I was on my way to catch a flight at Orlando International Airport in early 1985 when I saw legendary television announcer Curt Gowdy walk past me. Despite being honored with the Ford Frick Award by the MLB Hall of Fame the previous year, Gowdy was by then considered “over the hill” and banished from live telecasts, probably due to his advancing years interfering with his ability to remember certain players’ names. He was at that time still narrating the successful “American Sportsman” television program with his friendly, distinctive voice.
I wondered why he would be deplaning in Orlando, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. He was much shorter and stockier than I expected, looked old and seemed to be walking with a limp. I guessed that he may have been on his way to interview for a broadcasting spot with the USFL’s Orlando Renegades, who entrepreneur Donald Dizney had purchased the year before and moved to the City Beautiful. Whatever transpired, Gowdy didn’t get the gig and sort of faded away.
Curt Gowdy died Feb. 20 in Palm Beach, Fla., of leukemia. He was 86. That would have made him 65 when I saw him. Harry Caray, the legendary baseball announcer was in his 80s and recovering from a stroke in his final year of calling Chicago Cubs games. He couldn’t get the players’ names right, either, but we loved him. We loved Gowdy, too, but the suits and big beer must have held Gowdy to a higher standard.
The media will all join in the chorus of praises for Curt Gowdy. I write this to remind them that Mr. Gowdy was NBC’s voice of all the major sports and major sporting events for many years during the adolescence and maturity of we baby boomers, and to remind them that it was they, not us, who forced him out.
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