‘BoniBlog – Defining Jerry Howarth

by John Iaboni, Sports Media Canada special correspondent.

Jerry Howarth and I first crossed paths in the early 1980s and with it came a cherished friendship. He says I taught him a lot about hockey; I say he took my affection for baseball and elevated it even more. He still does — because whenever I hear his broadcasts of Blue Jays games I’m always learning something new about situations and the players.

Jerry Howarth (with ever-present notebook) and John Iaboni following the Jays in Dunedin

Away from the game, Jerry’s totally devoted to his wife, Mary, and the two of them count their blessings every day for their marriage and their boys – Ben, an audio visual engineer in Chicago who also happens to be a passionate season-ticket holder for the Blackhawks, and Joe, a photographer living in Toronto.
Once the baseball season is over, Jerry shows his community spirit, coaching the junior basketball team at Etobicoke Collegiate for a 13th year, and 20th overall as a basketball coach with Toronto schools.
He’s an exceptional role model for the kids. But to the masses, Howarth is known as a totally consummate baseball broadcaster. He’s here at Dunedin celebrating a milestone of sorts with his 30th Spring Training appearance and doing what he usually does – filling his notebook with information that will serve as nuggets throughout the season.
Howarth and his partner Alan Ashby return to the both for The FAN 590 and its network of radio stations calling all Blue Jays regular season games. Fifteen spring game broadcasts will be carried on the internet at www.mlb.com while The FAN 590 in Toronto and selected affiliates on The FAN 590 Radio Network will broadcast 11 games during Spring Training.
Howarth and Tom Cheek, the original voice of the Blue Jays, were honoured in 2003 with the Sports Media Canada Award for Broadcasting. They formed a terrific team (that included the championships of 1992 and ’93) only broken up by the passing of Cheek in 2005.
Watching Howarth in action is a study in hard work. He spends about a month in Dunedin doing his home work so that he’s got some kind of familiarity with each and every potential Blue Jay for that season.
“It’s a thrill for me to greet them and have them say this is my first Spring Training with the Blue Jays and I’m really looking forward to it,” he says. “And I know that some day many of them will become Blue Jays. So this is where I begin a friendship with them. Then I like to see the old guard too and ask them what they did this winter and that’s fun. I tease them, they tease me and it keeps me young. I love being around these guys.
“Then I get a chance to meet the coaches again and renew all acquaintances with them and the manager. So it’s a fun time for me, it really is. There’s a bigger picture involved because the real specifics don’t begin until Opening Day.”
Back in 1980, Howarth was sports director and talk show host at KWMS in Salt Lake City when he joined Cheek for a weekend series in Detroit filling in for Early Wynn (who was at an Old-Timers’ game). That led to more work and in 1981, Howarth was involved with 30 Jays broadcasts. He became a Jays full-timer the following year.
Since then, he’s scribbled down plenty of info and used every morsel of it.
“In this notebook right here I have every player in camp that I started about two weeks ago,” he says waving his document. “I put in there what they did last year, where they’re from, pull quotes about them, prepare material. Then after I talk to all of them I go back that night and I just from memory put in what they told me. Then that becomes interesting insights in April and May, things that I can share with Alan Ashby in conjunction with the game. But the game always comes first.”
He forever opens every Jays broadcast with a warm thoughts for a listener or friend, often a birthday wish. So, Jerry, let the ‘BoniBlog be the first to send along best wishes this year for your birthday on March 12. The Key Lime Pie is pretty sweet in these parts … try some — with or without candles!