'Gordo' retires after 25 years with Twinsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — As the radio broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins, John Gordon has documented some of the biggest moments in the team's history.
One huge moment came in the sixth game of the 1991 World Series, when superstar centerfielder Kirby Puckett hit a game-winning home run in the 11th inning over the Atlanta Braves to force a seventh game — when the Twins captured baseball's World Championship.
"Puckett swings and hits a blast," Gordon yelled. "Deep left center! Way back! Way back! It's gone! The Twins go to the seventh game! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett! Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!"
But after this year, his 25th with the team, the man known as 'Gordo' to his friends and colleagues, is taking his signature home run call with him into retirement.
It's not that Gordon, 71, needs to go now. Twins players still hop around and stretch before weekday afternoon games at Target Field, perhaps to burn off a little pre-game nervous energy. But in the radio booth, Gordon appears calm and still.
And once the game starts, the veteran announcer easily covers the play-by-play like a skilled infielder handles a ground ball.
Gordon and his broadcast partner, former Twins player Dan Gladden, sound like they're sitting side-by-side during radio broadcasts. But they're on opposite sides of the booth.
Gladden, a former outfielder, keeps a glove close by to catch foul balls. Sometimes a catch by a fan in the stands elicits just as much excitement from the broadcasters as one made by a professional on the field.
"Swing and a foul just off to our right and down below on a very nice catch," Gordon observes. "Wow! Standing ovation from Danny Gladden."
Born John Gordon Gutowsky in Detroit, Gordon studied broadcasting at Indiana University in the early 1960s. He landed his first broadcasting job in 1965 with the Spartanburg Phillies, a minor league farm team and also did play-by-play for college basketball and football at the University of Virginia.
Gordon later worked for two other Major League Baseball teams: the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees.
But some of his fondest memories started when he joined the Twins in 1987. That's the year the Twins won their first World Series. That's also when he began his radio partnership with the late Herb Carneal.
"I miss him still to this day. We worked together for 19 seasons and we never had a cross word," Gordon said. "I cherish his friendship and I cherish his professionalism in broadcasting radio baseball."
Carneal died in 2007, leaving big shoes to fill. After all, longtime radio broadcasters have a unique relationship with baseball fans.
"Fans tend to associate voices to the game more than hockey or basketball or football, because it's an everyday occurrence," said Dick Bremer, the Twins play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports North television.
Gordon's personality led to a close relationship with fans over the years.
"There's a comfort level that listeners have with their radio broadcaster in baseball," Bremer said. "To have done it for as long as John has done it in this market, obviously he has established that very early on."
It used to be common to see baseball fans in the stands with radios tuned into the play-by-play broadcast. They're a little hard to find at this particular Twins game at Target Field. But it's not difficult to find fans who appreciate John Gordon's style.
"I think he has a very good way of relating to the audience," said Jim Callendar, of Shorewood, Minn. "His voice and his mannerisms are really — at least really appeal to me."
Others are impressed with the longtime announcer's knowledge of baseball.
"He can really give you a play-by-play synopsis of what's going on the field," said Jim Baker, a fan from Plymouth, Minn. "Actually, I enjoy, probably listening to baseball more than I do watching it. I think it's a very good sport to listen to on the radio."
But even announcers eventually have leave to the field. Gordon, who is easing his way into retirement by working a part-time schedule this season, said he doesn't want to 'die at the microphone.'
"I been married for 42 years and my wife Nancy and I have just decided that now is a good time to step aside and find out what's going to happen for the rest of our lives starting in October of 2011," he said.
The Twins plan to honor Gordon with a ceremony at Target Field in September.
- Morning Edition, 08/09/2011, 8:45 a.m.