Now lobbying can begin for Howarth
* Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth on the cell phone as always is a candidate to win the Ford C. Frick award down the road. Photo: Jay Stenhouse Studios ….
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RationaL: A Swing and a Belt
By Bob Elliott
COOPERSTOWN _ Having worked 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays regular season games in all, a handful of home games after his surgery, 41 post-season games, countless spring games and working as a back-up announcer for the Montreal Expos in 1974-76, Tom Cheek was seldom surprised.
He was on the night of Oct. 24, 1992.
Jays broadcasts were set so that Cheek worked five innings — the first and second, fifth and sixth, plus the ninth — while Jerry Howarth called four innings — the third and fourth, seventh and eighth.
Cheek would work the 10th as the game went into to extras and they would alternate. (“Tom up to call if for you in the 15th,” we’ve heard Howarth say.)
Except for Game 6 of the World Series at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the Jays announcers went out of order.
Howarth called the top of the 11th as Dave Winfield hit a two-run double.
After the commercial break the radio audience heard Howarth turn the mike over to Cheek, a day-one employee, in the bottom half, to call what Howarth hoped would be the Jays first-ever Series.
“Tom was very surprised by that wonderful gesture by Jerry,” said Shirley.
The bottom of the 11th was not without dramatics: Jeff Blauser singled against Jimmy Key and Damon Berryhill reached on an error by shortstop Alfredo Griffin. After a bunt, Brian Hunter cut the lead to one run by bouncing out.
Now, two out and pinch runner John Smoltz on third. Manager Cito Gaston came to visit Key, who told him frankly he had never had much luck against Braves’ lead-off hitter Otis Nixon. Gaston went to Mike Timlin, without a save all season.
And listeners heard Cheek say on the 0-1 pitch:
“Timlin to the belt … Pitch on the way … There’s a bunted ball, first base side … Timlin to Carter and the Blue Jays win it! The Blue Jays win it! The Blue Jays are World Series Champions!”
Howarth’s relay to Cheek had been as successful as TImlin’s toss to Carter.
“Jerry calls me on Tom’s birthday and the anniversary of Tom’s passing each year,” said Shirley. “Jerry’s wife Mary e-mails often and we all go for breakfast during spring training.”
Howarth, who now has called roughly 5,100 games, passing Cheek a few years ago in total games called, will be here to see Shirley accepted the Ford C. Frick award.
Now, the Rogers machine can get behind Howarth’s candidacy this fall for next year’s award.