Tag Archive | "Montreal Expos"

Meet Tom Cheek – The 2013 Ford Frick Award Winner

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Meet Tom Cheek – The 2013 Ford Frick Award Winner

Posted on 27 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

Tom Cheek called the first 4,306 regular-season and 41 postseason games in Toronto Blue Jays history. He helped ignite a love affair between a Canadian city and America’s National Pastime. It was that body of work that helped Cheek to be selected as the 2013 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

TomCheek

Cheek, who passed away on Oct. 9, 2005, will be honored as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2013 July 26-29 in Cooperstown, New York. Cheek becomes the second Frick Award winner whose career came primarily with a Canadian team, following Dave Van Horne’s selection as the Frick Award winner in 2011. Van Horne spent parts of four decades broadcasting Montreal Expos games.

“Tom Cheek was the voice of summer for generations of baseball fans in Canada and beyond,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson in the Frick press release. “He helped a nation understand the elements of the game and swoon for the summer excitement that the expansion franchise brought a hockey-crazed nation starting in the late 1970s. He then authored the vocal narrative of a team that evolved into one of the most consistent clubs of the 1980s and 1990s. We are thrilled to celebrate Tom’s legacy with baseball broadcasting’s highest honor.”

Born June 13, 1939, one day after the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors in Cooperstown, in Pensacola, Florida, Cheek was raised in a Navy family and joined the armed forces himself in 1957. He served in the Air Force until discharged in 1960. Cheek’s father, also named Tom, was a World War II hero who served as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Midway in 1942.

After continuing his education at SUNY Plattsburgh and the Cambridge School of Broadcasting in Boston, Cheek worked as a disc jockey in Plattsburgh, New York. He was a sports director for a group of three stations in Burlington, Vermont. He called University of Vermont sports for several years.

In 1974, Cheek began work as a backup announcer to Van Horne on Expos broadcasts. Then in 1976 at the age of 37, he landed the job as the radio voice of the expansion Blue Jays. Paired first with Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn and later with Jerry Howarth starting in 1981, Cheek’s passionate and lighthearted approach to his job dazzled fans eager to embrace Toronto’s new role as an American League outpost.

His call of Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1993 Fall Classic – “Touch ’em all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” – quickly became embedded in the sports conscious of Blue Jays fans around the globe.

Cheek called every regular season and postseason Blue Jays game from the franchise’s birth on April 7, 1977 through June 2, 2004. A little more than a year later, Cheek passed away on Oct. 9, 2005. Cheek was inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2005. That same year, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame established the Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award, with Cheek being honored with the first award.

Cheek will be honored at the Hall of Fame’s Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 27 in Cooperstown, along with 2013 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Paul Hagen. Cheek was chosen from a list of 10 finalists selected in October, featuring three fan selections from an online vote and seven broadcasters chosen by a research committee from the Cooperstown-based museum. The final ballot contained a mix of pioneers and current-day broadcasters: Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, John Gordon, Bill King, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel, Eduardo Ortega, Mike Shannon, Dewayne Staats and Cheek. Doucet, Gordon, Nadel, Ortega, Shannon and Staats were the living candidates. In September and October, a total of 34,283 votes were cast in the Museum’s online fan poll for inclusion on the final 10-name ballot, with Cheek, King and Doucet as the top three fan poll selections.

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Interview with Kent Bottenfield

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Interview with Kent Bottenfield

Posted on 13 April 2012 by Tim Danielson

This interview was originally published on The Bench and has been edited for content here at Full Spectrum Baseball.

Kent Bottenfield – former MLB pitcher

Kent Bottenfield played for nine years in the majors.  He broke in with he Montreal Expos in 199 and finished with the Houston Astros in 2001.  He best season came in 1999 in his second year with the Cardinals.  Kent finished that year with a career high 18 wins, 124 strike outs and an All-Star game appearance.  After retiring from Major League Baseball, Kent became a Christian Music recording artist and has released two CDs.  In addition to he performing, Kent also travels the country speaking at various events.

Click here to read his career statistics.

Tim Danielson, Full Spectrum Bsaeball.com: Did you play other sports in High School or College?

Kent Bottenfield:  I played Baseball, Basketball and Football in High School.

FSB.com:  At what point or how did you know that pro baseball was the right sport for you?

KBottenfield:  I was fortunate to have scholarship offers for all three sports but when it came down to it there was nothing like being on the mound for me. It was the greatest passion I’d had as a kid and it didn’t change when it came time to make a decision.

FSB.com:  If not a pro baseball player, what would you have been and why?

KBottenfield:  Football would have been my best opportunity next to baseball.  I was a 6’3″ 250lbs as a senior with good hands and good speed. I was a tight end and defensive end and would have loved to play either in college. I loved to lift and train so the football type regimen would have fit me well. Couldn’t exactly work out the same way as a pitcher
though.

FSB.com: What was your reaction the first time you saw yourself on a baseball card?

KBottenfield: It’s really a feeling of disbelief. I knew baseball cards to hold the pictures of heroes. I never felt that way about myself so it was quite a shock.

FSB.com: What is your most memorable or best pro baseball moment?

KBottenfield: My most memorable baseball moment would have to of been the 1999 all-star game. Most every kid dreams of playing in a world series or an all-star game. I never got to the series but the all-star game was beyond description. I got to be a part of the best of the best for a short time.

FSB.com: What was the one pitch you would like to have back? (least memorable moment)

KBotenfield: My first start after the all-star break was against the White Sox. I had two outs in the 5th inning (I believe) with a 4-0 lead and going for win number 15. The pitcher James Baldwin comes to the plate and hits a two strike triple down the right field line. The inning ended with me giving up five runs including a grand slam to Magglio Ordonez. There were a lot of pitches I’d of liked to have had back from that inning but the one to Baldwin started it.

FSB.com: What has been the best thing about playing for many different pro teams?

KBottenfield: I got to understand the rich history of many different cities and towns. Learn about the baseball moments that meant the most to those particular fans as a community.

FSB.com: What has the least desirable thing about playing for so many different pro teams?

KBottenfield: No doubt it’s the amount of moving. Your family having to leave good friends and make new ones in a short amount of time.

FSB.com: Was there any significance to your Jersey #?

KBottenfield: No significance to any of my numbers.

FSB.com: If you could play any other position besides pitcher, what would it be and why?

KBottenfield: I would love to play shortstop. The amount of action that takes place at that position is unbeatable.

FSB.com: Who was/is your most memorable “character” team mate and why?

KBottenfield: No doubt about it, Turk Wendell. His antics on the field could drive you nuts but he was probably my best friend on the Cubs. He was nothing off the field like he was on. He certainly had a lot of superstitions when it came to the game but away from it he was pretty much like anyone else.

FSB.com: Do you currently have anything you are doing with Major League Baseball?

KBottenfield: I am not involved with MLB at the moment. I do get asked to consult or scout from time to time.

FSB.com: Do you collect baseball cards or memorabilia? If so what?

KBottenfield: I have a collection of items I have from what I have deemed the best of the best. I certainly wouldn’t crack that lineup myself. It includes Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Unitas, Emmit Smith, Jeff Gordon, and countless baseball players.

FSB.com: In your career who was the toughest batter you had to face?

KBottenfield: Mike Piazza.

FSB.com: Was there a batter who you” had his number” so to speak?

KBottenfield: Rickey Henderson and Reggie Sanders would be the first two that  come to mind.

FSB.com: In today’s game what pitcher do you feel is most like you in regards to style and how they pitch?

KBottenfield: I would say up until recently Jeff Suppan. He looks to have lost a little arm strength but he has survived for years on decent stuff and solid game plans.

FSB.com: How fast was your fastball?

KBottenfield: As a reliever for the Cubs it reached speeds of 96 mph. As a starter most of my career though it was 89-92.

FSB.com: What was your favorite baseball stadium to play in?  Why?

KBottenfield: I loved Wrigley and Fenway. I am an old school guy at heart and you just couldn’t beat the history of those parks. Dodger stadium doesn’t lag too far behind.

FSB.com: Who was the best player you played with and against?

KBottenfiled: The best all around player I ever played with was Larry Walker. Jeff Bagwell ranks up there also. They are two of the smartest players I’ve ever seen to go along with ridiculous talent. A lot of people might disagree with me but those people didn’t get the opportunity to see them play every day. They were both amazing.

fan of the site HRHKINGJOE asks: What was is like for playing for both Tony Larussa & Dave Duncan?  After playing for them would you like to manage?  What one thing taken from them would you tell anyone that you might manage?

KBottenfield: I didn’t like Larussa at all when I played against him. He just gave off this smug attitude that I couldn’t stand. Ended up I misread him like a lot of people do. He is far from having that kind of attitude. I enjoyed playing for him immensely and have great respect for him and what he has accomplished. Dave Duncan is one of the most intuitive people I’ve ever been around. He can read hitters like no one I’ve ever known. He passed a lot of that on to me. I believe had it not been for my injury that started at the very end of the 99 season I could have taken what he taught me along with a few things I learned for myself and taken it to another level. Injury is part of the game though.  I would be more interested in being a pitching coach.  Patience with your players and consistency in your message to them.

fan of the site rpbluesman asks: “Back in the Game” was a great CD and I’m interested to know if you have plans to work on another album?

KBottenfield:  I appreciate the kind words about Back In The Game. I would love to start work on another one but don’t have the finances to get it going right now. Not a lot of money to be made in christian music which is fine cause that’s not why I got into it in the first place.

fan of the site Loyalty32 asks:  What was your favorite thing about playing with the Cubs?

KBottenfield:  I loved all of the day games. I loved the smells of the stadium. Being surrounded by all that brick. The way that you never knew what the weather was going to do. I loved showing up to a 40 degree day in July. Wayne Messmer over the PA system and singing the anthem. The organ music. The public address system. And last but not
least Harry!

fan of the site dakiton asks: Did you have any pre or during game superstitions or rituals?  Who was your favorite catcher?

KBottenfield: The last thing I would eat on the day of my start was a two piece KFC meal with mashed potatoes and coleslaw. I would wash it down with a grape Gatorade. This would all take place at 1:00 then I would take a nap until 3:30. I wouldn’t eat another thing until after the game. I found that combination of food and rest would have me feeling
my best for the game. I also made sure I got a lot of sleep 2 nights before my start. That seemed to be the most important for me. Eli Marrero was my favorite catcher.

fan of the site gngolfn2 asks: I would like to know about playing for the Cardinals in 1998.  Were other players and teammates caught up in the historic home run chase?

KBottenfield: We were all totally caught up in the home run chase. I think it’s probably because Mark handled it in such a classy way. He never put himself above any of us. You want to root for a guy like that.

fan of the site ArodYanksFan asks:  How do you feel about the money in baseball now being so large for certain players? Do you feel that it is hurting baseball?  Back in 94 you were a young pitcher, what were your thoughts on the baseball strike?

KBottenfield: I don’t believe the game of baseball can exist in it’s current state for more than another few years. The next negotiation will be an interesting one. The reason you’ve seen so many regular season games played outside of the States is because baseball knows it has maximized it’s revenue potential here so they are going beyond our borders in search of more money. They may not say it but the world baseball tourney is just another step in making it palatable to the fans. There will be a world baseball league in the near future.  I voted against the strike. I would have voted against any strike.  The union has done some great things for players but I believe they have lost their way over the last 10 years. Both sides are to blame for all that’s happened to baseball. The leadership on both sides need to get over themselves and start working on what’s best for the fan. I don’t harbor any ill will toward those making a ton of money. That’s what the system allows right now. I just think the system needs to be changed because baseball is losing a generation of fans because it truly has become a game that only the rich can enjoy. They have lost the common man fan and millions of kids.

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Where Have You Gone … My Starting Lineup Toys?

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Where Have You Gone … My Starting Lineup Toys?

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Trish Vignola

I think mine fell victim to one of my mom’s umpteen garage sales once I moved out, but man how I miss them. In their bright colored packaging, they traditionally stood about 4 inches tall. The brand at times did launch various special series that were larger and came with a sports card of the respective athlete.

Starting Lineup was a brand of action figures produced from 1988 to 2001. First release Kenner and later by Hasbro, they were conceived in 1986 by Pat McInally, a former professional football player with the Cincinnati Bengals. The figures became very popular, including sports stars from baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. In later years, figures from auto racing, boxing, track & field, skating, soccer, as well as golf were memorialized as well.

It’s been said that McInally came up with the idea during a visit to a toy store. He noticed there were figurines portraying war, fighting but nothing based on real-life sports heroes. McInally and a former college friend, who happened to be running Kenner’s day-to-day operations, decided collaboration was in order.

Kenner debuted the Starting Lineup figures in 1988, with a 132 piece Major League Baseball set. Each team had at least four players in the set except for the Canadian teams of Montreal and Toronto. They had only one player because Kenner believed that there were an insufficient number of retail outlets in Canada to warrant a full team set. It was Tim Raines and George Bell, respectively. Based on the eventual fate of the Montreal Expos, an insufficient number of retail outlets were the least of Canadian Baseball’s problems.

The Chicago Cubs and New York Mets had the most players in the set with seven per team, because nothing says child friendly like a Lenny Dykstra figure. Kenner also tended to distribute the players to stores by geographical region. For kids like myself who tended to like out of market players, it was virtually impossible to complete the set.

Around the mid 1990s, amidst sagging sales, distribution strategies shifted. To counteract malaise over regional figures, all of the figures were overproduced and released everywhere (which is why I had an unexplained collection of Toronto Blue Jays). Once it became too much of a good thing, the toys headed toward the bargain bin. It was this shift in strategy that is credited for the ultimate down fall of the line.

Today, the figures are collector items. The prices on the figures vary dramatically. Condition factors in. Ask yourself the following. Was your 1988 Don Mattingly taken out of the package so he can date Barbie? What? Is this not a common condition issue for late-80’s Starting Lineups?

If you are wondering, Mattingly’s value is quoted on sites anywhere from $15 to $60. In reality though, in this exceptionally soft toy and collectable market, I haven’t seen him on eBay for anything higher than $10. Apparently those original quotes were Yankees fans, or Don Mattingly’s relatives, or Barbie fans.

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Rest In Peace, Gary Carter

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Rest In Peace, Gary Carter

Posted on 16 February 2012 by Daniel Aubain

You wouldn’t expect a guy from Brooklyn growing up idolizing a catcher from Montreal, but I did. And I have the bad knees to prove it. The sad news of Gary Carter’s passing brings me back to a time in my life when little league, baseball cards, Topps Baseball Sticker Albums, wiffle balls and bats and a ratty old catcher’s mitt consumed every waking moment of my summers.

My dad was the coach of my little league team growing up and he was the kind of dad who didn’t like hearing whining or excuses. So no one was more surprised than I was as he asked for volunteers to be the team’s catcher and when no one answered he looked me in the eye, pointed at the catcher’s equipment and told me to put it on.

Back then, in the early 80′s, there was no “coach pitch” or “underhand toss” going on in little league. We used real baseballs and they hurt like hell on the body of a little boy who was barely strong enough to throw the ball back to the pitcher, let alone second base. But again, I had the kind of dad who didn’t like whining, excuses, complaining and especially despised tears.

In a household where the New York Yankees were the only team that was allowed to matter, the Montreal Expos may have well have been a team who played on the moon. And if I planned to emulate any catcher on the baseball field, it better have been Thurman Munson. Especially considering my dad constantly referred to me to his friends as his “little Thurman”. But I was determined to do my own thing regardless of the consequences.

I was a big baseball hat collector as a kid too, mostly of major league baseball teams, because I loved to cut box score lineups out of the newspaper of random, non-Yankees teams, pop on a hat my dad disapproved of and went out to play wiffle ball with the neighborhood kids who wondered why I refused to be the Yankees or Mets players they knew the names of like they were close relatives.

Having a birthday in July, most of my birthday gifts in my younger years were centered around baseball and none blew me away more than a plastic replica batting helmet with the Montreal Expos logo on it my dad gave to me. Dad and I share the same birthday and a connection to the game of baseball like every dad and son dream of having. So as much he wanted me to be his “little Thurman”, he knew this “Gary Carter guy” I always talked about and pretended to be behind the plate was a player worth accepting I loved.

I never openly rooted for Gary Carter when he was with the New York Mets because I was afraid my dad’s acceptance of him would have been pushed to its limits but having my favorite player be an integral part in defeating the hated rival Boston Red Sox secretly brought me a pleasure most in my family recognized. Especially my dad.

Rest in peace, Gary Carter. I loved the way you battled behind the plate and am sure you battled just as hard for you life. You will be missed but never forgotten by a little boy from Brooklyn who dreamed of being a major league catcher because of the way you played the game day after day.

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