07/22/2002 10:47 pm ET
Gowdy remembers Williams' last HR
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The words flowed out of Curt Gowdy's mouth like he had been scripting them for hours. "Long drive to right field, that ball is going, it is gone. It's a home run for Ted Williams in his last time at-bat in the Major Leagues."
It was Sept. 28, 1960, the day Williams closed out his career as only he could.
However, Gowdy was one of a precious few people who knew it was Wiliams' last at-bat. And at the time Gowdy announced it to his listening public, he didn't mean to inform them of this.
The Red Sox had a road trip left to New York, and Gowdy was supposed to keep it a secret that Williams wasn't accompanying the team.
Both before and during Monday night's riveting tribute to Williams, Gowdy recalled how the cat came out of the bag via his voice, which was known to all Red Sox fans.
"I drove into the ballpark, parked the car, went into the clubhouse, and Johnny Orlando, the clubhouse guy, said, 'Gowdy, Gowdy come here, this is the Kid's last game ever.' 'What do you mean? We have a series in New York this weekend.' 'Mr. Yawkey told him to take the last two games off and go fishing. This is his last game. You have to promise me you won't mention it to anyone.'
"I said, 'I promise I won't.'"
And for one of the few times in his life, Gowdy broke a promise, albeit inadvertently.
"When he hit the home run and rounded first, I said, 'and Ted Williams has hit a home run in his last at-bat in the Major Leagues.' But nobody minded."
The relationship between Gowdy and Williams was one that went a lot deeper than broadcaster and player.
They were both avid fishers. And after Williams retired, they nearly became broadcasting partners.
"He nearly worked with me on the Game of the Week," said Gowdy. "I don't know why NBC wouldn't hire him. I took him down there, we met in Florida for dinner. He told the vice president of NBC, 'Look, I won't wear a necktie but I'll be the cleanest guy in the park.' He always was. 'I'll be clean shaven, my hair will always be combed. You'll never be ashamed of me that way. But you have to understand, I don't wear neckties.' He never did. That was his whole secret, he was his own man."
The moral of that story is that Williams didn't get the job.
But he had a surprising impact in the way Gowdy did his.
"One time having dinner, I said, 'Ted, I want to thank you.' 'For what?' he said. 'For making me a better broadcaster. I watched you prepare and practice, I said: why can't I prepare more? So I started to keep better records.' Williams passed his drive on to me, and it really helped in my career."
And thanks in large part to one memorable home run call, their careers will always be intertwined.
Ian Browne, who covers the Red Sox for MLB.com, can be reached at Ian.Browne@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.