02/21/2006 at 08:00 AM EST
Legendary sportscaster Curt Gowdy, the distinctive longtime commentator for the Boston Red Sox, died of leukemia Monday at his winter home in Palm Beach. He was 86.
"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 told the Associated Press from the Turin Olympics. "He literally carried the sports division at NBC for so many years on his back. ... He was a remarkable talent and he was an even more remarkable human being."
A Wyoming native, Gowdy made his broadcasting debut in 1944 and went on to call the first Super Bowl in 1967 as well as 13 World Series and 16 All-Star games. He also called the famous Heidi pro football game in 1968, in which NBC cut away from the end of an Oakland Raiders-New York Jets matchup in order to broadcast the movie Heidi.
As he said of his broadcasting technique, "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."
In 1951, Gowdy became the main play-by-play voice on the Red Sox broadcast team. He left in 1966 for a 10-year stint as "Game of the Week" announcer for NBC. He also was the host of the "American Sportsman" series.
Among his dozens of awards, Gowdy was inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the American Sportscaster's Hall of Fame in 1985. The Curt Gowdy State Park was established in Wyoming in 1971.
He is survived by his wife, Jerre, three children and five grandchildren.