Matt Buckler: Jessica Walter had a long career with great moments

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Mar. 26—Jessica Walter always did better gaining critical acclaim than by getting high ratings.

Walter, a veteran actress who died Wednesday at the age of 80, won an Emmy Award in 1975 for best actress in a Limited Series. She starred as a private investigator in "Amy Prentiss," one of the series that made up the "NBC Mystery Movie."

The spinoff of "Ironside" was canceled after just three episodes, but the TV critics had time to notice.

Her next signature role was playing Lucille Bluth on Fox's "Arrested Development," another show that was burdened by low ratings. Walter, however, was nominated for an Emmy for her performance. The critics were crazy about the show, even though audiences weren't.

Those were two of the peaks of Walter's career. She also earned notoriety for being the voice of Malory Archer on the FXX's animated comedy, "Archer."

Throughout most of her career, however, Walter was busy making guest appearances on TV shows — more than 60 of them.

During the 1970s and '80s, Walter appeared on almost every TV drama that was on the air, ranging from "The Fugitive" to "Mannix" to "Barnaby Jones.

If you watched a lot of TV, you saw a lot of Walter.

Walter also starred in many movies, including a 1971 Clint Eastwood film, "Play Misty for Me," when she played Evelyn, who stalked a radio disc jockey played by Eastwood.

When you have made appearances in seven decades, you know you've had a successful career.

Stockton and 'The Shot'

He called the biggest moment in Boston Red Sox history — Carlton Fisk's home run in the 1975 World Series.

Dick Stockton also called the biggest moment in UConn men's basketball history. He was working for CBS when Tate George made "The Shot," the basket at the buzzer that lifted UConn over Clemson in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1990 and turned an entire state insane.

Perhaps the most passionate audience was at Gampel Pavillion, which was brand new at the time. The game was shown on a big screen in the middle of the basketball court.

Stockton's call was precise — he was right on top of the play. As soon as he said "Tate George wins it for UConn" an amazing thing happened — all the students who were sitting in the stands immediately ran to the screen, wanting to be as close to George as possible, even though he was more than 100 miles away at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

The fans would have gone nuclear no matter who the announcer was. The combination of Stockton's call, however, and the fans reaction, made it an unforgettable moment in UConn basketball history. There have been other big shots, but that was the one that restored excitement to UConn basketball again.

The game grabbed a 50 share in the Hartford-New Haven market, meaning half of the TV sets turned on that night were tuned into the game.

The George shot comes to mind because Stockton, 78, announced his retirement as a sportscaster after a 55-year career.

Perhaps his biggest break came early. He was working in the Boston market when WSBK-TV38 gained the TV rights to Red Sox telecasts and hired Stockton and Ken Harrelson to replace Ken Coleman and Johnny Pesky.

Then when the Red Sox made it to the World Series, Stockton was hired by NBC to do Games 1 and 6 on television and Games 2 and 7 on NBC radio.

That put him on the mike when Fisk hit his long drive to left and waved at it to keep it a fair ball.

Stockton was only with the Red Sox for four seasons — he said he didn't like all the travel. And baseball wasn't his best sport. Because of his inexperience, he didn't have the story-telling skills or the baseball instincts. Stockton was much better at football and basketball.

After hearing Stockton host NHL telecasts, CBS hired him in 1979 to host "CBS Sports Spectacular." In those days, it was a big deal.

He also did NFL games for CBS and took over as lead announcer for the NBA in 1983.

When CBS lost its NFL rights to Fox, Stockton also made the move teaming up with Matt Millen. He also called NBA Games and Major League Baseball action for Turner. He also worked three Winter Olympics for CBS, specializing in speedskating.

UConn fans, however, will remember Stockton for one miraculous moment.

UConn went on to play Duke two days later in the Eastern Regional final. This time UConn lost on a late shot by Christian Laettner and Stockton struggled.

He only had to be great on one play, however. And UConn fans never will forget it.

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