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July 29, 2013

Hall honors those who covered all the bases

COOPERSTOWN — Tom Cheek marked one of the most famous home runs in World Series history with the words, "Touch 'em all Joe. You'll never hit a bigger home run in your whole life."

Almost 20 years later, the family of the former Toronto Blue Jays announcer visited Doubleday Field to witness the "pinnacle" of his career as Cheek received the Ford C. Frick Award on Saturday during the National Baseball Hall of Fame's third annual Awards Presentation.

"After seven years, the fans across Canada have not forgotten Tom," Shirley Cheek said of her late husband, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004 and died the following year. "I have heard from fans from British Columbia to Newfoundland. From the oldest Cheek, me, to the youngest, I can say: We’ve never had a bigger day in our lives and you have touched us all."

Cheek's career as the voice of Blue Jays radio broadcasts ran from 1977 — their inaugural season — until 2004 and included 4,306 regular-season games and 41 in the postseason. His biggest call came Oct. 23, 1993, when Joe Carter's three-run homer against the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the 1993 World Series championship for Toronto in Game 6.

"Some called him the iron man because of his streak," said Shirley Cheek, who accepted the Frick award while their three children and seven grandchildren watched.

The Cheeks were among a crowd of roughly 700 fans who turned out for the Awards Presentation, which also drew 30 Hall of Famers to recognize the careers of Cheek and J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Paul Hagen.

Hagen, who works for mlb.com, spent nearly 25 of his 40 years as a newspaper writer with the Philadelphia Daily News. Hagen covered the Phillies from 1987 to 2002 and spent another nine years at the News as the paper’s baseball writer. He covered the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers earlier in his career.

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