The voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, Jerry Howarth, has ingrained himself in the hearts of fans for years. We explore his impact.
The news has come down that Jerry Howarth, the voice of the Blue Jays, is in battle mode. It was announced a few weeks ago that Howarth would be undergoing surgery for prostate cancer and the outpouring of love began.
As someone who has had her family blown apart by cancer, you can understood why I was so very saddened by this news. What it also did however, for myself and for many of Jerry’s fans, is it brought to the forefront all the memories that this man has been a part of for many in the realm of the Blue Jays.
Jerry Howarth, for those unaware, has been the voice of the Blue Jays play by play radio calls since 1981. Born in York Pennsylvania, he started his career after obtaining an economics degree from the University of Santa Clara, and made his way through a two year stint in the army, then working as the play by play commentator for the Tacoma Twins of the Pacific Coast League. He went on to serve as the voice of a few more teams before making the move to Toronto in 1981 with his wife Mary and two children.
It’s hard to pinpoint the first time I heard Jerry’s voice over the airwaves. I was too young to know his name, too young to recognize his face, but the voice, well that has become a sound of my childhood. It was the sound of summer, the sound of Toronto baseball. His voice just means Blue Jays to millions of fans. He is, after all, referred to as the voice of the Blue Jays.
Howarth went from saying “It’s time to play ball here, at Exhibition Stadium”, to “It’s time to play ball here at the Sky Dome”, to “It’s time to play ball here at the Rogers Centre”, and many fans have been through all three moves with him. Howarth has been a steadying force for Blue Jays fans no matter what was happening and on and off the field. His voice would start the game and end the game, his calls making the plays come alive.
“Up! Up! Up! And there she goes, yes sir!” was a Jerryism I waited for and one of my favourites, as well as his “Hooking, hooking, it’s fair down the right field line!”. With the help of his voice and his words, fans are able to feel a part of the game. With Howarth on the air it becomes more than just listening, its painting a canvas depicting the plays on the field, giving fans the ability to really visualize and see the game. Priceless when stuck in Toronto traffic, true story.
My respect for Jerry Howarth grew when I learned of his stance on refraining from saying team names considered to be offensive to aboriginal Canadians or Native Americans. His pledge came about after an aboriginal fan wrote a letter to him explaining how offensive these names are, in what Howarth describes as a loving, kind way. Now before you can argue that this was some kind of publicity bandwagon stunt, it was not. Howarth’s decision to refrain from these names didn’t just come about this past September when it made the front page due to an impending series with Cleveland. He has been abiding by his promise since 1992. Quietly, respectfully, and without fanfare.
With the latest news being that Jerry Howarth’s surgery was successful, and the prognosis looking positive, it looks like his plan to be in Dunedin for Spring Training is a go. I for one, will be listening with a thankful smile.
“Deeelighted to have you with us on The Blue Jays radio network – and on the internet, where ever you happen to be!”
No Jerry, deeelighted to have you with us.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.