On Oct. 22, 1975, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk was willing his home run to stay fair, and Dick Stockton was making his legendary call. Stockton announced his retirement Thursday after 55 tears of broadcasting. Harry Cabluck/Associated Press

In announcing his retirement Thursday after 55 years in broadcasting, Fox Sports said that Dick Stockton had called 1,545 televised sporting events, a record for a U.S. sports broadcaster. But one of them stands out above the others:

Dick Stockton, shown in 2006, called Red Sox games for WSBK-TV in Boston back in the 1970s. He announced he is retiring after 55 years of broadcasting. Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images/TNS

Stockton’s call of Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series long ago achieved iconic status, its 12 words – “There it goes! A long drive . . . if it stays fair . . . home run!” – followed by Stockton’s 36-second silence as the Fenway Park crowd roared Fisk around the bases embedded in the collective memory. And to hear Stockton tell it, he was lucky to be behind the microphone.

In 1975, sports broadcasting was a more slapdash operation compared to the modern era, when announcer assignments are made weeks, months or – in the case of the Super Bowl network rotation – even years in advance. Stockton, who in 1975 was finishing up his first year of calling Red Sox games for WSBK-TV in Boston, only learned that NBC had tabbed him to call the World Series in the last week of the regular season.

Another quirk of the times: Instead of a set two- or three-man booth, NBC in 1975 decided to go with a Frankenstein’s monster of both network talent (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 scheduled to do the play-by-play only for the first half of the game, as NBC wanted Garagiola – who was on the verge of being promoted to the network’s top play-by-play voice – on the call in case the Reds clinched the title.

Naturally, the game went to extra innings, and NBC decided that Stockton and Garagiola would alternate innings going forward, Stockton starting with the 10th. Thus it was merely his turn behind the microphone when Fisk led off the bottom of the 12th, the Red Sox and Reds still tied.

“There is no way that arrangement would happen today,” Stockton wrote on his website in 2019. “The demands of the top voice of any network would result in one voice calling the rest of the game. That wouldn’t be me.”

Fisk’s smash was lined so sharply down the third base line that Stockton had only seconds to determine whether it was going to be fair or foul. He hedged it perfectly with “if it stays fair.”

“I just did what I’m supposed to do,” Stockton told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2015. “There are two kinds of home runs: the drives that are deep and you can give a rhapsodic call – It’s way back … it could be gone – and there are the ones like this one, and you have a nanosecond and it’s going to be fair or foul and you have to get it right and you don’t have much time to have much flourish on the call.

“The only thing that hit me was, ‘If it stays fair …’ That was the key thing there. And after it was a home run, I just wanted to shut up. I wanted to make sure I’m not going to scream and yell. It was total instinct. I didn’t know any better or any worse. I always felt the guy who invented that technique was Vin Scully. What’s better than the sound and pictures? I wasn’t aware of that technique at the time. It was purely instinct.”

The bulk of Stockton’s career was spent calling NBA games – he was the play-by-play voice of nine Finals for CBS – and in NFL booths for CBS and Fox Sports. But it was that one baseball game – one out of 1,545 games total – that will be remembered the most.

“With few exceptions, no one really responds immediately to a play in any sports event, and forecasts long-lasting memories,” Stockton wrote on his website. “But when it stands the test of time, and is historically looked upon as a truly standout moment, then you know.”


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