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Sox broadcasting legend Gowdy dies

Curt Gowdy, whose distinctive baritone was the TV voice of the Red Sox for 15 years, died at his Florida home after a long battle with leukemia. He was 86.

Gowdy announced Red Sox games from 1951-1966 before leaving to become a national sports broadcaster 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," said Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox' executive vice president of public affairs. "He was the voice under the pillow."

Fellow Red Sox legend John Pesky, speaking from Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., 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.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame website, Gowdy made his broadcasting debut in 1944 atop an orange crate in Cheyenne, Wyoming, doing the play-by-play of a six-man football game between Pine Bluff and St. Mary's before 15 fans in sub-zero weather.

His enthusiasm and distinctive style during his subsequent broadcasts of minor league baseball and major league recreations over KOMA in Oklahoma City earned him an opportunity with the New York Yankees and Mel Allen in 1949, the site says.

Two years later, Gowdy became head man on the Boston Red Sox broadcast team. He left the Red Sox in 1966 for a 10-year stint as Game of the Week announcer for NBC.

Gowdy, according to the site, was the 1970 recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for his "blend of reporting, accuracy, knowledge, good humor, infectious honesty and enthusiasm." He was the first sportscaster to be so honored and was also named "Sportscaster of the Year" on three occasions.

Gowdy's numerous network assignments allowed him to announce sporting events ranging from the World Series to the Super Bowl to the Montreal Olympics to the "American Sportsman" series. He broadcast 13 World Series and 16 All-Star Games.

"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 year on his back. ... He was a remarkable talent and he was an even more remarkable human being."

In 1984, Gowdy won the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball. Each award recipient is recognized in the "Scribes & Mikemen" exhibit in the library of the Hall.

Gowdy’s distinctive style made him popular across Red Sox Nation and around the country. He once recalled: "I tried to pretend that I was sitting in the stands with a buddy watching the game -- poking him in the ribs when something exciting happened. I never took myself too seriously. An announcer is only as good as yesterday's performance."

Gowdy's death, first reported by WBZ sports reporter Dan Roche, was confirmed to the Globe by the Red Sox.

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