Cheek falls short of winning Frick Award

Cheek falls short of winning Frick Award

If Tom Cheek were here today, he'd probably say he was just honored to be considered.

Cheek, the longtime Toronto broadcaster who passed away last fall at age 66 after a 16-month battle with brain cancer, was one of the 10 finalists chosen out of a field of 180 eligible candidates for the Ford C. Frick Award. He fell short of winning the honor for the second straight year when broadcaster Gene Elston was given the prestigious award Tuesday.

Elston will be honored on July 28-31 during the 2006 Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. Other finalists included: Bill King, Ken Coleman, Dizzy Dean, Denny Matthews, Jacques Doucet, Graham McNamee, Dave Niehaus and Tony Kubek, who spent about half of his broadcasting days in Toronto.

Voters were asked to consider such things as longevity, honors, national assignments and popularity when casting their ballots. This year's voting process marked the third time fans had the chance to contribute to the final ballot. The Hall of Fame's board of directors added that aspect of the balloting in 2003.

The Ford C. Frick award has been given annually since 1978 to an active or retired broadcaster with at least 10 years of continuous Major League coverage.

Cheek was the voice for the Blue Jays from their inaugural season in 1977 through midway 2004, when he had to step away from the booth with health issues. The play-by-play man called 4,306 consecutive games, a streak than ran from April 1, 1977 to June 3, 2004. Cheek was diagnosed with brain cancer, and surgery and rehabilitation that followed kept him away from the game.

Cheek was awarded the team's highest honor in 2004, when the Blue Jays elevated the broadcaster to the Level of Excellence. The Canada Sports Hall of Fame also established the Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual who promotes Canadian sports in an enduring way, and made Cheek the first recipient.

The call that fans most remember Cheek for was his response to Joe Carter hitting the title-clinching home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series against the Phillies. As Carter rounded the bases, Cheek said, "Touch 'em all, Joe. You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.