Vollick drove to Cooperstown to say thanks

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By Bob Elliott

COOPERSTOWN _ Chris Vollick wasn’t much of a ball fan.

Sure, he had watched the Blue Jays face the Kansas City Royals in the 1985 American League Championship Series, but that was about it.

Then, in the summer of 1989 he had his wisdom teeth pulled, his mouth was swollen and there wasn’t much to do, so ... the teenager tuned in to the Jays.

“It was Mauro Gozzo’s debut,” said Vollick from Hamilton of the Jays 7-0 win over the Texas Rangers on Aug. 8.

Later that season he’d go to games at the spanking new SkyDome, listening to his Walk man hoping to learn about more about the game from Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth.

One afternoon he wrote a Cheek a letter, asking the announcer to suggest books he could read to learn more. A few days later his mother called “phone for you.”

It was Cheek. The two talked for 10 minutes and he suggested books and they talked some ball like old pals. Later his mother asked who it was. When Vollick answered she said “thought I recognized the voice.”

How much can radio or a phone call touch someone?

Vollick got into his car Friday evening to make the six-hour drive to Cooperstown solo to hear Shirley Cheek accept the Ford C. Frick award Cheek won.

“Tom’s kindness led me to making the trip,” said Vollick, now 42. “I lost my mom to cancer this year. Having lost a parent like the Cheek children, the idea sort of snowballed.

“I’m sure some of what Shirley says will hit awfully close to home for me.”

He’s looking forward to seeing ex-Jays Paul Molitor, Robbie Alomar and Pat Gillick, along with Brooks Robinson and Orlando Cepeda, whom he met at the Fanfest when the 1991 all-star game was held in Toronto.

“The best Jays announcing combinations were Tom and Jerry on the radio, Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez on TV.”

Vollick said when he would visit his sister in Bobcaygeon, he’d drive home Sunday nights.

“My sister would ask why didn’t I leave earlier, asking ‘is there not more traffic when you leave at night?’” Vollick said. “I told her traffic might be worse, but I get to listen to Dan Shulman do the ESPN Sunday night game.”

So there you have it, from a man touched by one phone call from Cheek to drive all the way to Cooperstown alone: Shulman was to blame for the Sunday traffic into Toronto during his radio days.