi's September comments about offseason free agency.

I'm sure once the winter meetings roll around and he sees AJ opt out, McGowan no sure thing with his shoulder, a few holes offensively in the lineup, and the rest of the AL East making moves to get better, his level of urgency will rise.

That is, if he still has the job by then.

bs said...

why is everyone so concerned with replacing AJ? He really hasn't been that good this year.

Matty L. Rock said...

I've met Tom Cheek twice in my life. Once when I was 6 years old during the strike in 1994 when he was doing a signing of a little magazine-ish thing about former Jays called "Where are they now" at a local paint store. He was ridiculously nice to me and my brother, making small talk with us about baseball and kids stuff.
The second time I met him I was 12, at some press event the Jays had that was open to the public. I failed at getting a ball signed by Carlos Delgado which was all I wanted that day (he's a prick), Cheek was standing in a corner talking with Doug Ault, so I got them to sign my ball and I was happy. I still remember what he said after the both signed it, "hey you should get Carlos to sign this" and then walked me over to Delgado and got my ball signed, stopping at Buck Martinez on the way.

Tom was straight up an incredibly nice guy, a class act as well as being the voice I think of when I think of baseball. I still get goosebumps hearing "Touch 'em all Joe" and think back to being 5 years old and how happy I was the first time I heard it.

Vote for Tom, but maybe I'm a little biased.