Gil Santos, Acushnet and Fairhaven Native and Longtime Patriots Announcer, Dies at 80
One of the most recognized voices in all of broadcasting has been silenced forever.
Acushnet native and longtime voice of the New England Patriots Gil Santos has passed away, on what was his 80th birthday and 57th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife Roberta, a New Bedford native.
The legendary Santos was the play-by-play man for the Patriots from 1966 until 1980, and then returned to the broadcasts in 1991. His 36 years in an NFL booth make him the league's second-longest tenured announcer, behind Merrill Reese of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Santos was born April 19, 1940, in Acushnet and grew up in neighboring Fairhaven. After graduating from Fairhaven High School in 1956, he attended Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth) and the New England Broadcast School.
Santos began working for WBSM in 1959.
"I began at WBSM as, well, a gopher for Hal Peterson, who called the high school basketball games. He put me on the air during the first game of the season, New Bedford High against Brockton," he told this writer for a 2004 Standard-Times story. "I said my piece, and I guess he liked it, because he kept me on as his color man for the rest of the season."
After basketball season was over, Santos was given a Sunday afternoon disc jockey slot, and became the fill-in guy at WBSM throughout that summer. Over Labor Day weekend, he jumped ship to WNBH. Over the next dozen years, he split time between the two New Bedford stations, as well as Fall River signals WSAR and WALE.
Santos was still working in New Bedford in 1966, when he first got the job broadcasting Patriots and Boston College games for WBZ-AM. He was hired there full-time in 1971, and provided daily morning sports reports until his retirement in January 2009.
During the 1980s, Santos was unable to remain as play-by-play man for the Patriots once WBZ-AM no longer had the contract. He instead went on to announce Boston Celtics televised games on WBZ-TV Channel 4 and WLVI-56 from 1980-1990. He called play-by-play for New England Teamen soccer, Providence College basketball, Brown University football, Penn State football, CBS NFL football, ABC television and radio football, the 1984 ABC Olympic broadcast, and Big East TV basketball. He's also filled in for Red Sox broadcasts, called the Boston Marathon, and broadcast games for the Boston Breakers, Providence Friars basketball and Penn State Nittany Lions during his career.
He went back into the Patriots' broadcast booth in 1990, when WBZ regained the rights. He retired from calling the Patriots following the 2012 NFL season.
Santos was inducted into the Fairhaven High School Hall of Fame in 1996, the New England Sports Museum in 2004 and the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2009.
When this writer spoke to Santos in 2009 for his induction into the latter, Santos said calling the 1969 Tech Tourney championship win for Holy Family High School was one of his top 10--perhaps even top five--game calls, including three Patriots Super Bowl championships.
The last high school call Gil made was Paul Walsh's winning basket for Holy Family over then-rival Case in 1971, in a 72-71 win that took five overtimes.
Statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft on the passing of Patriots Hall of Fame Broadcaster Gil Santos:
“For generations of Patriots fans, Gil Santos was and forever will be known as the ‘Voice of the Patriots.’ Tonight, I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing on a day that he was celebrating his 80th birthday and his 57th wedding anniversary to his wife, Roberta. 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. It was my privilege to honor Gil with his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013. His legacy and most memorable calls will live there for future generations of Patriots fans to enjoy. On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest sympathies to Roberta, his daughter Kathleen, his son Mark and the many others who are mourning his loss.”
Statement from Patriots Hall of Fame WR/K Gino Cappelletti on the passing of long-time broadcast partner Gil Santos:
“My heart is heavy today learning of the loss of my dear friend, Gil Santos. For 28 seasons, Gil and I shared the excitement of broadcasting 485 Patriots games, including six Super Bowls. It was a remarkable journey. We experienced a lifetime of memorable moments, both in the booth and as friends. Gil was my broadcast partner, my friend, my compadre and the best play-by-play announcer on the planet. I send my love and prayers to Roberta, Kathy, Mark and the entire Santos family.”