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....