Fans, family remember Curt Gowdy

Legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy is remembered by his legion of fans in Boston on the day of his funeral

Curt Gowdy entertained and enlightened sports fans for more than half a century and they weren't going to let the legendary broadcaster be forgotten on Saturday, the day of his funeral.

Gowdy, the voice of the Boston Red Sox for 15 years beginning in 1951, received a great tribute along the streets of Boston and by a banner that hung outside Fenway Park.

"Thanks, Curt," it said.

Gowdy died Monday of leukemia at 86 at his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla. But he had kept a home in Boston since the year he began calling Red Sox games.

The billboard-sized banner showed him at the mike at Fenway last Aug. 28 for an appreciation that was his last visit to his beloved ballpark. Gowdy knew his health was failing.

"The crowd showed their appreciation but they didn't know they were saying goodbye. He knew it," said Charles Steinberg, the team's executive vice president for public affairs.

The family got emotional as they paused at the banner.

"We were all pretty much in tears," remarked Curt Gowdy Jr.

He later gave a stirring eulogy to his father at historic Trinity Church in Boston's Back Bay.

"He loved the city of Boston, he loved New England and he loved the Boston Red Sox," Gowdy Jr. said. "He's smiling right now and thanking all of you."

From Boston, Gowdy went on to call an impressive string of major sporting events, including 13 World Series, 16 all-star baseball games, numerous Rose Bowls and NCAA basketball Final Fours. He also covered the first Super Bowl and the 1976 Olympics.

Though those events took him all over the U.S. and beyond, Bostonians think of him as their own. The city planned a funeral procession to circle Fenway Park before heading to the landmark church.

The accolades were everywhere.

"He was the voice of sports, period," said Mary Thawley, decked out in a Red Sox jacket and 1975 World Series shirt. "His voice was deep and calming. He got a little excited when Ted Williams hit his last home run. His voice broke, but that was about the only time I can remember him getting emotional when he was broadcasting."

Carla McElroy, a 55-year-old Medford native who now lives in Maine, was in town visiting family but went to Fenway to pay her respects.

"He was part of our life," she said. "I grew up listening to the Red Sox with my grandfather. "We would listen on the screened porch. We all grew up like that."

A native of Green River, Wyo., Gowdy did his first radio play-by-play of a six-man football game in 1944 in Cheyenne. He spent two years as an announcer for the New York Yankees before moving to Boston. From 1966 through 1975 he was the voice of NBC's Game of the Week.

Gowdy hosted the American Sportsman series on ABC from the early 1960s into the 1980s. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush appeared in fishing segments.

with files from Associated Press