By Meaghan Cahill ’20
Gil Santos, inductee of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, radio play-by-play announcer for the New England Patriots, and member of the Patriots Hall of Fame passed away last weekend on April 19. It was his 80th birthday and 57th wedding anniversary.
Known as the “Voice of the Patriots,” Santos began his renowned career in 1966 as a color commentor for WBZ. He became the official play-by-play announcer in 1971 when the Patriots moved to Foxborough, Massachusetts. He called 744 games in 36 seasons before he announced his retirement in 2009.
In a 2009 interview, Santos recalled that it was Mel Allen announcing the Rose Bowl Game in 1950 that ignited his passion for sports broadcasting. “He said, ‘It’s 80 degrees and sunny here in Pasadena’ and I was thinking ‘Geez, it’s snowing here, it’s 80 degrees there, and this guy’s there to broadcast the game. What a great way to make a living.’”
Santos gave 63 years of his life to the broadcasting business, announcing most notably for the Patriots, but also for teams such as the Boston Celtics, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team, and the Boston College football team. He also announced at events such as the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Santos described his broadcasting career as “simple. I tell the people where this ball is, who has it, and then what they’re doing with it. Then I let my partner talk.”
His son, Mark Santos, recalled his father’s career as being anything but simple, reflecting on the countless hours of preparation and lack of sleep his father endured. Mark gave a nod to his father, saying, “For a guy who spoke nothing but Portuguese until he was five, he came a long way. [My father] never felt more comfortable than sitting in a press box. That was his calling. He loved calling games.”
Following Santos’ death, of which the cause remains unknown, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released the statement, “For generations of Patriots fans, Gil Santos was and forever will be known as the ‘Voice of the Patriots’. Gil was a legendary broadcaster, who for 36 years passionately described the play-by-play detail of every Patriots game during his career, including many of the most memorable moments in franchise history.”
Gino Cappelletti, the former star Patriots kicker and receiver, partnered with Santos in the booth until his own retirement in 2012; it was a partnership that lead to Santos referring to Cappelletti as “mon ami” (my friend in French) at the beginning of every one of his broadcasts.
Following the announcement of Santos’ death, Cappelletti interviewed with The Boston Globe on his former partner. In the interview, Cappelletti recalled Santos’ enthusiasm with the memory from the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII game at the Reliant Stadium, “I’ve got to watch Gil. He gets excited and tends to lean over. If he does that here, he’d better be wearing a parachute.”
In the same interview, Cappelletti stated that Santos was “truly a pro in every sense of the word, always prepared. Gil demands quality and excellence in everything he does in the radio broadcast business.”
Former coworkers of Santos took to remembering him following his death, reminiscing on memories they have of him and the type of man and worker that he was.
Gary LaPierre, Santos’ colleague from WBZ, commented, “There are none better at painting pictures on radio. He’s got a set of pipes and credibility. You never hear anyone bad-mouthing him. He is a straight shooter.”
Santos’ gave his last broadcast on January 20, 2013 at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots lost the AFC title game to the Baltimore Ravens. Santos had to spend months determinedly completing rehab to make the game after suffering pneumonia and an obstructed pulmonary disease the year before, days after the Patriots loss in Super Bowl XLVI. Against all odds, Santos survived the illnesses, but was only left with movement in his right arm and was unable to feed himself.
In the final years of his life, Santos reflected, “Hey, I’m pretty lucky. I got to do what I wanted to do. Now all I’d like is to be remembered as someone who was good at what he did and was a good guy, too…It’s never been a job with the Patriots. It’s been an honor.”
Many people across New Engand will certainly remember Santos the way he wanted to be remembered and for so much more.