Saturday, April 23, 2022

Tom Cheek interview: Dave Stieb in 1998


By Blake Bell

Thursday April 23, 1998

Tom Cheek was the radio voice for the Toronto Blue Jays from their inception in 1977 until his retirement in June 2004. He called 4306 consecutive games over those 27 years, landing him on the Blue Jays' Level Of Excellence and in the Baseball Hall Of Fame.

On April 23, 1998, having been granted a media pass (for the nascent Dave Stieb website that Len Lumbers and I had started in March), I spoke to Tom Cheek on the night when Blue Jays pitching legend, Dave Stieb, took his comeback at the age of 40 (after 5 years off) to the next level. Stieb started for the Syracuse Sky Chiefs in an Exhibition game vs the 1998 Blue Jays, moving up from Single A Dunedin, still 8 weeks away from re-joining the Jays on June 18, 1998. (Follow our @DaveStiebToday Twitter account for your daily dose of Dave Stieb history.)

BELL : When you heard Stieb was coming back, what was your first reaction?

CHEEK : My first reaction was a little bit of confusion because I had breakfast with Dave in the Skydome when the Blue Jays were there to play an exhibition against the Cardinals and he was there as a guest coach. We talked about Dave and the club wanting him to continue as a coach and he was...kind of...considering, but maybe towards not doing that. And then three or four days later, I hear about the comeback bid, so I was a little bit confused as to whether that was always in the back of his mind. He told me this morning before this outing here that that was not the case, that he knew that he felt good when he was pitching down there but Sal Butera, the bullpen coach, caught him in the spring time down there and said, ''Boy, from what I've seen, you can still pitch'', so...I think it's great; I'm pulling for him.

BELL : Do you think he's going to crack the line-up?

CHEEK : Well, I think the hitters will tell him if, and when, it's time to abort or press on. I mean, it's just that simple. He will, or he won't be able to get them out and the Triple-A thing here will be telling.

BELL : Richard Griffin, the writer from the Toronto Star, said that Gord Ash was the one who was most reticent about bringing him back because it would be a step back for the organization - this is what Griffin was 'reading' off Ash. Do you get that sense from Gord at all?

CHEEK : That's a tough one to answer. Gord is supported of Dave. I think people are protective of Dave. I sat up here and watched it going on down there and I could remember a Dave Stieb circa 1981, 82, 83. Back at that time, these guys wouldn't have touched him. I would not want to see Dave embarass himself. He had...I think it is something Dave had to prove to himself one way or another. I don't know what's in Gord Ash's mind, but they are supportive of Dave. Dave's a favorite son.

BELL : Did Dave say he definitely wanted to be a starter. Did he give you that impression; as opposed to a reliever?

CHEEK : No, he really didn't. I really didn't broach that with him. I did a little interview with him this morning but we didn't even broach that aspect of it. It was more 'how are you feeling', ' what are you pinging on the gun', 'what are the hitters telling you' - that kind of thing. I think he understands that to get back to the big leagues and to participate and contribute in whatever role would be a wonderful story at his age and everything else. I will say this - the man is in superb shape, as he was when he played; when he was a younger man, so I wouldn't bet against - nor would I bet that he's going to pull it off. I think it's just let's take a wait and see.

BELL : What did you think of today?

CHEEK : I thought, at first when I saw him out there that, you know, maybe this is a mistake, but then he settled down and I can see the old conpetitive juices flowing. I saw him run over to cover first base one time; kind of 'turn-back-the-clock' stuff in my head, so...I don't know. I'd like to see - I won't be around to see a couple more of these. I only saw him in the spring time, pitching against batting practice hitters and that kind of thing. Today was the first of these and I kind of have mixed emotions about it at the moment.

BELL : What is your favorite Dave Stieb memory?

CHEEK : Without a doubt, the last out in Cleveland back in '90 when he pitched the no-hitter.

BELL : What was the best game you ever saw him pitch; because I don't even think he would rank that as the best game he ever pitched.

CHEEK : Well, it was a no-hitter. I saw him again in Cleveland when he probably was as good, or better, and the ball inexplicably bounced over Manny Lee's head - to this day we don't know. I saw him take it to the 9th inning when Roberto Kelly - Stieb, a pitch he would like to have back. It would be hard to rank them but that was the no-hitter and that's a favorite moment because I know all the frustration the man had trying to do it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Preview P1: Images from "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6"

Just leafing through some of the original comic books that will be included in my next book, "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6" and it's great to see that, even at volume six, the book leads off with a bang. 

Check out page three of "The Time Chamber" from Out Of This World #11. It was published by Charlton Comics, with a January 1959 cover date, meaning that Ditko likely drew the story five-to-six months in advance of that date. Is it difficult to see how Ditko would go on to create those amazing alternative dimensions in one of his signature strips, Dr Strange?

The work in this volume of the Steve Ditko Archives series coincides with Ditko starting back up with Marvel Comics and Stan Lee for their uninterrupted run of 7+ years which encompassed the creation of the Amazing Spider-Man, as well. Truth be told, Ditko's favourite work of mine is the period of 1959 to about 1961 on these five-page "Twilight Zone"-type stories, with the shock endings. His line work, under the influence of his study of John Severin's inking, is so detailed, yet the layouts are so fluid, so easy to interpret; perfect comic-book storytelling.

And, in the late 1950s, not a lot of artists, especially on these non-superhero books, were breaking apart the traditional 6 or 9-panel page grid. As we know, however, Ditko was not "a lot of artists" and he was doing this frequently during this late 1950s period to great effect. Click on the image below to enlarge...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6" in new Fantagraphics Winter Catalog

We posted on Wednesday the news about my next book, Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 6 - the cover, release date, and some notes about what to expect.

Almost surreptitiously, Fantagraphics then followed my post with the online release of their Winter catalog which features a spread on volume 6. Click on the image below to expand...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Preview: "Steve Ditko Archives volume 6"

Anyone who says "half of writing is rewriting" is about one-third correct. Today is a good example of that. I was set to hand in the introduction for my next book, "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 6" (to be published by Fantagraphics Books, Inc.), so I sat down in front of my computer for one last read...and then completely tore up the first twenty percent.

I still plan on getting it out today, and that should close down my work on this one. I would guess-timate that it will be in stores come March 2016. (Book #12 for l'il old me.)

This volume should be of particular interest to all Ditko fans, because it's really the close of the first (big) chapter of his career (1953-59). The work represented in the 200 pages of remastered Charlton Comics artwork lands in the second half of 1958 time frame, just when Ditko is headed back to Marvel Comics and Stan Lee. Sure, it would be another four years until the two men would create Spider-Man, but the groundwork for their working methodology (i.e., the "Marvel Method"), and its seeds of discontent, are first sown during this period.

I say that the work within volume six represent closure on that first big chapter of Ditko's career also because the final stories mark the first unbroken string of work provided by Charlton Comics since late 1956. Ditko would focus on Marvel work exclusively for about 6 months before pulling double-duty with both companies...and on Ditko's first superhero character, Captain Atom (a Charlton comic, not a Marvel one).

But it isn't just the shift in narrative focus; the stylings of the work also takes a turn once he starts at Marvel. And it appears in that "second phase" of his Charlton work too.

Of course, all of this plays out in a Manhattan studio that Ditko started to share with Eric Stanton, the (in)famous fetish artist, in 1958, as well. If that isn't enough of a dichotomy - the buttoned-down, straight-laced, shy Ditko stepping over half-naked models, bound and gagged on his studio floor - then imagine Ditko the superhero artist dipping his pen into the murky ink of Stanton's pornography. Explain that one, Ayn Rand!

We explain it all in "Outer Limits: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 6", out in stores ~March 2016.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Official "Blake Bell" Facebook Page up w/ exclusive content!

Okay, there's so many things going on this year that I need to get my collective "Blake Bell Awareness" act together and start acting like a writer! To help facilitate that, I've debuted the official "Blake Bell - Writer" page on Facebook. You can "like" it here:

Today, I've just added a series of images for my "Steve Ditko Archives" series, which also includes exclusive commentary on the volumes. (This includes the cover for the upcoming volume five in the series, well into production now!)

Last night, I added the same for my four main books, and we'll continue in this vein, as well as offer glimpses into past, current and upcoming projects, so see you there at

Monday, May 5, 2014

Memories of Dick Ayers

90 years is a good life. And so is being able to make a living at what you love to do for most of that life.

Dick Ayers, the artist most famous for his contributions to the Silver Age of Marvel Comics (inking Jack Kirby, and a 10-year run penciling Nick Fury), passed away yesterday. (Read more about his career here.)

We've lost not just a member of our community, and an important ambassador for the medium's history, but we also lost a gentleman and, more importantly, a husband and life partner to his lovely wife, Lindy.

Lindy is the source from which my personal association with Dick was fostered. My first book, I Have To Live With This Guy!, told the tales of the spouses/partners of comic-book greats and, given Dick's long and multifaceted career, I was ecstatic when Lindy and Dick agreed to be part of the process.

Thanks to my Secret History Of Marvel Comics co-author, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, I had the pleasure of visiting the Ayers' home on two occasions in late 2001/2002. They lived near by Doc V. and the first visit (in Nov '01) was really a visit to Dick and his home studio...


One of the memories of this visit that is seared into my brain is something you don't see in this picture. Just before you walk into this room, on the wall to the left, is a letter from DC Comics to Dick. It was a formal acknowledgement of his role in the creation of the character, Scalphunter, who first appeared in the 1977 comic book, Weird Western Tales #39.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

X-mas Special! My three 2013 books for $99 (incl. shipping)

Looking for the Holy Trinity of Christmas gifts? How about a special on all three of my 2013 books for only $99...which includes shipping within Canada and the U.S.!

Yes, that's The Secret History of Marvel Comics, Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 4, and Heroic Tales: The Bill Everett Archives vol. 2. That's a $145 value for less than a c-note. Each book has a cover price of $40 each, but you can have them all for about 60% of the cover price (when you factor in the shipping costs).

Just email me at to order via Paypal and you will receive a copy of each signed by me (plus my co-author, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo for The SHoMC), very well packed to survive the journey.

And there's more! Add the following older books of mine for 50% off each (only $5 more for shipping for each two added):
  • Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko
  • Unknown Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 2
  • Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives vol. 3
  • Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives vol. 2
Here's all you need to know about my three 2013 books...

The Secret History of Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises.