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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 605

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This is the grave of Curt Gowdy.

Born in 1919 in Green River, Wyoming, Gowdy was a high school basketball star in his state, leading the state in scoring his senior year, at a high school in Cheyenne. He went to college at the University of Wyoming, where he starred in both basketball and tennis. He graduated in 1942 and entered the army as a second lieutenant but had a back injury from college and was discharged in 1943. Back in Wyoming, he turned to broadcasting, first just local high school football games. His first ever game was a 6-man football league where he sat on a grocery crate and broadcast through a snow storm in subzero conditions.

Things soon improved for the young broadcasting prodigy. In 1945, he was hired to cover University of Oklahoma football and basketball games by a station in Oklahoma City. He was so good and his voice so distinctive that in 1949, the New York Yankees hired him to work under the equally legendary Mel Allen as their #2 announcer, replacing Russ Hodges, who had moved on to become the lead announcer of the Giants. Gowdy himself was not content with being an understudy and in 1951, took a job as the lead voice of the Boston Red Sox. There he remained for 15 years, minus one where his terrible back problems flared up so bad that he could not work. After the 1965 season, he left the Red Sox to work for NBC, where he was the voice of their national baseball broadcasts back when they took baseball broadcasting seriously. Even before this, he was working for networks when it was not baseball season. He covered the NBA for NBC from 1955 to 1960, when he moved to ABC to cover the American Football League from 1960-65 and college football in 1961-62. Gowdy remained the lead broadcaster for NBC’s baseball coverage until 1975, when Chrysler, the leading sponsor of the coverage, demanded that he be replaced with Joe Garagiola, who was also their pitchman.

Gowdy was far from done though. He stayed on as NBC’s top NFL announcer through 1978. At the end of the year, with NBC really wanting to promote Dick Enberg to the top job, they basically traded Gowdy to CBS for Don Criqui. He worked with Hank Stram on NFL broadcasts over there for the next two years. He moved to ABC to call college football in 1982 and 1983. Semi-retired after that, he called New England Patriots games on the radio in 1987 and subbed in for Dick Enberg on NFL broadcasts in early 1988 when Enberg was covering the Summer Olympics in Seoul. His last ever broadcast was in May 2003, when ESPN asked him to call a Red Sox-Yankees game for them.

In his long career, Gowdy called a lot of memorable moments, including Ted Williams’ last game and, most significantly, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, though Vin Scully’s call of the homer is more well-known.

Gowdy also was the baseball announcer in the scene in The Naked Gun when Leslie Nielsen finds himself an umpire, surely his finest hour. He also was the voice for Narragansett (my personal cheap beer of choice) in the 1950s and 60s while working for the Red Sox and for Genesee Cream Ale in the 1980s. He also invested heavily in radio stations himself, owning several in Wyoming and at least one each in Florida and New Hampshire. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame (???) in 2005. Wyoming also created the Curt Gowdy State Park between Cheyenne and Laramie in 1972, which is supposed to be a nice piece of land. The post office in Green River, Wyoming is also named after him.

Gowdy died in 2006 of leukemia. He was 86 years old.

Let’s revisit some of Gowdy’s work:

Curt Gowdy is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit other sports broadcasters, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Mel Allen is in Stamford, Connecticut and Russ Hodges is in San Rafael, California. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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