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Gowdy's loss a blow to American sports fans


I was truly saddened by the news I received over the phone Monday morning. On the other end was Bob Knight, and I could hear he was shaken as he relayed news of the death of legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy. Knight, Gowdy and Ted Williams often took fishing trips together, and the General was upset over the passing of the superstar broadcaster.

Leukemia caused Gowdy's tragic death. I have said time and again that we must wipe out the dreaded disease of cancer.

In the world of sports, I have enjoyed meeting so many great people, individuals I have truly admired and respected. Being behind the scenes at ESPN and ABC and in front of the microphone, I have had special chances to break bread with the sports world's elite, and Gowdy was one of the very best ever to call a sporting event.

There weren't many people who were more special than Gowdy. He was such a kind, warm, caring guy and he always made you feel like you were the most important guy in the room. In the past 1½ years, I had the opportunity to have lunch with him at a charity function in the Boca Raton, Fla., area. My wife and I really enjoyed that time together with him, as we shared story after story.

Being a big baseball fan, I was interested in stories about the Splendid Splinter. He was one of my favorite players until I realized the Red Sox had no shot against the Yankees. It was so exciting to share stories with Gowdy about Williams and Knight. Gowdy had such admiration for the General.

Those guys talked about the discipline, intensity and emotion Knight brought to the sidelines. All those media critics of Knight would battle with Gowdy because he would tell positives about the General.

Simply defined, Gowdy was C-L-A-S-S. He was a brilliant guy behind the microphone, always showing that special warmth that was unique. Gowdy also played a vital part in the game I love, college basketball. He was a star in the early '40s at the University of Wyoming. He loved talking about his days as a Cowboy.

His resume is truly impressive, calling 13 World Series and 16 All-Star Games as the voice of baseball. He was an integral part of the sport's "Game of the Week" telecasts, and a whole generation sat in front of the television and enjoyed his voice. Then there was "American Sportsman," an incredible outdoors series.

Gowdy had a love affair with the microphone and his fans had a love affair with him. American sports fans truly lost an icon, a legend who never felt he was bigger than anyone else. He had that humility that made him special, and he made everyone feel like they were so important.

There aren't many solid-gold superstars in the world, but Gowdy was certainly one of them. I've been blessed in my life to receive numerous awards, but one of the most special was the Curt Gowdy Award, presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame annually to honor someone in the broadcast media and someone in the print media.

I will always remember that night when I was in Springfield, Mass., accepting the honor for broadcasters, along with two of my buddies -- the late Larry Donald and Dick "Hoops" Weiss, now of the New York Daily News, who received the print award.

Anyone who has known Gowdy understands he is a special, special man. Thanks for the memories, sir -- you were one of a kind!

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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