Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Voices from the Past: Curt Gowdy

Growing up, like many people I admired Curt Gowdy--host of the ABC-TV show The American Sportsman, a show that once commanded 20 million viewers per week (the same as American Idol garners today). In addition to his sportscasting work, Gowdy was also a serviceable writer. This little vignette on Ted Williams was first published in 1979, and gives some interesting insight into the Splendid Splinter's angling psyche.

I was broadcasting the Boston Red Sox games when Ted Williams was the biggest name in baseball. Ted was just as good a fisherman as he was a batter. He took me out with him on the Florida Keys, and we spent many hours in planes, hotel rooms, and dugouts during the baseball season talking fishing. Williams is a perfectionist, which is undoubtedly why he was so explosive and controversial as a ballplayer. He has to be good at anything he tries. He wants to know all about it and will go to everyone to find out.

There are not many men in the world as versatile as Ted Williams in fishing. He has caught big billfish, he is outstanding with the spinning and plug-casting rods, and he is one of the best for distance and accuracy with the flyrod. Then he can sit down at his fly-tying bench and with those big powerful hands that nearly ground so many baseball bats into pieces, turn out the daintiest little dry flies imaginable. He knows tackle of all types and what makes them good or bad.

I remember one day in the 1950s when the Red Sox were playing a series against the Senators in Washington, D.C. we had a night game scheduled, and Ted had noticed that the national casting tournaments were being held at the reflection pool on the mall. The best casters in America had gathered to compete in the distance and accuracy events.

We were watching some of the events, when one of the participants recognized Ted and invited him to try his gear. Ted stepped out on the platform, stripped the shooting monofilament line on the deck, and with that strange outfit cast a fly just five feet shorter than the man who won the national distance fly-casting championship.

In the can on the way back to the hotel I asked Ted why he liked to fish: "Gee, for a lot of reasons, I guess," Ted said. "Living in San Diego as a boy I was around water and got interested then. But I like the challenge it offers me. It's real relaxation for me. I like to get away from crowds--off by myself. It's a chance to relax and not have some fan or writer getting on me. I like the competition of going for records on all different types of tackle and line test. Fishing offers so many different things I enjoy that I can't single out one particular reason why I like to fish--but boy, it's been great for me."

-- Dr. Todd

1 comment:

billsonnett said...

Every time I hear the name Curt Gowdy I think of an incident that took place in the 1970's when a young man that worked for me asked me to go fishing on a Friday afternoon after work. He was not having much luck catching bass up to that point. About my second cast I hooked a three pounder that immediately leaped high in the air, flashing in the bright sun. His remark was, "Wow, just like Curt Gowdy!"