One of the many aspects of sports that we highlight and feature here at ImaSportsphile is sports broadcasters….as we consider them every bit as important as the events and the participants….for when it comes to televised sports….the really great broadcasters could make the images on the television come alive….while over the airways of radio….could paint such a vivid picture of every play that it made the listener feel like they were sitting in the stands watching the game….and Curt Gowdy was one of the greatest sports broadcasters to ever live.
Curt Gowdy was said to have a warm, slightly gravelly voice….that married perfectly with an unforced, easy style that set him apart from his peers…..as renowned author John Updike once described him as sounding “like everybody’s brother-in-law.”….who unlike many other well-known sportscasters….Gowdy never developed “catch phrases“ or “signature calls”….but merely described the action in a straightforward manner…like “Jack Fisher into his windup….here’s the pitch….Williams swings….and there’s a long drive to deep right….it could be….it could be….IT IS!…a home run for Ted Williams in his last at bat in the major leagues!….while calling Ted Williams final career at bat on September 28, 1960….or “The ball’s hit deep….deep….it is gone! He did it! Henry Aaron is the all-time home run leader now!”….when calling Aaron’s 715th home run on April 8, 1984.
Curt Gowdy was present for some of American sports’ storied moments, including Ted Williams’ home run in his final at-bat in 1960….plus Super Bowl I….along with the AFL’s infamous “Heidi game”of 1968….in addition to the 3rd AFL-NFL World Championship game (Super Bowl III) in which Joe Namath and the New York Jets defeated the NFL champion Baltimore Colts….then 2 years later when calling Super Bowl V, a dramatic 16 – 13 Colts’ win over the Dallas Cowboys…..followed the next year on Christmas day in 1971 when Gowdy’s telecast on NBC caused many a Christma dinner to be delayed as the country locked in on the longest game in pro football history when Miami Dolphins defeated theKansas City Chiefs 27 – 24 in the final game at the Chiefs Municipal Stadium. He also covered Franco Harris‘ “Immaculate Reception” in 1972….plus Clarence Davis miraculous catch in a “sea of hands” from Oakland Raiders QB Kenny “Snake” Stabler to defeat the Miami Dolphins in the final seconds of the legendary 1974 AFC Playoff Game….and then there was Hank Aaron’s 715 home run in 1974.
In an interview by NFL Films….Curt Gowdy said his most memorable game was Super Bowl III when the Jets upset the heavily favored Colts 16–7 after Namath guaranteed victory. Gowdy endeared himself to long-suffering American Football League (AFL) fans when it was learned that in an off-air break towards the end of the game….he asked rhetorically….“I wonder if that (S.O.B.) Tex Maule is watching?”….a reference to the Sports Illustrated writer who for years had denigrated the AFL.
On-air, in contrast to his contemporary announcers of NFL games….he avoided their hyperbole and transparent adulation of players….by always giving steady, nonpartisan, but colorful descriptions of AFL games….as Curt Gowdy was also known for the occasional malapropism, including a consoling comment just after the Red Sox lost the 1975 World Series….by saying “Their future is ahead of them!”
Over the course of a career that stretched from 1949 into the late 1980’s….Curt Gowdy covered both the AFL and NFL….Major League Baseball….college football and college basketball. He was involved in the broadcast of 13 World Series….16 baseball All-Star Games…. 9 Super Bowls….14 Rose Bowls….8 Olympic Games by calling all the Olympic Games televied by ABC from 1964 – 1988….and 24 NCAA Final Fours….while hosting the long-running outdoors show The American Sportsman on ABC….and in the mid-1970’s, Gowdy was the host and the producer of The Way It Was for PBS….and in later years provided historic commentary for Inside the NFL on HBO.
Gowdy was close friends with ABC Sports Producer Roone Arledge ….and acknowledged giving Arledge all the credit for making ABC Sports what it is today, including the creation of the network’s sports department….and the innovations for televising sporting events that made the sports departments at NBC and CBS jealous. The two were the creators, and very first producers for the Wide World of Sports television show. In 1970, he was coveted by ABC’s Arledge for the new Monday Night Football telecasts….but Gowdy was bound by his contract to NBC Sports….albeit he continued with Grits Gresham of Natchitoches, Louisiana, to host The American Sportsman on ABC.