Picks and Pans Review: Seasons to Remember: the Way It Was in American Sports, 1945-1960
Gowdy, the Walter Cronkite of sportscasting during the '60s and '70s, has written a homespun memoir of his salad days in the profession. The Wyoming native, now 74, broke into the business at the end of World War II. Back then, he notes, baseball teams "traveled by train, played in the afternoon and used only white players." And television "was an experimental gadget." By the '60s, of course, all that had changed. But Gowdy laments the passing of those long train rides, which offered him the chance to become intimate with idiosyncratic figures from all sports.
While many of his anecdotes are not fresh, it would be hard to find another broadcaster who had so many personal stories to tell about so many superstars of this transitional era. Gowdy broadcast Oklahoma University football from 1946 to '49, when it was coming into prominence under straight-arrow coach Bud Wilkinson; he was an announcer for the Yankees in '49, when they featured "elegant, intense" Joe Dimaggio, and for the Red Sox in the '50s when Ted Williams was their big gun; and he was the Boston Celtics' first play-by-play man during the Red Auerbach-Bob Cousy era in the early '50s.
It appears that athletes then performed for a relative pittance, took themselves less seriously than do today's petulant jocks, and had a hell of a lot more fun. Readers may miss Gowdy's own personality in these engaging pages, but much as he did when calling a World Series (he worked 16) or a Super Bowl (8), the broadcaster stays in the background. (HarperCollins, $23)