The Obit For Tom Cheek

Brain cancer takes Cheek, who called every Jays game until '04

Oct. 9, 2005


Copyright 2004-2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

TORONTO -- Tom Cheek, who called every game in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays until last year, died Sunday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 66.

Cheek, who died at his home in Oldsmar, Fla., was best known for his streak, which ended at 27½ seasons on June 3, 2004, because of his father's death.

He called 4,306 consecutive regular-season games, plus 41 more in the postseason, since the Blue Jays began playing in 1977.

"It's difficult to put into words the overwhelming sense of grief and loss shared today by the Blue Jays family, the city of Toronto, the extended community of Major League Baseball and its many fans," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said in a statement.

"Tom Cheek has provided the soundtrack for the most important moments in this team's history, with his choice of words and intonation always perfectly suited for the occasion.

"He was far more than just an outstanding announcer though. He was a great goodwill ambassador for baseball in Canada. His love for the game, which radiated through his words on the radio, captivated fans across this country and helped to grow the sport from one coast to the other."

Shortly after his father's death, Cheek was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had partially successful surgery to remove it last June 13, 2004, his 65th birthday. He underwent chemotherapy afterward and returned to call some games, while fighting short-term memory loss.

On Aug. 29, 2004, Cheek was honored by the Blue Jays with his induction into the Level of Excellence, the club's highest award for individual achievement. Cheek became just the seventh inductee and only the second member of non-uniformed personnel so honored.

In this past year, Cheek was named as one of ten finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, recognizing baseball broadcasting excellence and carrying with it induction into the Hall of Fame.

Cheek was in good spirits this spring and was to be back in the booth in 2005 until a second round of cancer hit him in the spring.

A straight-shooter who was friendly, charming and sincere in person, Cheek was the same on the radio, avoiding gimmicks and catchphrases.

His knack for capturing the moment was best demonstrated by his call on Joe Carter's 1993 World Series winning home run -- "Touch 'em all Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life."

That became his calling card.

Cheek, who was born June 13, 1939, in Pensacola, Fla., is survived by his wife, Shirley, their three children and seven grandchildren.