Gowdy funeral takes final lap around Fenway

Updated: February 25, 2006, 6:35 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- To most Americans, broadcaster Curt Gowdy was a warm and comforting voice who brought the nation's and the world's greatest sporting events into their living rooms.

Curt Gowdy
AP/Lisa PooleThe hearse carrying the body of Curt Gowdy passes Fenway, where a banner honoring the sportscaster adorns the park's facade.

To many who attended Gowdy's funeral service at Boston's historic Trinity Church on Saturday, he was so much more. He was a loving husband, a devoted father, and a faithful and humble friend who was most at home while fly fishing on the rivers of his native Wyoming.

"He was the best in my mind because he was the best, truest, most loyal and most honest friend a person could have, and that's the most important thing," said Gowdy's longtime broadcast partner, Tony Kubek.

Gowdy, 86, died Monday of leukemia at his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla. He had kept a home in the Boston area since 1951, when he began a 15-year run as play-by-play broadcaster for the Red Sox.

The funeral service was attended by about 500 people, most of whom were family and friends. But some people simply came out of the steady snow to attend the service and show their respect for the "Cowboy at the Mike," who was buried afterward in a private service.

"He was a superstar in the world of broadcasting, but he never let it get to his head. He was the most humble man I know," his son, Curt Gowdy Jr. said.

Before arriving at the church, the funeral procession made its way from the Gowdy home to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox had hung a banner that said simply, "Thanks, Curt."

"He loved the city of Boston, he loved New England, and he loved the Boston Red Sox," Gowdy Jr. said at the church. "He's smiling right now and thanking all of you."

The billboard-sized banner showed Gowdy at the mike at Fenway last Aug. 28 for a tribute that was his last visit to his beloved ballpark. Gowdy knew his health was failing.

It was an emotional moment as the family -- wife Jerre, children Curt Jr., Trevor and Cheryl Ann -- paused at the banner, Gowdy Jr. said.

"We were all pretty much in tears," he said.

Although he hadn't covered Red Sox games for decades, he was still very much appreciated by the club and its fans, team president Larry Lucchino said.

"He had a special relationship with ballplayers, as he had with fans, as he had with the front office people," Lucchino said. "He was an open, available, uncle-like personality, and I think that is special. Baseball fans appreciate that."

Indeed, Gowdy was one of the few members of the media befriended by Ted Williams.

Carla McElroy, a 55-year-old Medford native who now lives in Maine, was in town visiting family but went to Fenway Park to pay her respects.

"He was part of our life. I grew up listening to the Red Sox with my grandfather," she said. "We would listen on the screened porch. We all grew up like that."

"He was biggest, one of the best there ever was," James Spanks, 66, said as he gazed at the banner during his morning walk with his dog. "He brought a touch of class to the game."

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, a longtime friend of the Gowdy family, delivered the eulogy. Simpson was touched to see construction workers pausing from their work and putting their hard hats over their hearts as the hearse drove by Fenway Park.

"That's true love," he said.

Gowdy was known for his amiable description of big events, including 13 World Series, 16 All-Star baseball games, the Super Bowl, the Olympics and numerous NCAA basketball Final Fours.

In fact, basketball may have been his first love when it came to sports, said Simpson, who described Gowdy as "unselfish, courageous, warm, wise, witty, and fun loving."

Simpson was just 10 years old when he first met Gowdy, who was then playing for the University of Wyoming basketball team. The Cowboys won the national championship in 1943, the year after Gowdy graduated.

"Curt always remained totally puzzled as to how the team could attain such heights without his presence," Simpson said to ripples of laughter through the cavernous church.

Simpson also told the story of the young man who was plucked out of a frigid Wyoming river one winter. As Simpson, Gowdy and others wrapped the man in blankets, one eye popped open. "I must be dreaming. Are you Curt Gowdy, the voice of the Boston Red Sox?" the man asked. Curt said, "Yep, that's me."

A native of Green River, Wyo., Gowdy did his first radio play-by-play of a six-man football game in 1944 in Cheyenne. He spent two years as an announcer for the New York Yankees before moving to Boston. From 1966 through 1975 he was the voice of NBC's baseball "Game of the Week."

Gowdy hosted the "American Sportsman" series on ABC from the early 1960s into the 1980s where he shared his love of fishing. The river theme flowed through the service, as it did through Gowdy's life.

"May the streams run cold and wild in your new home," said Gowdy's son, Trevor.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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