Late Cheek selected as '13 Frick Award recipient

Late Cheek selected as '13 Frick Award recipient

Late Cheek selected as '13 Frick Award recipient
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Ford C. Frick Award is going back to Canada.

Tom Cheek, the late and beloved Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster, will be honored during the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend ceremonies on July 27-28 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Cheek, who called the first 4,306 regular-season games and 41 postseason games in Blue Jays history, will receive his award posthumously on July 27 during a ceremony at Doubleday Field, the Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, who's expected to be in Cooperstown to accept the award.

"Since the inception of the Blue Jays, he played a vital role in promoting baseball in Canada in an extraordinary and enduring way," Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said. "Tom Cheek was the constant. He was a model of consistency, professionalism and excellence. He was the voice of summer, professional but passionate with a tone we could trust and embrace. Tom Cheek has provided the soundtrack for many of the important moments in this team's history, with his choice of words and intonation always perfectly suited for the occasion.

"The Blue Jays are extremely pleased and excited that Tom is being so honoured. It is a tremendous recognition for Tom and his family."

Dave Van Horne, now the voice of the Miami Marlins, spent parts of four decades broadcasting Montreal Expos games before the team left Canada for Washington in 2005, and he won the prestigious award that recognizes a meritorious career in baseball broadcasting two years ago.

"Tom Cheek was the voice of summer for generations of baseball fans in Canada and beyond," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. "He helped a nation understand the elements of the game and swoon for the summer excitement that the expansion franchise brought a hockey-crazed nation starting in the late 1970s.

"He then authored the vocal narrative of a team that evolved into one of the most consistent clubs of the 1980s and 1990s. We are thrilled to celebrate Tom's legacy with baseball broadcasting's highest honor."

Paul Hagen of MLB.com was named the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, and he will also be honored at Doubleday Field that day.

Cheek passed away on Oct. 9, 2005, as the result of a brain tumor. Earlier this year, Tim McCarver was the recipient of the annual Frick Award.

As far as the main ceremonies are concerned, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, turn-of-the-20th-century umpire Hank O'Day and 19th-century catcher Deacon White were elected to the Hall on Monday by the Pre-Integration Committee, and will be inducted on July 28 along with any electee on the ballot recently sent to eligible members of the BBWAA.

The BBWAA ballot winners will be announced on Jan. 9 by Idelson, with MLB.com simulcasting MLB Network's live coverage at 2 p.m. ET.

The BBWAA ballot includes such first-time appearances by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio, plus Jack Morris, who is on the ballot for the 14th time.

The three Veterans Committee electees are also all deceased.

Cheek emerged this year to win the Frick Award from a pool of 10 candidates, including Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, John Gordon, Bill King, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel, Eduardo Ortega, Mike Shannon and Dewayne Staats.

The pool of 10 was selected like this: three from an online vote, plus seven coming from a committee selected by the Hall.

The winner was chosen by a 21-member electorate, comprised of the 16 living Frick Award recipients and five broadcast historians/columnists, including Frick honorees McCarver, Marty Brennaman, Jerry Coleman, Gene Elston, Joe Garagiola, Jaime Jarrin, Milo Hamilton, Tony Kubek, Denny Matthews, Jon Miller, Felo Ramirez, Vin Scully, Lon Simmons, Bob Uecker, 2011 Frick Award winner Van Horne and Bob Wolff, and historians/columnists Bob Costas of NBC and MLB Network, Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News, Stan Isaacs formerly of NY Newsday and historians Ted Patterson and Curt Smith.

Frick Award voters consider a number of criteria, including longevity, continuity with a club, honors, national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games, and popularity with fans.

To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service with a ballclub, network or a combination of the two.

Cheek began his career in 1974 as a backup to Van Horne on Expos broadcasts. Two years later, at 37, he was named the radio voice of the expansion Blue Jays, who began play along with the Seattle Mariners in '77.

His most famous call will forever remain in baseball history. Cheek was at the mic for Game 6 of the 1993 World Series when Joe Carter hit only the second walk-off homer to end a Fall Classic, winning the series for the Blue Jays over the Philadelphia Phillies.

"Touch 'em all Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life," Cheek said, describing the moment and summing up that blow off Phils reliever Mitch Williams, which gave the Blue Jays consecutive World Series titles.

Cheek was right. Carter never hit a bigger homer and the Blue Jays have not been back to the playoffs since.

"It's maybe because I heard it so many times, but that really is my favorite call of all time," Shirley Cheek said. "It was so off the cuff. I think that I can say this pretty openly, Tom was just an off-the-cuff guy. Whatever came out of his mouth, came out of his mouth. Nothing was preplanned, no preplanned home run call, it was how it happened.

"He saw himself when Joe Carter was running around those bases, and it looked to Tom like a kangaroo jumping around and he was mentally telling him, Joe, don't miss a base. That was how it came out and that's how Tom did all of his calls. It was never a signature call, it was whatever the moment was. I think a lot of his calls were pretty important, but that was certainly the highlight."

Cheek broadcast every Blue Jays game from the franchise's birth on April 7, 1977, through June 2, 2004. The streak was broken when Cheek attended his father's funeral, but upon his return to the booth, he noticed a significant loss of energy and memory and was diagnosed with the tumor. On June 13, 2004, Cheek marked his 65th birthday by having surgery, but doctors could only remove a fraction of that tumor.

He died a little more than a year later.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.