Some of the most iconic moments in NFL history would not be the same without the emotion broadcasters insert into them. Few were better at doing that than long-time New England Patriots radio commentator Gil Santos, who called the team's games for a total of 36 years and gave his voice to some of the biggest plays in Patriots history. No matter the play, Santos was there to tell the audience what happened.
“Bledsoe. Play-action fake... Touchdown! Ben Coates! The Patriots win! How about Drew Bledsoe!? How about Drew Bledsoe!?”
On Thursday, Santos passed away on the day of his 80th birthday and 57th wedding anniversary. Born and bred in Massachusetts, Santos grew up in Fairhaven and went on to attend Southeastern Massachusetts University. He then served in the Vietnam War as part of the U.S. Armed Forces and later graduated from the New England Broadcast School. In 1966, Santos started his tenure at WBZ.
“Set to go. Snap. Ball down. Kick is up. Kick is on the way. And... it... is... good! It’s good! It’s good!”
His first game covering the then-Boston Patriots took place in 1966. Initially serving as the color commentator, Santos began calling play-by-play after the team's move to Foxboro and re-branding as the New England Patriots. While his station lost broadcasting rights following the 1979 season, Santos, who also worked Penn State and Boston College games and was a radio broadcaster at the 1984 Summer Olympics, returned in 1991.
“15 seconds to go, the handoff to Edgerrin Ja – and he's stopped! He is stopped! Willie McGinest made the stop at the one-yard line!”
Together with Gino Cappelletti, Santos went on to call games until after the 2011 season, when his long-time partner retired. Santos himself followed into retirement one year later after having called 743 games overs 36 seasons – including six Super Bowls, three of which victories. For his contributions to the Patriots, he was enshrined into the team's Hall of Fame in the summer of 2013.
“Direct snap to Brady, stands in the pocket, fires it to the right, down the right sideline – and caught at the 20, 15, 10, 5! Touchdown Patriots! Tom Brady to Randy Moss and they each have set NFL records.”
“For generations of Patriots fans, Gil Santos was and forever will be known as the 'Voice of the Patriots',” wrote team owner Robert Kraft following Santos' passing. “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.”
“This is Gil Santos thanking you all for 36 wonderful years.”
“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.”