Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ON THE FORD FRICK AWARD

Well, all these people in Toronto are ticked off once again because the late former Toronto Blue Jays voice Tom Cheek did not get into the baseball Hall of Fame last week. Instead, the Ford Frick Award went to Denny Matthews, the long-time voice of the Kansas City Royals.

Here's a bitter article from the Star about Cheek's defeat, blaming the Americans for ignoring Canada and showing Toronto a lack of respect, and calling on the players to wear a Tom Cheek jersey with the number "4306" on the back (the number of games in a row that ironman Cheek called.)

Okay, fine. The Star has a right to an opinion. But you know, it would do people in Toronto a lot more good if they cared enough to actually cast their votes in the online poll- and of course they didn't bother to do that. Cheek actually got nominated as a finalist for this award by all these "old cronies" and "Americans", not by the Internet voters. Those Internet folks actually cast their votes for Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson, Bill King and Joe Nuxhall. Personally, I dunno why anyone would vote for Harrelson, but that's what happened.

Besides, the committee also nominated Tony Kubek, and guess which team he did the games for in the 1980s? That's right--- your Toronto Blue Jays, paired with Don Chevrier on TV for several years. So that whole argument about a "lack of respect" by the Ford Frick voters for the fair city of Toronto is totally out the window, because two guys who did games for Toronto got nominated. So enough already.

And there's a second issue to consider as well. Explain this to me--- if Tom Cheek deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, why the heck was it so freaking hard for people living in frozen Saskatchewan to listen to him do the bleeping games on the radio? It was actually Denny Matthews who was easier to hear during the whole 1980s! I remember listening to plenty of baseball on the radio during that time and the easiest team to hear by a country mile was the Kansas City Royals. The games were on several 50,000-watt radio stations located throughout the midwest and into Colorado, even. I could tune in to AM 1100 and AM 1600, both from Colorado, and hear the Royals' strong signal in Saskatoon. (This was before the Colorado Rockies came into existence). It was so easy to hear Royals games that it was a joke. It was also really easy to hear the Twins, Cardinals and the White Sox. Even the Texas Rangers games were easy to find on WBAP 820 AM.

But fat chance was I able to hear a Blue Jays broadcast every day. Really, it was easier to hear the distant Detroit Tigers or the Cleveland Indians than it was to hear Tom Cheek on most nights! Occasionally the signal from Winkler, Manitoba would be strong enough to make its way to my radio late at night, and there were a couple of distant Saskatchewan stations near the American border that had the games only on weekends, but that was about it! S0me network this was, this "Telemedia Sports Network" that did the Blue Jays games--- although eventually they did manage to find a few stations to broadcast some games in Saskatchewan. You know, it's hard to get into the Hall of Fame if your team's broadcaster can't be heard on the radio.

You know, they'll probably complain in Toronto if Dave Niehaus ever gets in, too, and that's another situation where it was a lot easier to hear him! Seattle Mariners games are so easy to hear in western Canada that it is a joke. The games boomed into Saskatchewan on KIRO 710 and also on its network stations, so you could hear that wild and crazy Niehaus do his "that ball will fly away" routine. And now that the games are on KOMO 1000, they're easier to hear than ever! In fact the M's network even has affiliates in Canada, now! These folks in Toronto really should blame Canada for Cheek's problems getting into the Hall of Fame, because his freaking radio network was a joke outside of Ontario with all these light-bulb stations the games were on. My point is there are a lot of good baseball broadcasters out there, Toronto didn't have a monopoly on quality. Besides, look at some of the teams these other broadcasters got stuck with. It takes a lot of skill for a guy like Niehaus to make games for a bad team like the Mariners interesting, especially during the terrible 1980s when he called games from the empty Kingdome all the time. And those games STILL sounded exciting.

The fact that Tom Cheek didn't win this time doesn't show a lack of respect for Toronto or Canada. Tom Cheek was still a good broadcaster who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame one of these days. I think this bellyaching by the Toronto Star about the Ford Frick Award is just another case of the city of Toronto showing its usual lack of self-esteem again. The usual complaint in Toronto is that these Frick voters prefer people who call games in places like New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. What a pile of rubbish. If that was the criteria John Sterling ("thaaaaaa Yankees win!!!") would've gotten in the Hall of Fame this year, and "Hawk" Harrelson would have gotten in a long time ago. Fact is that guys from Houston, San Diego, Milwaukee, Minnesota and elsewhere all got in. They also put in 3 Latino broadcasters who broadcast in Spanish into the Hall, too! So folks in Toronto should quit griping about how nobody cares about Toronto, and should keep on campaigning for Cheek to get into the Hall of Fame. If they do that, then one of these days he'll be inducted, no problem--- certainly within the next decade.

Cheek's been nominated three years in a row, he's bound to be nominated next year as well if the "campaigning" keeps up. Frankly, if Denny Matthews can get in, calling the stinking-awful Kansas City Royals, then anyone can get in.

Besides, I think the fact that Cheek did the games in Canada is not a strike against him, but a point in his favor. Bringing baseball to an international audience certainly counts for something. Too bad Cheek didn't bring it to folks living in Saskatchewan who had to listen to Denny Matthews instead, but that's life.

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