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February 21, 2006

CURT GOWDY, Dies at 86 Cont.

Continued

In 1951, Gowdy accepted an offer from team owner Tom Yawkey and was hired by the Boston Red Sox, for whom he was the radio and TV play-by-play announcer for 15 years.  It not only gave him more time on the waters of southwest Florida during pre-season training in Sarasota, but spring boarded Gowdy's friendship with Williams, Boston's legendary slugger, who was also an avid fly fisherman. The two became lifelong angling partners, fishing the Florida Keys, Mexico and Canada. Gowdy credits the friendship with Williams for making him a better fisherman --- and a better broadcaster.

"At the ball park Ted was always the first to arrive and the last to leave," said Gowdy. "While his teammates were in the Red Sox clubhouse I'd watch Ted in the dugout, studying the opponents during batting practice. He'd study the little things they did.  I thought if a guy like Ted would work that hard analyzing the opposing pitchers and players, then I could do the same with my broadcasts.  I began taking the newspapers of all of the Red Sox opponents, learning all I could about every player on every team.  I'd study their statistics, the box scores and their interviews. I did the same thing in covering football. Ted was also the greatest fisherman I ever met no matter what species of fish we were after, he studied them too!"

Gowdy also credits the friendships and tutoring of coaches and players like Wilkinson, Iba, Williams, Red Auerbach, Casey Stengel, Dom DiMaggio and many others to shape his knowledge of the elements of their sports.  He valued his life-long friendships with Yawkey, Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, Dr. Robert Wise, Bobby Knight, Howard Cosell, Joe Brooks, Roone Arledge, Jim McKay, Al Michaels, John Havlicek and partnerships behind the microphone with Tony Kubek, Al DeRogatis, Paul Christman, Don Meredith and others. 

Starting a family and building his TV network career

Through their early years in Boston Red Sox, Curt and Jerre lived in the suburb of Wellesley Hills, Mass., and had three children, all of whom have gone on to successful careers.  Their daughter Cheryl Ann is president of Gowdy International and is known from Boston to Palm Beach and both coasts for her creative contributions to the fields of event planning, promotions, publicity and fund-raising. Brothers Curt Jr. and Trevor have both followed in their father's footsteps and flourished in television. Curt Jr. has embarked on a new career with SportsNet New York as Vice President of Production and Executive Producer after 27-years as an executive coordinating producer with ABC Sports where he won 16 Emmys. Trevor is president of Gowdy Productions where he's won four Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Awards for outdoor entertainment productions for ESPN and a new series "Quest for the One" for the Outdoor Life Network.

During Gowdy's long stint with the Red Sox and his professionalism in broadcasting becoming more evident to the TV execs in New York, he took on more and more freelance assignments with the networks covering all the major collegiate and professional sports, plus the Olympics for ABC-TV, NBC-TV and later CBS-TV.

In 1960 he became the lead TV broadcaster (with Christman) on ABC-TV for the newly developed American Football League and was still the number one team (with DeRogatis) ten years later in 1969 when the AFL merged with the National Football League.  Along with his network broadcasts on the AFL, the NFL and NCAA football and basketball, Gowdy became the Saturday afternoon voice for millions on NBC-TV's Game of the Week for major league baseball (with Kubek) from 1966 through 1975 adding key Monday night games in the mix as well. He is possibly the first sportscaster to work for two major networks at the same time; both ABC and NBC.

Decades later, the man who helped pioneer TV sportscasting was also called upon to host and anchor the PBS series The Way it Was and numerous ESPN and HBO sports programs such as Sports Century and Inside the NFL as cablecasts expanded on both sides of the new century.

Curt and Jerre's love for broadcasting led the Gowdys to owning and creating seven AM & FM radio stations in Massachusetts (WCCM-AM  the first station purchased in Boston in 1963 and WCGY-FM launched 1974), New Hampshire (WBBX-AM Portsmouth), Wyoming (KOWB-AM and KCGY-FM Laramie) and Florida (WEAT- AM & FM, West Palm Beach,). To his station's executives and staff he was "the best boss anyone could work for" emphasizing strong humanitarian and community involvement within and beyond each station's listener range, evident from the hundreds of citations and awards presented to them from a wide number of charities and civic leaders. 

The beginning of 20-plus years of The American Sportsman

But among tens of millions of fishermen and hunters across North America, Gowdy is regarded as the consummate outdoorsman for his role as the host and producer of The American Sportsman, which aired on Sunday afternoons from January to March across three decades. It was originally introduced by ABC Sports Director Roone Arledge as a competitive fishing segment filmed in 1962 on the border of Chile and Argentina for ABC's Wide World of Sports.  The American Sportsman later brought the top entertainers and athletes like Williams, Terry Bradshaw, Brooks Robinson, Phil Harris, Bing Crosby, Bill Conrad, Robert Stack, Andy Griffith, Peter O'Toole, Jonathon Winters and Ernest Borgnine who liked to fish and hunt, into millions of homes during the winter months. Presidents of the day, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn, also appeared in fishing segments.

"They were all wonderful sportsmen and for many of them it was a chance for them to get away from Hollywood, the movies, entertainment, politics or sports. For me, The American Sportsman series was some of the best times in my life," said Curt.

Wyoming honors its favorite son with a state park

According to Gowdy, one of his greatest thrills came in 1972 when an 11,000 acre park equal distance between Cheyenne and Laramie was dedicated in his name.  The area has low-lying meadows, gently rolling hills and massive steep granite formations. Wildlife abounds and both reservoirs are stocked with trout by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.  In early 2006 the state bought additional land for expansion of Curt Gowdy State Park.

"It has two beautiful lakes, hiking trails, camping, boating, fishing and beauty," said Gowdy.  "It has everything I love.  What greater honor can a man receive?"
Within its massive terrain sits Camp Jack, a beautiful and popular Boy Scout camp.

The "Cowboy State" was also the backdrop for many of the fishing and hunting segments that Gowdy produced and hosted on The American Sportsman. For many years he was the emcee for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days.

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