An outpouring of emotion from the Jays blogging community concerning Tom Cheek’s having been passed over for the Ford C. Frick Award in favour of
What comes most immediately to mind is those years when the Blue Jays were
It was still a radio age, in a sense. AM stations from coast to coast picked up Jays broadcasts, and
But back to that period – I’d put it between ’89 and the strike in ’94 – when the Blue Jays were the thing a whole country could get behind. I watched World Series games with friends who never gave a damn about baseball, and I saw the genuine excitement on their faces. I remember walking the streets of my suburban childhood neighbourhood after game 6 in
But that was then. Athletes aren’t heroes anymore, not the way they used to be. They breed suspicion and doubt, not hope and inspiration. Teams are cash cows, owners are corrupt, and we seem to have accepted the role of sport as entertainment, not as grand expression of civic or national aspiration. Canadians are more and more ambivalent toward baseball now, maybe because of labour strife, maybe because of steroids, maybe because we’ve been told ad infinitum that hockey is our game, maybe for some other reason. The Expos are long gone, the last AAA team just left town, and Jays tickets are easy to get. As a baseball fan, it’s all a little hard to take, but just the sound of Tom Cheek’s voice brings me right back to that other time, when it mattered here. It won’t be that way again here, no matter how successful the Blue Jays are; that uniformity of opinion is a thing of that past, of a time embodied for me by the voice of Tom Cheek.
I think Tom Cheek belongs in the Hall of Fame for all the right reasons – longevity, the quality of his work, his connection to the fans – but in the end it won’t matter if he’s enshrined or not, because he’s permanently etched into my mind and the minds of millions of Canadians, and he always will be. Baseball, maybe more than any other game, is a game of memory. Cheek's voice charges right to all those incredible memories, it disarms me and makes me a kid again. That’s a gift that doesn’t require institutional recognition, just a hell of a lot of gratitude.