* Time for the first day of spring in Florida ... and a visit to Tom Cheek's grave to keep him updated on the past year's goings on in Blue Jays land. Photo: Eddie Michels. ....
By Bob Elliott
CLEARWATER, Fla. _ Well, Thomas I hope you have stopped spinning by now.
Thought I’d stop by Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park on Sunset Point Rd. as well as the Blue Jays workout on Monday, my first day in Florida.
Your wife, Saint Shirley Cheek, invited Jays fans to stop by, sit on your bench and talk some ball in 2006. I’ve been here almost every year since, but never once sat on your bench.
So I stand.
Sometimes out loud.
I did knock a few fallen leaves off your bench.
Am sure you dropped a few of your famous “my word!” exclamations this winter. Remember how you’d leave the booth in the top of the third for popcorn after watching your Blue Jays either walk the park or throw the ball around as if there was a snowball fight?
“My word,” ... indeed.
Rogers Communications went looking for a new president the first week of November phoning the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles looking to replace Paul Beeston, who was in his third floor office at the park.
It was a bungled attempt at pulling the rug out.
Remember Kenny Williams who played outfield a little for the Jays in 1991. Edward Rogers phoned White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf asking to interview Williams, the Sox president.
Jerry asked “for what job?”
And Rogers said “Beeston’s job,” without knowing Reinsdorf and Beeston were best buddies.
They called the Orioles about general manager Dan Duquette.
Finally, Beeston was given a one-year extension Jan. 31 but from November until January ... not a good time for your old franchise.
Some long-time employees, some of your old pals, described it as one of worst five moments in franchise history.
Let’s see there were those seven straight losses to end 1987, with three one-run losses in Detroit in 1987, the day part of the roof feel in and they got edged about 15-1 and when they came home from Minnesota 1/2 a game out in the wild-card race the second week of August and lost six straight (being outscored 54-29) in 1999.
This was more of bad time for Rogers Communications. Not the ball club.
Bob McCown was rough on Prime Time and rightly so. He had Pat Gillick on one night and Gillick “knocked Rogers for showing a total lack of respect towards Beeston.”
Beeston liked to push your buttons (mine too) asking you about if the drapes at the Grand Hyatt kept the sun out your room in New York on those early morning arrivals.
Who can forget 1988 or so -- writers were still flying charters then -- the Jays had lost in extras to the Texas Rangers, got to the gate to find out the charter was in Newark. We arrived into Manhattan in morning rush hour. Someone yelled at Ernie Whitt, who had his wife and kids on the trip: “Hey Ernie, great day to take the family on Empire State building morning tour.
You used to tell me you were not a fan of the three-man booth. When Jack Morris went back to do the Twins games, Joe Siddall took over and he was excellent. Joe meshed well with your sidekick Jerry Howarth, who looked shorter to me the last time I saw him. Jerry works as hard as ever and Mike Wilner is there too. Wilner should get danger pay for some of the questions he has answers post game. Can you get 590?
Saw your pal Pat Hentgen. Am sure you’ll run into his pop if you haven’t already. He lost his father, a real good man, also named Pat in January. You guys will have some good talks ... about his bulldog son and the glory days. The bulldog is helping scout but is under the cone of silence and won’t tell me where he’s been.
Guess you heard about your slugger Carlos Delgado going to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Remember the week he showed in Dunedin at age 16? The day in Port Charlotte when your golfing buddy Cito Gaston scrapped Delgado’s catching days for good. It worked out.
Oh, there’s one other guy.
The ceremony is June 13.
Saint Shirley told me that is your birthday (76th), so no doubt you’ll be toasted again.
Shirley mentioned she was going to touch up the bench, saying that parts of the black around “Tom” was fading.
Fear not, Thomas, your memory will never, ever, ever fade from the hearts of Blue Jays fans.