In 1975, sports broadcasting was a slapdash process compared to modern times, with announcers being assigned weeks, months, or, in the case of the Super Bowl network rotation, years in advance. Stockton, who finished his first year as a Red Sox player for WSBK-TV in Boston in 1975, didn’t learn that NBC had made him call the World Series until the last week of the regular season.
Another special feature of the time: instead of a two or three-person booth, NBC decided in 1975 on a Frankenstein monster made up of network talents (Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek) and local broadcasters (Stockton and Ned Martin) from Boston, Marty Brennaman from Cincinnati ) for Games 1 and 6. And for the latter game, Stockton was only supposed to play the game for the first half because NBC wanted Garagiola – who was on the verge of being promoted if the Reds took the title.
Of course, the game went to extra innings, and NBC decided that Stockton and Garagiola would alternate innings in the future, Stockton starting on the 10th. So it was only his turn to sit behind the microphone when Fisk left at the end of the 12th who have favourited Red Sox and Reds are still tied.
“There is no way an agreement will be reached today,” Stockton wrote on his website in 2019. “A network’s top voice requirements would result in one voice calling the rest of the game.” That wouldn’t be me. “
Fisk’s Smash was so sharp on the third baseline that Stockton only had seconds to determine if it was going to be fair or bad. He covered it perfectly with “if it stays fair”.
“I just did what I was supposed to,” Stockton told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2015. Be gone – and there are those like this and you have a nanosecond and it will be fair or it will be fair or it will be fair and you have to do it right and you don’t have much time to achieve much success.
“The only thing that hit me was, ‘If it stays fair …’ That was the key there. And after it was a home run, I just wanted to shut up. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to scream and scream. It was all instinct. I didn’t know any better or worse. I’ve always felt that the guy who invented this technique is Vin Scully. What’s better than sound and picture? I wasn’t aware of this technique at the time. It was pure instinct. “
Most of Stockton’s career has been spent calling NBA games – he was the play-by-play voice of nine finals for CBS – and on NFL booths for CBS and Fox Sports. But it was that one baseball game – one of 1,545 games in all – that will be most remembered.
“With a few exceptions, no one really responds immediately to a game at a sporting event and predicts long-lasting memories,” Stockton wrote on his website. “But if it stands the test of time and is historically viewed as a really stellar moment, then you know.”