"Touch 'em all, Joe!"
It's the line that made Tom Cheek famous in Canada to many, many baseball fans. Most Americans never heard it. Otherwise, Tom would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame today, having given what would surely have been an emotional and funny acceptance speech in Cooperstown. He would have wondered if skipping a Toronto Blue Jays game that day was right, given his attendance record.
Tom Cheek showed up for work. Every day. 4,306 games in a row. And a bunch more post-season games. And he worked in what "I" would call his off-season, what he would call his summer job. His summer love. And there wasn't a day that the voice of the Blue Jays, of baseball in Canada, wouldn't end up talking about a game he loved to anybody who'd draw up a chair and listen. Whether it was on the radio or in a hotel lobby, Tom Cheek loved talking baseball.
Passion is always interesting. Passion with a sense of humour and without much of an ego is a delicate treasure. Tom Cheek was anything by delicate, being a tall, imposing figure. But he had passion. He had a sense of humour and he could listen as well as talk. He was that rarity amongst folks these days, a universally loved man.
Tom Cheek passed away yesterday from brain cancer. I heard the knews while driving to a birthday thing for my sister-in-law. It made it tough to laugh and joke around when I got there. Still, I knew that the ending was in many ways a blessing. However, there is a void today.
Tom, you touched us all. Rest in Peace.