Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Curt Gowdy: His Voice Screamed Baseball

It happened several weeks ago, but a few words now about Curt Gowdy, the broadcaster who passed away at age 86.

One of my coziest memories was watching those edited World Series videos -- they were films back then -- with Gowdy at the mike, doing the narration. The very 1960's and '70's-ish music would groove in the background as Gowdy recapped each game. They were the filler pieces Tigers broadcasts would show whenever there was a rain delay.

In between Games 2 and 3, there'd be a shot of a jetliner, airborn.

"As the teams flew to Baltimore...," Gowdy would say, adding a tidbit.

Or there'd be an image of a vendor selling souvenirs outside the ballpark prior to a game.

Gowdy: "Tiger pride was on full display outside the stadium..."

Two managers talking during batting practice, and here was Gowdy: "Earl Weaver of the Orioles and Sparky Anderson of the Reds no doubt talked about what a great matchup this was between two great teams."

And so on.

Those videos were wonderfully comfortable and fit like your favorite slippers. I still enjoy watching them today. ESPN Classic shows them from time to time.

The funny thing is, I don't recall MLB ever making ALCS or NLCS videos. Did they? Regardless, it was the World Series videos, narrated by Curt Gowdy, that hold a special place in my baseball heart. Even knowing the series outcome took nothing away from the enjoyment of the moving pictures before me. All the outstanding, key plays were shown -- often times in "super slow motion" -- along with that gloriously phony crowd noise the editors would run in the background.

Speaking of production values, even the cheesy edits were forgiven. I remember the 1968 video, and even though the game being featured at that moment was one of the contests played in St. Louis, the editors inserted a shot of Willie Horton in the batter's box -- in his home Tigers white uniform. How that got approved, I don't know. But it somehow added to the charm. You got the feeling those videos were done on a budget and on a tight deadline -- like two days after the series completion, honestly.

Somewhere in the 1980's, I think, Gowdy was replaced as the finished products got more hoity-toity and a different voice was desired by the producers, apparently. That's also when I started losing interest in them, not coincidentally.

Curt Gowdy was also the regular play-by-play man for the NBC Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons, usually teamed with either Tony Kubek or Joe Garagiola. That was when you could sit and watch an entire nine innings while the grass grew. Of course, it was also pre-marriage, so there you go.

Gowdy wasn't just a baseball man, of course. He was also a pretty darn good football announcer, and I remember him being part of NBC's #1 team, along with a guy named Al DeRogatis, who many folks reading this may not even know. When Don Meredith fled Monday Night Football for three seasons, he was paired with Gowdy to form the #1 team on NBC, from 1974-76.

But it's baseball that I will always link with Curt Gowdy. Whether it was the cheesy World Series videos or the Game of the Week, Gowdy's down-home voice was as much of the national pastime as hot dogs and peanuts.


Blogger Ozz said...

It's been a long time since I've seen the '84 WS highlight vid, but I'm pretty sure Mel Allen voiced it.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Not sure, Ozz. I think Vinnie Scully may have done a few of those, too.

Remember the All-Star game videos?

Those were also great rain delay viewing.

1:18 AM  

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