APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The Fox Valley has had the fortune of hosting many nationally prominent figures over the years, but one special guest that visited recently may be towards the top of the list.

Without a professional sporting event to call, 28-time Emmy winner and legendary broadcast journalist Bob Costas found himself in Appleton for the 55th annual Red Smith Awards Banquet.

To start the exclusive one-on-one interview with Local 5, Costas reflected on his relationships with a few other notable sports personalities also in town for the banquet.

“Gerry Davis, the longtime big league umpire is obviously someone with whom I’m acquainted through covering baseball from all this time,” Costas said, explaining his reason for attending the Red Smith Banquet this year. “And during the season, Gerry asked me if I’d be willing to do it.”

It’s not Costas’ first time to the Fox Valley. While working with NBC as a football broadcaster, he would often find himself at Lambeau Field, but he would often make his way down the interstate to visit an old friend.

“Tony Kubek lives in Appleton, and Tony is one of my closest friends,” Costas explained.

Kubek was born in Milwaukee and went on to play professional baseball for the New York Yankees. After his playing days were over, he spent 24 years as a sports broadcaster, working with Costas from 1983-1989.

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“So I said to myself, I’ve got a double incentive here. I wanna do a favor for Gerry Davis. It’s also a good cause, but also, I’m in Appleton which I otherwise wouldn’t be. And I had dinner last night with Tony and Margaret.”

While he was in town, Costas spoke with Local 5’s Paul Evansen to talk about a variety of topics, including his late-night appearances and some of the biggest moments of his career.

“Whether David knows it or not, I owe him a lot.”

The name Bob Costas is synonymous with sports, but he also has the unique honor of having made David Letterman laugh.

“David was incredibly kind to me very early in my career,” Costas remembered.

Costas says Letterman was about a month into Late Night when he had his idea to do ‘elevator races.’ Letterman needed someone to call the races with mock seriousness, and Costas got the gig. At the end of the show, Letterman invited Costas to sit on the set with him to say goodbye.

“And I forget what I said at the end, but that also made him laugh. So the show is over and Paul Schafer’s band is playing and the audience is leaving, and he said something very nice. He said, ‘You’re very funny. We should do this again.'”

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Costas did legitimate commentary for a number of sports, including baseball and football. His first network game was back in 1976 between the Packers and the 49ers at Lambeau Field. From there, his “one-game contracts” continued to come in.

“Someone once said ‘80% of success is just showing up,’ and they’ve asked me to show up to a lot of big events.”

When your career has been as long as his, Costas said it gets hard to pick too many favorite moments. He does, however, have four that stick out in his mind:

  • Michael Jordan’s championship-winning shot against Utah in 1998
  • Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch in 1996
    “It meant more than sports,” he said.
  • The ball going through Bill Buckner’s legs during the 1986 World Series. The mistake cost the Red Sox the Series and extended their so-called “curse.”
  • Kirk Gibson hitting a home-run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, sealing the win for the Dodgers.
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“Anyone who’s doing reasonably well can’t be overconfident because you’re only as good as your last broadcast.”

Because he’s a long-time sports broadcaster, Paul had to get Costas’ thoughts on the NFC Championship matchup between the Packers and the 49ers.

Costas said though they’ll never admit it, he’s sure the league would love to have a match-up between the Packers and Chiefs, thereby having a rematch of Super Bowl I. It would be a fitting game, considering the league is celebrating 100 seasons.

Costas admitted 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is having an excellent season, but when it comes down to it, he likes Aaron Rodgers as a clutch quarterback.

“I like Aaron Rodgers in any close game, and this figures to be a close game.”