February 14, 2018

More Than Just A Voice

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and wisdom of Jerry Howarth.

Thank You, Jerry!

For 36 years, Jerry Howarth has been a part of my life and I owe so much to him.

Up until 1992, I knew Jerry as many of you do, as the voice of the Blue Jays. His voice came through my radio and into my living room, car or back yard. From Hello Again Friends” to “There She Goes”, Jerry had a unique style and delivery and, along with Tom Cheek, was my soundtrack to the summer.

The most blustery winter day faded with the promise of spring when I heard Jerry call a Grapefruit League game. It was the first sign for me that the snow will soon be melting, the leaves will bloom and baseball was on its way back.

Unlike any other sport, baseball plays as well, if not better, on radio than on TV. But to accomplish this, the play by play voices have to be able to paint a picture. For me, there were no better artists and storytellers than Tom and Jerry.

When Tom passed away in 2005, it changed the sound of the broadcast forever, and now, with Jerry announcing his retirement, it officially ends an era.

Not only have I been able to sit back and listen since 1981, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jerry  personally and calling him a friend for over 25 years.

Every young, aspiring broadcaster needs a mentor and I had two of them, in Tom and Jerry. I was in my final year at Humber College, studying radio broadcasting, when I landed my first part time job in radio. One of my assignments was to conduct a feature interview with a compelling subject. It was June of 1992 and I had met Jerry only a couple of times, but figured he would be perfect. I was able to get a message to him through a fellow Fan employee and Jerry surprisingly agreed. I don’t remember much of what we actually talked about but I do recall he predicted the Jays were going to have a special year and I remember how sincere he was, and how awed I was that he had actually agreed to be interviewed by a kid he barely knew.

During that season I spent many games behind the control room board at The Fan and Jerry would always make sure to give me credit while on the air. Hearing him say my name on the radio meant the world to me back then.

In May of 1993, I stepped on the turf at the Rogers Centre (then Skydome) for the first time as a reporter. I was sent down by the news director at The Fan to gather some pregame sound. All I had to do was stick my microphone into a scrum with other media and send the tape back to the station. Pretty basic stuff for a young cub reporter.

I ran into Jerry during batting practice and when I told him what I was doing, he asked me if I had any interest in conducting a 1 on 1 interview with a player. I definitely wasn’t expecting this, nor was I prepared. Jerry assured me not to worry. He knew the perfect guy for me to chat with.

Jerry headed over to the visitors side of the field where the Milwaukee Brewers gathered for pregame stretch. About 10 minutes later he walks towards me with a player who looked to be about 7 feet tall. I was shaking in my boots until Jerry looked at me in the eyes and said “Barry, I’d like to introduce you to Graham Lloyd. He would love to be interviewed by you. Knowing how intimidating a first interview could be, Jerry selected Lloyd, who was a genuinely nice man and someone that would make my first true reporter experience a little more relaxing.

I was so thankful and didn’t care if the interview even made it to air. I had just interviewed a Major League baseball player and Jerry was the one who made it possible.

That’s just the kind of person Jerry is and I never stopped learning from him.

One thing that Jerry does better than anyone is something I have strived to do throughout my career. When Jerry talks to a player or shares information about someone during a broadcast, you get so much more than just a bunch of stats. Jerry taught me how players are also people, with stories to tell. Fans love to hear the human side of their heroes and Jerry always manages to find those tales. I’ve taken that advice and use it to this day whenever I chat with a player on Outta the Park.

Thank you, Jerry, for being on my radio for 36 years.

Thank you, Jerry, for painting a picture and making me feel I knew the players personally, long before I ever did.

Thank you, Jerry, for helping me become the broadcaster I am today.

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