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Broadcaster Howarth retires after 36 seasons

MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and longtime play-by-play broadcaster Jerry Howarth has decided to call it a career after 36 seasons in the Blue Jays' radio booth.

Howarth announced his retirement on Tuesday morning, citing health issues that have affected his voice in recent years. The decision is effective immediately, and Howarth will not be a part of Toronto's 2018 radio broadcasts.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and longtime play-by-play broadcaster Jerry Howarth has decided to call it a career after 36 seasons in the Blue Jays' radio booth.

Howarth announced his retirement on Tuesday morning, citing health issues that have affected his voice in recent years. The decision is effective immediately, and Howarth will not be a part of Toronto's 2018 radio broadcasts.

The 71-year-old Howarth joined the Blue Jays' broadcast team on a part-time basis in 1981, and he then moved into a full-time role alongside Tom Cheek the following year. The two would remain together for the next 23 years, and along the way, they called back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.

Tweet from @BlueJays: Congratulations on a wonderful career, Jerry!We wish you the best in retirement. #ThankYouJerry pic.twitter.com/bHI6dpUKgH

"I had every intention of continuing my career into the 2018 season, but my health and stamina and continuing voice issues dictated otherwise," Howarth said. "Who knew that I would spend more than half my life in Toronto with my wife, Mary, and our two sons, Ben and Joe, doing what I love to do most, reaching out to friends and fans alike across our great country to talk baseball? I am blessed, and I am grateful. I thank everyone who has made this journey of mine so rewarding in every way."

Howarth received the Jack Graney Award for lifetime contributions to baseball from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. He also received the Sports Media Award for achievement in broadcasting in '03 alongside Cheek, and then individually in '16.

The familiar voice might no longer be around the Blue Jays on a full-time basis, but some of his catchphrases will not be forgotten anytime soon. "The Blue Jays are in flight" was one of his trademarks whenever Toronto got on the scoreboard for the first time during a game. "And there she goes" was his go-to line for home runs. The most famous one of all might be the way he started every broadcast with a simple "Hello, friends."

"I began to hear so many people say, 'Hi, everybody,' or 'Hi, everyone,' and I thought, 'That's not me,'" Howarth previously told MLB.com. "These are friends of mine, these are people I'm starting to grow with, and they enjoy my friendship off the mic. As soon as I took on that role as lead broadcaster, 'Hello, friends' became just something that was very natural. And I always tell young sportscasters, 'Be true to yourself,' and that was comfortable for me."

Sportsnet has yet to name an official replacement for Howarth in the Blue Jays' broadcast booth. Mike Wilner has been Howarth's regular replacement over the past several years, and he is always the third man in the booth during home games. Joe Siddall is still expected to return for his fifth season as color commentator.

"He's been there for every home run, strikeout and flip of the bat that has mattered most to Blue Jays fans," said Dave Cadeau, national format director at Sportsnet. "He's as knowledgeable a baseball mind as you can find, and an even better storyteller. It's been a privilege to work with Jerry over the years."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays