If you’re a sports fan of a certain vintage — say, one who was an impressionable kid in the seasons when John Havlicek concluded his Celtics career, Larry Bird began his, Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan could scoot like a tailback, and thought Fred Lynn would surely be the Red Sox’ center fielder forever — it’s possible, even likely, that Dick Stockton was one of the first broadcaster voices to become as familiar as a family member’s.
His voice resonated then, when he called the Red Sox alongside Ken “Hawk” Harrelson on Ch. 38 from 1975 through ’78, and it resonated for years beyond on the national level, including his time as CBS’s lead voice on its NBA broadcasts alongside Tommy Heinsohn during the heyday of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the ’80s.
After 55 years as a broadcaster, most of it — including the last three decades at Fox Sports — spent on network television, the 78-year-old Stockton decided to turn off his microphone this past week, telling the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, who broke the news of his retirement, “I just think it’s time.”
Stockton’s bona fides, including having called play-by-play for more than 1,500 total NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games on network television per Fox’s estimate, are comparable to any of his high-profile play-by-play colleagues.
Stockton, a 1964 Syracuse graduate, arrived in Boston in 1971, making his name in the market as the sports director at Ch. 4 from 1971-73. He hasn’t worked in this market for more than 40 years, but he is forever associated with the city for his call of Carlton Fisk’s winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series: “There it goes! A long drive . . . if it stays fair . . . home run!” When you hear those worlds, you can’t help but see Fisk frantically waving the ball fair. It was the perfect television marriage of video and narration.
Stockton was a novice to baseball broadcasting in ’75, having no experience calling the sport when he got the Red Sox job. He found himself on the national stage that October for NBC’s broadcasts only because of a network policy that would seem unfathomable today. As Stockton recounted to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci for a 2015 feature on the 1975 World Series’ lasting impact on sports television, the network integrated the local broadcasters into their World Series coverage in those days. Stockton recalled receiving a telegram from NBC Sports executive of programming Chet Simmons that informed him of his opportunity.
It read: “We are pleased to advise you of your nomination and approval to work with us during the 1975 World Series for the telecast of the first and sixth game. $500 a game. Please do not include the color blue in your wardrobe. Good luck. Chet Simmons, NBC Sports.”
Stockton told Verducci the telegram is framed and still hangs on a wall in his home.
“It is strictly instinctive, at that time,” said Stockton, aware and grateful for the effect that one call had on his life. “If I had said that ball was foul and it was a home run, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Nantz a fixture at CBS
Jim Nantz’s decision to stay at CBS shouldn’t come as a surprise. While there were murmurings in November that moving to ESPN was a possibility, it was hard to envision Nantz leaving a place where he is at the forefront of NFL, March Madness, and The Masters coverage to go to a network in ESPN that is less focused on high-salaried big names than it has ever been. Terms of Nantz’s deal were not announced, but it should keep him in the place he best fits for years to come. Nantz, who turns 62 in May, has mused in the past that he’d like to call The Masters until he’s 75. Reasonable to presume he won’t be saying “Goodbye, friends” for many years . . . Michael Felger, on his decision to return to NBC Sports Boston as co-host of “Boston Sports Tonight,” where he’ll join Michael Holley beginning April 5: “Who am I to turn down work?” he said via text. “These jobs won’t be around forever and I’m lucky that someone would want me to do them. And NBCSB, which I have worked at, off and on, for about 15 years, is really a great place.” Felger reduced his role at the network in 2018 after signing at extension at 98.5 The Sports Hub, where he co-hosts the highly rated afternoon drive program with Tony Massarotti. “Cutting back a few years ago was just a timing thing,’’ Felger said. Left unsaid: Everyone likes a little extra money . . . NESN will debut “Contenders To Champions: The 2011 Bruins” on Sunday at 9 p.m. after postgame coverage. Reliving anything with that Stanley Cup-winning team is always worthwhile, though it’s going to be tough to top that famous Zoom reunion from April. By the way, how in the name of Nathan Horton was that season 10 years ago already?