Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

GOWDY, CURT (b. 1919)

Curtis Gowdy was a major figure in televised sport during the 1960s and 1970s, coinciding with that medium's increasing impact on American society. Gowdy was born in Green River, Wyoming, on July 31, 1919, and raised in Cheyenne. He grew up loving team and outdoor sports. He excelled in basketball and softball during his high school years and at the University of Wyoming from 1938 to 1942. After a back injury ended his service in the Army Air Corps in 1943, he began a career as a broadcaster in Cheyenne and later Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Gowdy reached broadcasting's big markets in 1949, starting a two-year tour as Mel Allen's partner with the New York Yankees. This exposure led to a job as the announcer for the Boston Red Sox from 1951 to 1966. Gowdy quickly became a popular figure with the large New England audience. Like most broadcasters he covered all major sports and hosted various programs. He impressed network officials and peers with his versatility, preparation, and good humor.

Gowdy reached national prominence during the 1960s as the play-by-play broadcaster of the young American Football League. Teamed with former Missouri quarterback Paul Christman and backed by the managerial and technological innovations of Roone Arledge, Gowdy attracted listeners to the rival league with his enthusiasm, knowledge, and fairness. When the National Broadcasting Company took over the AFL rights in 1966, the network hired Gowdy as its main football and baseball announcer. He announced every World Series and major afl telecast from 1966 through 1975. In addition, he broadcast college football bowl games and basketball championships. He described his life and announcing philosophy in Cowboy at the Mike in 1966.

Gowdy's stature enabled him to launch the American Sportsman series in 1967. The program took celebrities on hunting, fishing, and camera trips around the globe and introduced millions of urbanites to the beauties of wilderness, augmenting the fledgling environmental movement. Gowdy received numerous accolades: four Emmys; sportscaster of the year recognitions in 1965 and 1967; a George Foster Peabody Award in 1970; and membership in the Sports Broadcasters, National Baseball, and American Sportscasters Halls of Fame. He served as president of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, and that organization's media award was named in his honor. The creation of Curt Gowdy State Park in Cheyenne in 1971 was yet another recognition.

Gowdy's work on so many sportscasts led to his overexposure in an industry that constantly demanded new faces, and his network appearances declined after 1975. He branched into production and ownership and hosted a critically acclaimed nostalgia series, The Way It Was, on PBS during the 1980s. He wrote Seasons to Remember: The Way It Was in American Sports, 1945–1960 in 1993. Gowdy retired to Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1990s. His son, Curt Gowdy Jr., is an Emmy Award–winning producer of sports programs.

Jim W. Harper Texas Tech University

Smith, Curt. Of Mikes and Men: From Ray Scott to Curt Gowdy: Broadcast Tales from the Pro Football Booth. South Bend IN: Diamond Communications, 1998.

Smith, Curt. Voices of the Game. South Bend IN: Diamond Communications, 1987.

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