Curt Gowdy, one of the signature voices of sports for a generation and a longtime broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox
, died Monday at 86.
He died in Palm Beach after a long battle with leukemia, Red Sox spokeswoman Pam Ganley said.
Gowdy made his broadcasting debut in 1944 and went on to call the first Super Bowl in 1967 as well as 13 World Series and 16 All-Star Games. He also called the famous "Heidi" game in 1968.
In 1951 Gowdy became the main play-by-play voice on the Red Sox broadcast team. He left the Red Sox in 1966 for a 10-year stint as "Game of the Week" announcer for NBC.
"To fans in New England in the 1950s and '60s, his was the voice that told the stories of the Red Sox to a generation of fans," Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox's executive vice president of public affairs, told Boston.com. "He was the voice under the pillow."
He was also the longtime host of the "American Sportsman" series.
"He's certainly the greatest play-by-play person up to this point that NBC sports has ever had," NBC Universal Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said Monday. "He literally carried the sports division at NBC for so many years on his back. ... He was a remarkable talent and he was an even more remarkable human being."
Gowdy brought a warm feel to the broadcast booth, his commentary always full of good humor and enthusiasm. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig called Gowdy "one of the legendary broadcasters of our game."
"His distinct voice was a comfort to a generation of baseball fans in New England and throughout the country," he said.
In his 1960 essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" published in The New Yorker, John Updike said Gowdy sounded like "everybody's brother-in-law."
George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said Gowdy was a "pioneer in our business and set the highest of standards for everyone in sports broadcasting."
"His many contributions to ABC, as host of 'American Sportsman' and other ABC Sports programs, are indelible," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Curt's family, including longtime ABC Sports producer Curt Gowdy, Jr."
Red Sox player John Pesky, speaking from Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, remembered Gowdy as "a peach of a guy." Pesky said Gowdy was always in the clubhouse before games and always eager to talk.
"He was really easy to speak to," he said.
The award-winning broadcaster began his career in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1944 standing on a milk crate, giving a football play-by-play in subzero temperatures. By 1949 he was calling games for the New York Yankees
and two years later he began calling games for the Red Sox.
Gowdy has been honored with dozens of awards. He was inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 and the American Sportscaster's Hall of Fame in 1985. The Curt Gowdy State Park was established in Wyoming in 1971.