In a stunning bit of news on Tuesday morning, Jerry Howarth, who has narrated 36 seasons of Toronto Blue Jays baseball on the radio, announced that he’s retiring from the broadcast booth. Summer will never sound the same.
“I had every intention of continuing my career into the 2018 season but my health and stamina and continuing voice issues dictated otherwise,” Howarth explained in a release from Sportsnet.
“In 2012, Howarth was honoured by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame with the Jack Graney Award for lifetime contributions to baseball in Canada,” the release goes on to explain. “He was also awarded the Sports Media Canada award for achievement in broadcasting both in 2003, with then broadcast partner Tom Cheek, and again individually in 2016.”
From 1981 to 2004, Jerry called games with the late Tom Cheek, now a member of the Hall of Fame as the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award, taking over as the lead voice on Blue Jays radio broadcasts after Cheek’s own retirement due to illness. At least one of the pair has been calling Jays games since the team’s inception in 1977. It’s difficult to imagine what it’s going to be like listening to games without that incredible link to the past, and that familiar, unmistakable voice.
Radio is really the perfect medium for baseball. The languid pace, the ever-present atmosphere of the stadium in the background, the crackling radio in a suburban kitchen, on a cottage dock, in a car driving down a dark backwoods road. There’s something much more communal to it — much more spiritual — than there is to passively being blasted by TV images. We’re forced to be active in our minds, to visualize the action, taking our cues from the booming Voice of God coming through our speakers — or, sometimes, a honeyed, almost nasally voice, with a folksy charm, measuring out emotion in precise dollops.
I don’t want to get too maudlin, or show my age too much here, but damn. From listening to the stretch drive and playoffs of 1993 in Mr. White’s classroom, to falling back in love with the game listening to radio broadcasts when I was broke, out of university, and had no TV, to shilling hard in the early days of Drunk Jays Fans for the SportSync radio (which allowed fans to delay their radio broadcast signal to sync it with the TV broadcast), Jerry has been an enormous part of my own baseball fandom — and I know that an incredible number of Jays fans can say that too. He’s been part of the backdrop of so many of our lives, and the value of that really can’t be overstated. Even if, in recent years, his takes and drum-beatings have, for my taste, occasionally veered toward off-putting, problematic, or cringeworthy. (Though his refusal to use the nicknames of the Cleveland and Atlanta franchises was pretty effing awesome.)
The tributes to Jerry are now pouring in, as they should be. Stephen Brunt has an outstanding piece up at Sportsnet — it’s almost like he knew this was coming! — and there has been some other great Jerry content out there as well:
When I was @Sportsnet we had Jerry dig out some of his most memorable Jays scorecards (he scored every game) and annotate them for us. Enjoy! #ThankYouJerry
Gruber's cycle: https://t.co/m8xarqcvQe
Bat Flip: https://t.co/DdbnW463N7
His first game: https://t.co/YCwwsNYT7R
— JordanHeath-Rawlings (@TheGameSheet) February 13, 2018
Oh, and Nolan Ryan's no hitter: https://t.co/ApLlb0LLd1— JordanHeath-Rawlings (@TheGameSheet) February 13, 2018
— Guzman’s Jhericurl (@GuzmansJhercurl) February 13, 2018
Thanks, Jerry. And congratulations on an incredible career.