Legendary play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton '64 recalls a long, fun career

By William Muoio

November 4, 2015

Dick Stockton ‘64, spoke to students and the community at the Newhouse School recently about his long career and the sports media business. The Newhouse Sports Media Center sponsored the legendary sports broadcaster’s visit.

Newhouse Sports Media Center Director John Nicholson opened the talk by saying how he’s wanted Stockton to visit and talk with students at his alma mater since the center began more than two years ago.

Stockton says he came to Syracuse University interested in journalism, and recalls one of the pivotal reasons why he chose Syracuse over other universities.

“I wanted to be a sports writer,” Stockton says. On Nov. 7, 1959, Stockton watched the SU football team defeat Penn State 20-18. After the game, Stockton says his mind was made up to attend SU.

While at SU, Stockton says he wrote for The Daily Orange and worked on the radio for WAER. As a freshman, he was the first-ever freshman sports director. However, when he wanted to keep that position entering his second year, it was awarded to someone else. Puzzled, Stockton questioned the decision. His boss told him, “We felt you had no ambition.”

One of his role models at Syracuse was sportscaster Marv Albert, whom he worked with at WAER. Stockton says he was amazed by Albert’s commitments both on and off campus when they were students. The two have remained good friends as their broadcasting careers have flourished. 

Stockton recalled going “big places right away,” working at a radio station in Philadelphia. As an intern, Stockton was in charge of hosting Malcolm X at the station. Stockton says it was the most influential person he’d met to date; two days later, Malcolm X was assassinated. 

After working in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Stockton moved to WBZ in Boston in 1971. His first role was covering the Boston Celtics. He was recommended to cover the Boston Red Sox, but had never done play-by-play announcing before. He sent in his tape to Gene Kirby, assistant general manager of the Red Sox, of himself covering a game at Shea Stadium. Kirby told him it wasn’t good enough and to try again. Seven tries and almost an entire season later, Stockton was given the position of lead announcer for the Red Sox.

Trying and failing so many times was motivation for him to not give up. That was central to his message for aspiring broadcast students at Newhouse.

“You never know when the break is going to come,” he says.

While Stockton has had many memorable moments in his coveted career, one of his most famous was Carlton Fisk’s walk-off homerun to force a Game 7 in the 1975 World Series. Stockton says in that moment he decided to say less to allow people at home watching the game to experience the excitement at Fenway Park. Despite the call being more than 40 years ago, Stockton says the 36 seconds of silence was the “No. 1 moment” in his career.

One of the veteran’s responsibilities today is to help new broadcasters at Fox Sports. He’s also helped several former athletes, including Troy Aikman for NFL on Fox and Chris Webber for TNT, break into the industry.

In closing, Stockton encouraged aspiring broadcasters to embrace whatever was happening at the event they are covering.

“It is not about the preparation,” he says, “it is about the reaction.”

William Muoio is a sophomore newspaper and online journalism student at the Newhouse School.