A Canadian legend has hung up his microphone, saying goodbye to his adopted home in downtown Toronto. We the fans, say farewell to Jerry Howarth, one of the greatest of his time.
It was a privilege listening to Howarth throughout my childhood. His welcoming voice, storytelling, and precise description of the game allowed fans to feel as if they were sitting in the ballpark.
Jerry commented on his departure telling Sportsnet.ca, “I had every intention of continuing my career into the 2018 season, but my health and stamina and continuing voice issues dictated otherwise.” He spent 36 years in the broadcast booth and made a significant impact.
For a lot of Blue Jays fans, they experienced the ultimate broadcast booth combination of Tom Cheek and Howarth, and before Howarth, Early Wynn. I had the great honor of growing up with Alan Ashby and Jerry Howarth. For me, that was the ultimate combination.
As I reminisce about Jerry’s career, I remember specific moments in my childhood that are special to me. Like telling my parents “If I don’t go to bed with the radio on, I won’t be able to sleep,” which of course was not the truth. I’d lie down next to the radio, placing the speaker as close to my ear as possible, having a picture perfect idea of what was going on the field. If a Blue Jays player hit a home run, I would run into the hallway and celebrate with my father. My dad would meet me in the hall on his way to tell me Aaron Hill tied the game, but I already knew what happened because of Jerry. I knew Hill hit a 3-run shot off Jeremy Guthrie and those memories I will always cherish. Jerry created them.
Jerry’s storytelling was something special. He relayed his story through many interruptions (pitches), but it seemed as though he always completed the story. His stories typically ended with a phrase like, “And that’s Baseball for you” or “How about that.” When an opposing batter struck out, he’d say “Swing and a miss he struck him out,” a saying I later developed because of him. But when I think of Jerry, I’m first reminded of that beautiful home run call, “Yes sir there she goes.” That’s the quote which will be written on his Hall of Fame Plaque one day.
When his longtime broadcast partner, Ashby left Toronto to do play-by-play in Houston for the 2013 season, Jack Morris replaced him. Morris lasted only one season, and once he went, a new man replaced him, Joe Siddall. Joe’s son Kevin passed away in early February of 2014. A week later, Jerry reached out to the ex-Montreal Expos Catcher and offered him a job as the color commentator. A great act of kindness for a father experiencing the worst possible scenario. But that’s Jerry for you, a caring, kindhearted man.
I remember how happy I was for Howarth when the Blue Jays clinched the playoffs in 2015, the first time since 1993. As I watched LaTroy Hawkins strike out Ryan Flaherty, I had the volume off on the TV, and I listened to Jerry’s call on the radio. It was an extra special day for me, hearing the genuine excitement in his voice. A man who deserved to experience another Blue Jays postseason berth more than anyone else.
Jerry is Toronto Blue Jays baseball. He was there for the good times and for the bad. He’s been here since the Bobby Cox years up until John Gibbons’ second go around. He had a perfect seat for both MVP seasons, George Bell’s in 1987 and Josh Donaldson’s in 2015.
He called every Blue Jays playoff berth, 1985,’89,’91,’92,’93’15 and the latest in 2016. And who can forget, the bat flip game in the 2015 ALDS, Jerry’s call was just perfect, the relief felt by the fans was exemplified in his tone.
No one will every fill Jerry’s shoes as he did of Cheek’s. He’s the last of his time, as a new era of broadcasters continue to make their way into the game. I’ll always remember how he refused to say the word “Indians” when the Blue Jays and Cleveland faced off in the 2016 ALCS; he’s truly one of the classiest people in baseball.
It was a great pleasure growing up with you, Jerry. One day I’ll be saying “Yes Sir There He Goes into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”