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Curt Gowdy

Curt Gowdy. (Associated Press)

He was Wyoming born and bred, and would become the most-recognized and well-known sports broadcaster in the business. Curt Gowdy was a world-wide celebrity, an immense talent, and it was that gift that would lead to induction into 20 different Halls of Fame.

Curt Gowdy was born in Green River, Wyoming, in 1919. At age six, the Gowdy family moved to Cheyenne, following the career of Curt’s dad, who was a manager with the Union Pacific Railroad. Curt was a Wyoming All-State basketball player in high school, and would go on to play basketball and tennis at the University of Wyoming, he would earn 3 letters in each sport at UW, and earn a degree in Business Statistics in 1942. The World was at war, and Curt joined the Army Air Corps, with hopes of becoming a fighter pilot, but a ruptured disc in the spine, from a previous injury, got Gowdy medically discharged from the Army in 1943. And that’s when a long and brilliant career in broadcasting began.

Curt Gowdy announced his first game in November of 1943. The Gowdy legend began at a six-man football game, in sub-zero weather, from a grocery crate, before a crowd of 15 people. He would work at KFBC Radio and the Wyoming Eagle newspaper in Cheyenne for 3 years. And then in 1946, Curt took a job at KMOX Radio in Oklahoma City. He would do the radio play-by-play for Oklahoma Sooner football and Oklahoma State Cowboy basketball, and work with legendary coaches Bud Wilkinson and Hank Iba. In 1951, at age 31, it was on to the New York Yankees for two years, and the Boston Red Sox for 15 years. Curt Gowdy was now a nationally-known play-by-play man, and even bigger audiences were yet to come.

Curt Gowdy would make the move to national television in 1965. He signed on with NBC as a lead play-by-play announcer. And Curt would begin a run of broadcasting the biggest events in the world of sports. Curt Gowdy would actually call games for all of the major networks during his lengthy career, and would cover 13 World Series, 16 Major League Baseball All-Star games, 9 Super Bowls, 14 Rose Bowls, 8 Olympic Games, and 24 NCAA Final Fours. Gowdy was at the mike for the Immaculate Reception, and Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run. And of course, Curt was the trusted host of “The American Sportsman” on ABC. Curt Gowdy was the first sportscaster to receive the Peabody Award.

Curt Gowdy would get involved in radio staion ownership in the mid-1960’s, purchasing stations in Florida, the Boston area, New Hampshire, and Laramie, Wyoming. In 1984, Gowdy purchased the rights to broadcast University of Wyoming football and basketball games. I remember this point in Curt’s career very well, because he hired a guy by the name of Dave Walsh to handle the play-by-play duties on the broadcasts. And yes, that was certainly a career-changing and life-altering moment for me.

Curt Gowdy gained fame and respect for his amazing talent. A Wyoming kid had gone all the way to top of his profession. And he never forgot from where he came. He often sported the familar cowboy hat, even in the early days back east. His biography was titled, “Cowboy at the Mike”. His fame and accomplishment led to the dedication of Curt Gowdy State Park in 1971, and the naming of the Curt Gowdy Post Office Building in Green River, in 2006.

Curt’s fame also led to appearances on many TV shows, he appeared in 4 movies, and voiced national commercial ads. He would retire in 1985 when “The American Sportsman” was cancelled, but would guest-announce on occasion for another decade. Curt Gowdy passed away on February 20, 2006, at 86, in Palm Beach, Florida.

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