Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jerry Howarth is retiring

One of my favorite baseball announcers just announced his retirement. Jerry Howarth is stepping down as the radio voice of the Toronto Blue Jays after 36 years, citing health reasons. A major league baseball season is a grind. Especially for someone in Toronto because you have to go through customs every time you go in and out of Canada.

I’ve known Jerry since my first year broadcasting baseball, 1988. I was one of the announcers for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, Syracuse. Midseason I got the chance to fill in one game for the Blue Jays, sitting alongside their iconic (booming) lead voice, Tom Cheek and number two play-by-play man, Jerry Howarth. Needless to say I was nervous. Both made me feel so comfortable and Jerry in particular, took me under his wing. From that day forward Jerry became one of my mentors. And I can't thank him enough.

Even when I got to the big leagues I would send Jerry tapes and he would critique them. He was always very meticulous and descriptive and would really hold my feet to the fire. Adding the right word in a situation could eliminate any confusion, providing a note of strategy could enhance the listener’s appreciation of what was happening on the field, giving the damn score once in a while was nice too.

Jerry had a very conversational style. And he communicated his passion for the game. One thing I loved about him is that he sounded quite unconventional. In an age where announcers all had to have deep authoritative voices, Jerry was more like Wally Cox calling a game. He has a very pleasant voice but it’s distinctive. And very refreshing. Today the trend is to hire generic young guys with interchangeable decent voices who offer nothing but nuts and bolts and statistics. Take away their computers and they’re paralyzed.

With Jerry you knew you were listening to a real person. There was heart in his presentation. His preparation was second-to-none so he knew stories about each player, he knew what the manager was thinking before the manager did, he saw both the overview and the minutia. And yet he conveyed it all in a friendly inviting manner.

With satellite radio and MLB.COM I was able to listen to his broadcasts quite frequently in Los Angeles. Every one was a master class in the craft and art of broadcasting baseball.

Like all Blue Jays fans I will miss his nightly visits. But I think of his retirement as just “the post season.” It’s what you look forward to. And in Jerry’s case it’s that much sweeter because he knows going in he’s won the championship. See ya at Disney World, Jerry.  Or at the very least, Cooperstown. 

9 comments :

Arthur Mee said...


Last time I was down in the states, I was utterly appalled at how Capital-B Baaaaaad the quality of baseball play-by-play was. Guys who compulsively HAD to show how much they knew, all the time. Guys who were fixated on strategy, history and stats, practically to the exclusion of the actual game being played. Guys whose reservoir of "stories" about current players was limited to whatever had recently appeared on MLB.com

Toronto baseball fans never, ever had to worry about that. Jerry Howarth really was something special. As a broadcaster, he was someone who knew all the stats, stories and strategies -- but also knew that he didn't have to plaster every available second of airtime with them. He let the game unfold, while always making sure you knew exactly what was going on.

And yes, his slightly nasal tone and mildly nerdy (in a very good, friendly way) persona made him unusual and distinctive. Unlike some sportscasters who behave as if playing a role, you really got the sense of who Jerry was. While there was enormous craft involved, he wasn't putting on an act.

Enjoy your retirement, Jerry ... and please feel free to come back to call the odd inning once in a while!

Fred from Scarborough said...

Here in Toronto we have the sublime and the ridiculous. I listen to the sublime Jerry on the radio in the car and I watch the games on TV on "mute".

Curt Alliaume said...

Now I wish I'd listened to Blue Jays games more often on the MLB app.

There's a Friday question: who are some of your favorite baseball announcers now working?

Pete Grossman said...

"Even when I got to the big leagues I would send Jerry tapes and he would critique them. He was always very meticulous and descriptive and would really hold my feet to the fire."

Ken, submitting work to pros and colleagues one respects and to be willing to listen to make it better, I think, is a special skill and I appreciate it. It's a good lesson to understand and a good habit to exercise. Thank you and keep on keepin' on.

Mike McCann said...

The last few summers with sat-rad in my car, I heard Jerry often, since on many Saturdays, the Blue Jays almost always played their Satuday home games at 1pm -- while most other teams were playing at 3pm or later to satify some TV outlet.

Doug Thompson said...

Worked with Jerry Howarth from the day he started with the Blue Jays at Telemedia Network Radio in Toronto. I was the Executive Producer for the network. Tom Cheek and Jerry Howard (Tom & Jerry) made an amazing broadcast team. Tom's in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Time for Jerry to join him. Jerry is a great human being . I wish him only the very best in retirement.

"Back, back, back, there he goes," Thanks Jerry.

Jeff said...

Ken writes: "Today the trend is to hire generic young guys with interchangeable decent voices who offer nothing but nuts and bolts and statistics. Take away their computers and they’re paralyzed."

That's been our experience in Wisconsin, where we've had a steady stream of those generic young guys eagerly doing the thankless job of being Bob Uecker's straight man on Brewers radio broadcasts. When Ueck is out of the booth, it's pretty bland.

Rock Golf said...

Wow. I was expecting maybe a comment in reply to my message yesterday about his retirement. Turns out Jerry's a good guy.
Why am I not surprised?

Julian Brown said...


I'll always remember having the radio on in the car after a gig the night the Jays won their 1st of two consecutive World Series. Taking the side streets to beat the traffic [no chance], sometimes there was one little girl or boy outside their house waving a flag in celebration, just in case someone went by, the only person on their block celebrating after midnight. I was glad to see it, and that's the image that sticks with me when i think of the Jays and Jerry on the radio. Knowing a weird outpost can be legit and classy. And fun.