The first professional radio gig I had was as a weekend anchor and fill-in for the great Larry Munson at the now-defunct (and since reborn) Georgia Network in the early 1980’s. I was a student at Georgia State, interning at the new-CNN and doing everything I could to stay out of class and get into trouble – all in the name of my great future career as a sportscaster.
I learned so much at Georgia Network in the few times I actually sat and talked with Larry. Things like faith in ones-self, frugality in business (he taught me how to use old press releases and game notes as script/scrap paper), and the value of a good cigar to calm one’s anxieties. But even though I sat at his desk when working (when he wasn’t there), I remained what so many were: a fan. Larry gave us “There goes Herschel”… “Sugar Is Falling From The Sky”… and so many more. I didn’t even attend UGA, but so many of my friends did, and since we didn’t have football at GSU and I dreamed of play-by-play from the time I was five years old, Munson was king. Sure, he was a homer. Sure, he would paint a picture of gloom and doom so that the eventual outcome would be even more glorious. But what he did was present sports as history: he respected the outcome, the efforts and he communicated a picture we could all pass on.
What I didn’t know, until his death, was that he had roots in broadcasting in Oklahoma City, where I now live and work. And though he was in Georgia for more than four decades – 42 years with the ‘Dawgs – he earned his stripes, as we all must do. How we are remembered is how we live the truest to ourselves. And Larry Munson was an original. And I knew him. And for that i am forever grateful.
(below is an Associated Press obituary as well as a clip from the UGA paper about a memorial) You can also hear his voice and learn more at www.larrymunson.com
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) – Larry Munson, whose growling delivery as the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for nearly 43 years made him as celebrated as the players and coaches he covered, died Sunday night. He was 89.
A university statement said Munson died at his Athens home of complications from pneumonia, according to his son, Michael.
Munson’s broadcasting career covered more than 60 years and included a stint with the Atlanta Braves when they moved from Milwaukee in 1966. But he’ll always be remembered as the radio play-by-play announcer at Georgia, endearing himself to generations of fans with his quirky calls and unabashed partisanship for the Bulldogs.
“Hunker down!” he would implore when the team faced a crucial play.
Munson was as cherished between the hedges as Georgia’s other football icons, including coach Vince Dooley, Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker and tough defensive coordinator Erk Russell.
His death cam e one day after Georgia clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game for the first time since 2005.
Munson’s delivery was unique and often imitated. There were so many imitators among Georgia fans that contests became common to determine the best impersonation.
He thrilled Georgia fans with calls such as “Run, Lindsay, run!” during Lindsay Scott’s 93-yard touchdown reception against Florida that kept the Bulldogs on course for the 1980 national championship.
After telling fans he broke through his steel chair during Scott’s run, Munson added that excited Georgia fans from Jacksonville to Jekyll Island, Ga., might follow his path.
“Man, is there gonna be some property destroyed tonight!” he exclaimed.
Occasionally, Munson’s exuberance landed him in trouble. He had to apologize after yelling “My God! A freshman!” when Walker ran over Tennessee defensive back Bill Bates for a touchdown in his first college game.
After a 1982 win over Auburn sent Georgia to the Sugar Bowl, Munson’s memorable line was “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!”
Munson’s death resonated beyond Georgia football. Two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy, who spent the bulk of his baseball career with the Braves, tweeted Sunday night: “Saw that Larry Munson passed away, voice of the Georgia football. Thankful to have lived in ATL and hear him call the games, great memories.”
Not all of his famous lines came during Georgia’s most successful years. In Mark Richt’s first season as coach in 2001, Munson was moved by a last-second win over Tennessee.
“We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!” he said.
Indeed, Munson never hid his allegiance to the Bulldogs, part of a generation of play-by-play announcers who saw no reason to pass themselves off as unbiased.
He skipped road games in 2007 except for Georgia Tech, just a 75-mile drive from Athens. Munson had surgery to remove blood clots from his brain several months before the ’08 season, but returned to work Georgia’s first two home games.
Then, he suddenly retired, shortly before his 86th birthday.
“It caught me by great surprise,” said Loran Smith, Munson’s longtime sidelinereporter and host of Georgia’s pregame show.
Scott Howard, who was Munson’s color analyst for 15 years, moved into the play-by-play role following Munson’s retirement. Former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier joined the broadcast team as the color analyst.
Munson often came across as pessimistic about Georgia’s chances, usually because he could make any opponent sound unbeatable. That only made him more excited when the Bulldogs won.
“He’s like a folk hero. He has that special style people love and relate to,” Dooley said during the 1990s after retiring as football coach. “But I’d come out of the hotel on Saturday mornings rested after a good night’s sleep, feeling good about the game and run into Munson and he’d say, ‘You see how fast their receivers are? How we going to run with them?’ I’d say, ‘Munson get away from me.’ The man is a worrier. He drove me crazy as a coach.”
Munson, a native of Minneapolis, was an alumnus of Moorhead State Teachers College. After World War II, he used his military discharge pay to enroll in a broadcasting school in his hometown. He went through 10 weeks of training and landed a job at a radio station in Devil’s Lake, N.D.
That started a series of short-term jobs for Munson behind the microphone, the last of which took him to Cheyenne, Wyo., after he recorded an audition tape of a football game between Ohio State and Minnesota, replete with canned crowd noise and special effects.
During his time in Cheyenne, Munson befriended another young broadcaster who later gained national fame: Curt Gowdy.
When Gowdy, who was calling Wyoming football and basketball games, left for a job with a minor-league baseball team in Oklahoma City, he recommended Munson as his replacement. That was the break he needed.
In 1949, when Gowdy joined Mel Allen on the New York Yankees radio crew, he again recommended Munson as his successor. Munson worked in Oklahoma City for three years.
Then, it was on the Nashville, where he called minor-league baseball, worked as a disc jockey and even hosted a television show on fishing. He also got back into college sports with Vanderbilt, calling football and basketball games.
During his long career at Georgia, Munson held a variety of secondary jobs. He was the play-by-play announcer for Georgia men’s basketball from 1987-96. He worked with the NFL‘s Atlanta Falcons from 1989-92. He also hosted various sports talk shows on radio and TV.
But he will always be known as the voice of the Dawgs. In 1994, Munson was inducted into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 2005, he claimed a spot in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Two years ago, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
“Ask any sports fan in the South for the name of a college announcer other than his own and the chances are the one he or she will know is Munson,” Smith once said.
Funeral arrangements have not been determined. Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
Larry Munson Memorial Service set for Saturday at Sanford Stadium
By UGA NEWS SERVICE on December 8, 2011
A one-hour memorial service for legendary Georgia radio announcer Larry Munson will be held Saturday, Dec. 10, at 1 p.m. in Sanford Stadium.
Munson, who served as the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for 42 years, died at his Athens home Sunday night, Nov. 20, with complications from pneumonia.
Speakers at the memorial service include UGA President Dr. Michael Adams, Tony Barnhart, Vince Dooley, Charley Whittemore, Jonathan Munson, Michael Munson and Wes Durham. Scott Howard will serve as emcee.
Seating will be on the south side of the stadium. Stadium gates open at 12 p.m., and free parking on a first come, first served basis will be available in all surface lots and the Tate Center parking deck. Parking will not be permitted on sidewalks.
In case of inclement weather, the memorial service will be moved to Stegeman Coliseum.