Cheek falls short of Frick Award
Longtime Blue Jays broadcaster considered for fourth year
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Awards can't define what Tom Cheek meant to the Blue Jays. For the fourth year in a row, the longtime broadcaster of Toronto baseball fell short in the balloting for the annual Ford C. Frick Award.
If Cheek were alive today, the affable voice behind thousands of Blue Jays games would probably be honored to simply be among those considered for the honor. On Tuesday, Seattle broadcaster Dave Niehaus was the recipient of the 2008 Frick Award.
Presented annually since 1978 for excellence in baseball broadcasting, the Frick Award is given to an active or retired broadcaster with a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service with a ballclub, network or a combination of the two.
The Frick Award is named after the late broadcaster, National League president, Commissioner and Hall of Famer. Frick was a driving force behind the creation of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and he helped foster the relationship between radio and the game of baseball.
The list of nearly 200 broadcasters eligible for the '08 accolade was whittled down to 10 and revealed during the Winter Meetings in December. Beyond Cheek and Niehaus, finalists included Bill King, Joe Nuxhall, Dizzy Dean, Joe Morgan, Tony Kubek, Dave Van Horne, Graham McNamee and Ken Coleman.
Cheek, who passed away in the fall of 2005 after a 16-month battle with brain cancer, became Toronto's first radio voice during the club's inaugural season in '77 -- the same year Niehaus began broadcasting Mariners games. Cheek helped strengthen the relationship between Blue Jays fans and the team by broadcasting 4,306 consecutive games during one amazing stretch.
"Tom Cheek has provided the soundtrack for the most important moments in this team's history," Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey said at the time of Cheek's passing. "He was far more than just an outstanding announcer, though. He was a great goodwill ambassador for baseball in Canada."
Cheek, who called all 41 of Toronto's postseason games and both World Series wins in 1992-93, also spent time broadcasting Montreal Expos games from 1974-76. In 2004, Toronto honored Cheek by elevating him to the Level of Excellence -- the club's highest distinction.
In 2005, the Canada Sports Hall of Fame established the Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award, which recognized an individual who promotes Canadian sports in an enduring way. Fittingly, the Hall of Fame named Cheek its first recipient of the honor.
Cheek isn't the only one on the ballot with a Blue Jays connection. Kubek, who spent nearly half of his 30 years in broadcasting in Toronto, also made the short list. The final 2008 ballot included three selections by fan voting -- Nuxhall, King and Morgan -- and seven compiled by a Hall of Fame staff research team.
The 20-member Frick electorate includes 14 living recipients and six others who are either historians or columnists. Niehaus will be honored at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies on July 27 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.