FORT MYERS, Fla. 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. He also was 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."
Longtime NBC broadcaster Dick Enberg said that if Gowdy "was calling the game, you knew it was a major event.
"He was the first superstar of sports television because he did all of the big events the World Series, the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball, the Olympics and his outdoor sportsman show," Enberg said.
"He's the last of the dinosaurs. No one will ever be the voice of so many major events at the same time ever again."
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.
Former Red Sox star John Pesky, speaking from Boston's spring 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. Curt Gowdy State Park was established in Wyoming in 1971.