Baseball fans across Canada reacted with sadness, uncertainty, and a foreboding sense of the uncaring passage of time, as the news spread that Jerry Howarth, who – along with Tom Cheek – was the voice of the Blue Jays for the better part of two generations, will not be returning to the booth this coming season.
“But how in the heck are we supposed to summer?” Asked millions of Canadians, their thoughts turned to memories of humid nights with the kitchen radio on in the background, and the many drives back from this nation’s lakes, beaches, cottages, parks, malls, mountains, friends, families, rivers, grocery stores, dumps, camps, workplaces, and nowheres in particulars, with the demurring, dulce tones of the great announcer talking us all through the afternoon, baseball game after baseball game.
“Early analysis shows that summer will, in fact, still arrive,” confirms Environment Canada’s head of seasons, George Stieb. “The axis of the earth remains at 23.5 degrees relative, and our hemisphere will again face the sun. That is incontestable. But it just won’t be the same, that’s all.”
“You know what it was about Jerry?” Asks a woman walking briskly past a cold, closed Skydome on a Wednesday in the middle of February. “There was a decency about the man that came through, even over the radio. He never railed, he never threw shade, he rarely detracted. He was gentle, took his time, and called us ‘friends’ before every game. I always appreciated that. He was a good guy y’know? I’m gonna miss him. I think we all will.”
Sure there will be other announcers. And yes, their voices too will thread themselves into the humidex of our lives, to become synonymous with the thunderstorms, freshly-cut grass, and distant sirens of summer. The season will still get called, one pitch at a time. Just not by Jerry. The world moves on. The roars, and the cheers, and the call of the game, still sound; but they come from different voices.
As Jerry himself said a thousand times, some excitedly, some matter-of-factly, and some almost wistfully: “And there….she goes.”
Photo: Nathan Denette, Canadian Press File Photo