With voting for the Ford C. Frick Award in full swing it seems like an opportune time to review some of the best Toronto Blue Jays announcers from the past and the present.
Over the years there have been a few different voice behind the mike on Blue Jays radio broadcasts and a number of different voices calling the games on television. Whether you consider an announcer good, great, or even awful can be a very subjective thing. Maybe you can’t stand a certain announcer’s voice or the way they call a home run. Maybe you hate announcers who mispronounce player’s names. Or, maybe you actually enjoy those kinds of blunders.
Topping my list on rating an announcer is “do they make the game enjoyable to watch or listen to?” You want an announcer to draw you into the game and not turn you off of it. Telling great stories and painting a great picture of what’s happening can be a key part of that at times. You also want an announcer who knows what he’s talking about and gets things right whether he’s calling the game or making color commentary.
For the list I’ve gone through all announcers in Blue Jays history, from TV and radio, play-by-play and color commentators. There’s no separate list and you’ll find them all here. However, since I haven’t been around as long as the Jays there are a few names I can’t include because I never heard them. For example, Early Wynn did Jays radio from 1977-1980, but since I was born in 1981 I never heard a game he did. Unfortunately no matter how good Wynn might have been he won’t appear on the list.
Don’t agree with the list? Think someone else deserves a spot or should be higher up? That’s fine. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Here we go…
10. Tommy Hutton
Tommy Hutton was a color man for Blue Jays television broadcasts for six years from 1990-1996. He also played with the Jays for one season in 1978. He worked mainly on CTV during his time with the Blue Jays delivering well balanced commentary and insight that has been lost on a lot of younger, recent analysts.
Even if you didn’t get to hear him providing commentary for Blue Jays games the name may be familiar. He’s currently the color commentator for Miami Marlins broadcasts on FSN Florida.
9. Jamie Campbell
Jamie Campbell called Blue Jays games on Rogers SportsNet from 2005-2009. He currently hosts the Blue Jays pregame show on SportsNet along with Gregg Zaun.
Campbell’s upbeat, energetic style in the booth was sometimes refreshing and sometimes annoying depending how far he took it. His home run call “You can kiss that one good-bye” was a reminder of Fergie Olver’s home run call when he was the Blue Jays announcer in the 1980s.
8. John Cerutti
John Cerutti was the color commentator for CBC and SportsNet from 1997-2004. He was also a starting pitcher for the Blue Jays from 1985-1990.
I was a fan of Cerutti’s broadcasting style growing up. He always seemed to be insightful and was pleasant to listen to in the booth. Cerutti might be higher on this list and might be more memorable with the fans if his broadcasting career wasn’t tragically cut short. Cerutti was scheduled to work the final Blue Jays game of the 2004 season, but never showed up for the game. Cerutti was eventually found dead in his hotel room, having died of natural causes from a heart arrhythmia at the age of 44.
Later that year the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of American awarded Cerutti their annual Good Guy Award and renamed the award after him.
7. Alan Ashby
Alan Ashby joined the Blue Jays Radio crew to start the 2007 season. He’s remains the color man and secondary play-by-play announcer and also has filled in on SportsNet TV broadcasts on occasion.
Ashby’s Major League career behind the plate stretched from 1973-1989 and included a stop in Toronto in 1977 and 1978. He did not start on opening day 1977, but did end up catching the majority of the games that season.
Since joining the radio broadcast Ashby has been a solid compliment to Jerry Howarth. His analysis is usually solid and he’s gotten better over the years at calling a good game for a radio audience. He’s also a refreshing change on the TV broadcast on the rare occasions when he spells Pat Tabler.
6. Buck Martinez
Buck Martinez has enjoyed two different stints in two different roles as a Blue Jays announcer.
Martinez played with the Blue Jays from 1981-1986 as the backup catcher. Upon retiring after the 1986 season he made the transition to full time announcer. He previously had a radio show and wrote a couple books on the Jays 1985 and 1986 seasons while still a player.
In 1987 he began as a color analyst on the radio which led to a lengthy stint on TSN. He was first teamed with play-by-play announcer Fergie Olver. In 1990 Olver was replaced by Jim Hughson and he and Martinez made a solid pairing for the next four seasons. Not only did Martinez and Hughson do games on TSN but they were also the announcing duo chosen by EA Sports for their Triple Play Baseball video game series.
Hughson left TSN before the 1995 season and Martinez was then paired with Dan Shulman. It was Martinez’s departure that would conclude that partnership. Martinez vacated the broadcast booth in 2001 to become the new Blue Jays manager. He was fired near the end of the 2002 season.
After his short tenure as manager Buck returned to the broadcast booth with the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 and stayed with the Orioles for the next six years. He co-hosted an XM Satellite Radio Baseball show from 2005-2099 and also worked on TBS during the postseason.
Martinez returned to the booth in Toronto in 2010 but in a different role. In his previous broadcasting turn with the Blue Jays Martinez was the color man, but when he came back in 2010 he took over the play-by-play duties. He remains the play-by-play man on SportsNet to this day.
I prefer Martinez as a color commentator, and judging by many posts on Twitter regarding his more recent work I don’t think I’m alone. Buck’s play-by-play duties have led to a number of interesting pronunciations of player’s names and also led to the always fun Buck Blunders on Twitter.
5. Jim Hughson
Jim Hughson has called Blue Jays game for two different networks.
He began calling Blue Jays games as the play-by-play man with TSN in 1990. Teamed with Buck Martinez, Hughson called more games than any other TV announcer during the early nineties. In fact, he was at the mike when the Blue Jays clinched the AL East in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Whenever you see the final out to clinch one of those division titles you’ll likely hear Hughson making the call.
Hughson’s last season calling games for TSN was in 1994. He returned to the baseball booth more than a decade later. After leaving TSN Hughson did mostly hockey broadcasts with SportsNet at first and then with CBC on Hockey Night in Canada. Hughson was with CBC when they began broadcasting Blue Jays games in 2007. Hughson took over those broadcasts and also did games in 2008.
Hughson has always been one of my favorite baseball announcers even though he never calls baseball games anymore. Growing up watching the Blue Jays in the 90′s I associated Hughson with baseball more than hockey and would actually prefer him to do Blue Jays games over hockey. Since CBC will likely never broadcast Blue Jays games again we’ll probably never get the chance to hear Hughson call another baseball game.
4. Jerry Howarth
Jerry Howarth first joined the Blue Jays radio broadcast part-time in the 1981 season. He became the new full-time play-by-play partner alongside mainstay Tom Cheek in 1982.
Howarth was teamed with Cheek for the next 23 years, calling five AL East championship teams and both World Series winners. The partnership came to a sad end partway through the 2005 season when Cheek’s fading health forced him to retire. Howarth acted as sole play-by-play man for the remainder of the season and throughout 2006. In 2007 Howarth returned to sharing the play-by-play duties when Alan Ashby joined the radio broadcast. Howarth remains the lead announcer though.
When it comes to Jerry Howarth I’ve found you either really enjoy his work or you wholly dislike it. I’ve yet to find anyone who’s in between. The toughest thing Howarth had to get past when he officially became the No. 1 radio voice of the Blue Jays was replacing Tom Cheek. That’s impossible of course, but Jerry’s always had his own voice and Blue Jays fans should be glad to have him as long he decides to stick around.
There she goes!
3. Don Chevrier
If you didn’t watch the Blue Jays on TV in the 80s and 90s you may not know who Don Chevrier is.
Chevrier was the original television voice for the Blue Jays beginning in 1977. He would be behind the mike for Blue Jays telecasts in some capacity for the next two decades.
I remember Chevrier the most for calling game on CTV in the 80′s and 90′s. He’d be on every Wednesday night and also on the weekend paired with Tommy Hutton. When he debuted on CBC in 1977 Chevrier shared the broadcast booth with Tony Kubek..
Chevrier just had “the voice” for sports broadcasting. Even if you don’t remember or never saw him on a Blue Jays broadcast it’s possible you saw him work on a one of a number of other sports broadcasts. Chevrier also worked on CFL games on CTV, the 1991 Canada Cup, and he was the voice of Ottawa Senators for a number of season on the local Ottawa network. During his long career Chevrier also covered the Olympic Game on numerous occasions, including most recently the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Olympics for NBC.
The 2006 Olympic would unfortunately be Chevrier’s last. He was expected to work for NBA again in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, but passed away on December 17, 2007 at the age of 69 due to an undisclosed blood disorder.
2. Dan Shulman
Dan Shulman took over the play-by-play duties for Blue Jays games on TSN in 1995 after the departure of Jim Hughson. He was paired with Buck Martinez for a few years until Buck took over as Toronto manager and Shulman shared the booth with Pat Tabler.
During his time with TSN Shulman began working for ESPN as well from time to time. In 2001 he left TSN and began working for ESPN full time. Obviously this is when he ended his time as announcer for Blue Jay games. He’s currently the man behind the mike for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and also has worked college basketball and NBA games for the network.
In my opinion Shulman is the best TV announcer the Blue Jays have ever had. He did and continues to do everything right in his baseball broadcasts. Not only does Shulman have a great announcing voice, he knows the game and keeps you entertained and engrossed throughout nine innings. Shulman also works well with whoever he’s been paired with in the booth. He left a gaping hole in Blue Jays TV when he left TSN that still hasn’t been adequately filled more than a decade later.
1. Tom Cheek
Could there really be anyone else on top of this list?
The original radio voice of the Blue Jays, Tom Cheek was behind the mike for nearly the first 30 years of Blue Jays baseball.
Cheek called the Blue Jays first game on opening day 1977 and called every game until June 3, 2004 when he took two games off after the death of his father. That was a streak of 4,306 consecutive regular season games. He also called 41 postseason games during that time. Cheek was originally paired with Early Wynn in the broadcast booth and teamed up with Jerry Howarth starting 1981.
Cheek called a number of memorable Blue Jays moments through the years, but he most remember for his call of Joe Carter World Series winning home run in 1993. “Touch’em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in you life!” is likely the first thing most fans remember when they think of Tom Cheek.
Unfortunately Cheek’s time in the booth came to an end too early. During the 2004 season Cheek was forced to take more time off following surgery to remove a brain tumor. He returned to the booth from time to time after the surgery, but continued to take time off while undergoing chemotherapy. The cancer returned in 2005 keeping Cheek from returning to the broadcast that season. On October 9, 2005 Cheek passed away at the age of 66.
Before his untimely death he was inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence on August 29, 2004. The number 4,306 appears next to his name to commemorate his lengthy consecutive games streak.
Now, go vote for Tom.
Other Blue Jays Announcers Through the Years: