CURT GOWDY'S beginnings as a broadcaster in 1944 could not have been more humble. On his first assignment Gowdy, who died on Monday of leukemia at 86, stood on two crates in his home state of Wyoming and did radio play-by-play of a six-man high school football game for Cheyenne's KFBC-AM. He made up the players' names because he hadn't been given a roster. No matter. The station manager told him he was a natural, and so began one of sports broadcasting's most storied--and versatile--careers.
By 1951 Gowdy was the voice of the Red Sox, a role he filled through 1965, when he left to do play-by-play for NBC's baseball Game of the Week. Over the next quarter century Gowdy's distinctive nasal baritone-- John Updike wrote that he sounded like "everybody's brother-in-law"--was the soundtrack for the first Super Bowl, one of nine he called; 16 World Series; 24 Final Fours; and eight Olympics. He also hosted ABC's outdoors show The American Sportsman and in 1970 became the first sportscaster to win a Peabody Award. Through it all Gowdy, who lettered in basketball and tennis at Wyoming, stayed true to his roots. "When I would be doing the Rose Bowl, the Super Bowl or the World Series," he said, "I would think back to that vacant lot and those two soapboxes and realize how lucky I was."