Dick Stockton has been named one of the top 50 network sportscasters of all time.
A graduate of Syracuse University, where he studied speech dramatic arts and journalism, Stockton’s is one of the most recognizable voices in sports television. A member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Stockton has called the World Series, Olympics, NBA Finals, Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. In over four decades behind the microphone, the versatile play-by-play man has worked for CBS, NBC, Fox and Turner. Stockton has called some of the biggest moments in American sports history. He was courtside for the epic Celtics – Lakers NBA Finals of the 1980s, covered the gold medal speed skating performances of Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair at the 1994 Winter Olympics and called the famous Villanova upset of Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA title game. His career-defining moment came in 1975, when he called one of the most exciting home runs in history – Carlton Fisk’s blast in the bottom of the 12th inning to win Game Six in Boston’s Fenway Park.
Born in Philadelphia November 22, 1942, Richard Edward Stokvis grew up in Queens, where he attended Forest Hills High School. Wanting to be a sportswriter, he enrolled at Syracuse University in the fall of 1960, where he wrote for the Daily Orange. Stockton became the first freshman ever to serve as sports director at campus radio station WAER. The station is a legendary media institution, having produced Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Sean McDonough and Marv Albert, with whom Stockton forged a friendship that remains close to this day. Other alums include Ted Koppel, Jerry Stiller and Dick Clark. When the WAER director’s job was given to someone else prior to his sophomore year, his boss told Stockton, “We felt you had no ambition.”
After graduating Syracuse in 1964, Stockton worked for local radio and TV stations in Philadelphia. In 1967, he became sports director at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and started freelancing for CBS Sports. In 1971, Stockton moved to Boston to work for WBZ. He began calling Celtics games in 1974 and was hired as lead announcer for the Red Sox the following year.
“There it goes! A long drive!…If it stays fair…Home run!”
It took Dick Stockton seven tries to get the job as voice of the Boston Red Sox. Prior to the 1975 season, Stockton – who had little baseball experience — went to a Yankees game to record play-by- play into a tape recorder, then sent the tape to the Red Sox. “You were horrendous,” said his future boss, who proceeded to provide a pitch-by-pitch break down of his audition. The critique filled seven pages of a yellow legal pad, but Stockton got the job. The 32-year-old was wrapping up his first season with the Red Sox when NBC invited Stockton to join Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola for coverage of the 1975 World Series between Boston and the Cincinnati Reds. Stockton was assigned to Games One and Six, for which he was paid $ 500 each. Gowdy called the first half of Game One before turning play-by-play duties over to Stockton, who would read promo copy for a show that was scheduled to debut that night, Saturday Night Live. As Gowdy turned the mic over to Stockton, the legendary hall-of-famer told viewers, “You’ll enjoy listening to Dick.”
Game Six was scheduled for the following Saturday, but heavy rains hit Boston and the game was twice postponed. It was finally played on Tuesday night — and in primetime — which was highly unusual for baseball at the time, as Monday Night Football had been the only live sports program to draw prime-time viewers. In what is perhaps the best and most important baseball telecast ever put on the air, Stockton found himself calling the 12th inning for NBC. With the game tied at six, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk hit a pitch off Pat Darcy high and deep down the left field line and appeared to be heading foul. As Fisk left the batter’s box, he famously jumped and waved the ball fair. In one of baseball’s greatest moments, the ball struck the foul pole to give the Red Sox the win. After making the call, Stockton fell silent. “I wanted to make sure I’m not going to scream and yell,” he recalled. “I always felt the guy who invented that technique was Vin Scully. What’s better than the sound and pictures?”
For a man who has made his living talking, the best moment of Stockton’s extraordinary career took place in silence. Thirty-six seconds after Fisk’s blast – an eternity in live television sports broadcasting – Stockton told viewers, “We will have a seventh game in this 1975 World Series.” In an evening of drama, plot twists and fate, a broadcasting career was launched. Following the World Series, he spent two seasons calling NFL games for NBC before joining CBS Sports full time in 1978.
Stockton began doing NBA on CBS during an era when pro basketball ratings were so low the Finals were shown on tape delay. The 1981 Finals set a standard for futility, with an average rating of 6.7. In the early 1980s, an influx of new stars saved the league, and Stockton witnessed all of it. Sitting courtside with Rick Barry, Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn, Stockton was the voice of the league for a decade. He called some the most epic Finals in NBA history, including three Celtics –Lakers matchups that were the highest-rated series in NBA history. After CBS lost the NBA contract, Stockton told viewers at the end of the network’s final telecast in June 1990, “We’ve witnessed the careers of Julius Erving and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. We’ve seen Michael Jordan take flight. We know we leave the NBA in good hands…and you the viewers, we’re going to miss you. So long!”
Now in his 43rd year in broadcasting, Stockton has served as the voice of the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Boston Red Sox, San Antonio Spurs, Oakland A’s and Miami Dolphins. He has covered basketball, baseball, football, swimming and diving, and figure skating. After 17 years at CBS Sports, Stockton joined Fox in 1994, where he continues to cover NFL and MLB telecasts. Since 1995, he has also called the NBA for TNT and major league baseball for TBS. The consummate pro, Stockton has worked alongside Dan Fouts and Dan Dierdorf with CBS. At Fox, he broke in Troy Aikman – now the network’s number-one NFL analyst. Today, Stockton relishes his role mentoring newcomers such as Brady Quinn and David Diehl.
Mr. Stockton is married to Jamie Drinkwater and the couple divide their time between homes in Boca Raton, Florida, and Carefree, Arizona. In 2001, he was honored with the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. An avid reader and supporter of the Daily Dose, Stockton received the Sonny Hirsch Award for excellence in broadcasting in April 2016. Six months later, he was inducted into Syracuse University’s fabled WAER Hall of Fame. Check out Stockton Says, a weekly blog in which one of sports media’s elder statesmen discusses a variety of trending topics as well as the new Stockton! podcasts available at http://www.stocktonpodcast.com./.
On this date in 1984, Dick Stockton called Game Two of the NBA Finals. On Thursday night in Boston Garden, the Celtics prevailed over the Los Angeles Lakers, 124-121, before nearly 15,000 fans. The Celtics would go on to win the series in seven games.
–Dick Stockton, to journalism students at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications