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Nov. 20, 2011
ATHENS ----- Larry Munson, legendary voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for 42 years, died at his Athens home Sunday night with complications from pneumonia according to his son, Michael.
Funeral arrangements had not been determined.
"We are deeply indebted to Larry for his wonderful contributions to the University of Georgia," said UGA Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. "For over four decades, Larry poured his heart and soul into Georgia football. His passion, energy, and love for our Bulldogs were clearly evident at all times --- especially on Saturdays during the Fall. For those of us who were able to hear Larry paint the picture with his live play-by-play calls, we are very fortunate. For those who were able to know Larry, our lives were enriched by a once-in-a-lifetime treasure."
Munson wrapped up a lifetime of sports broadcasting in the fall of 2008, most of which was spent with the Georgia Bulldogs from 1966 to 2008. His dramatic delivery, along with an unabashed partisanship for the Bulldogs, endeared him to generations of UGA fans.
The Georgia job, which Munson landed in 1966, was the latest and longest lasting in a career that has covered over 60 years. He has been duly honored by several organizations for his outstanding contributions to broadcasting.
Born Sept. 28, 1922, in Minneapolis, Munson is an alumnus of Moorehead State Teachers College in Moorehead, Minn. After World War II, he used his military discharge pay to enroll in broadcasters school back home in Minneapolis. He followed 10 weeks of training by landing an assignment to work at a small radio station in Devil's Lake, N.D.
This job started a series of short-term jobs for Munson behind the microphone, the last of which took him to Cheyenne, Wyoming. He had gotten the job by recording 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, who was calling University of Wyoming football and basketball games at the time. When Gowdy left Cheyenne for a Double A baseball job in Oklahoma City, he recommended that Munson replace him. It was the break that Munson sought.
In 1949, when Gowdy joined Mel Allen on the New York Yankees radio crew, he again recommended Munson for the job in Oklahoma City. Munson eventually spent three years broadcasting baseball there before making his next move.
He left Oklahoma City for Nashville, Tenn., in 1952, taking a job calling games for the Nashville Vols, a minor-league affiliate of several teams, including the New York Giants, Cincinnati and Minnesota. It was a career move that led him into other broadcasting directions. He served a stint as a Nashville disc jockey and also started ''The Rod & Gun Club,'' believed to have been the first-ever TV show on outdoor sports. Munson continued to host the show long after he left Nashville for Georgia in the mid-1960s.
While in Nashville, Munson also made his second venture into collegiate athletics. He called Vanderbilt University football and basketball games over the powerful airwaves of AM station WSM.
But in 1966 Munson got his big break into major-league baseball when he landed a job calling Atlanta Braves baseball in their inaugural season. As the Braves' first spring training began, he read a newspaper story about the departure of Georgia football announcer Ed Thilenius. He then made an inquiry to UGA athletics director Joel Eaves, whom he had known during his days at Vanderbilt. Eaves offered him the Georgia football job during that first phone call.
During his career as the Bulldogs¹ play-by-play man, Munson has held a variety of auxiliary jobs. He called games for the Georgia basketball program from 1987-96 and for the Atlanta Falcons from 1989-92. He has also hosted various sports talk shows on radio and TV.
In 1983, Munson was recognized by the Georgia General Assembly for his role in the Georgia championship football program. Fourteen years later the same legislative body, led by Governor Zell Miller, honored him with a proclamation celebrating his 50 years in broadcasting.
In 1994, Munson was inducted into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and in 2005, he won a similar induction into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame on May 2, 2009.
Munson was also the 2003 recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award, given annually by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award recognizes broadcasters with long and distinguished careers in broadcasting college football, as well as their contributions to community service. He was also named winner of the 2008 Furman Bisher Award for Sports Media Excellence presented by the Atlanta Sports Council.
On Nov. 17, 2007, Munson was named a UGA "Honorary Football Letterman" and presented with a letterman's plaque and jacket at the Georgia-Kentucky game.
What they said through the years
"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."
--Loran Smith, 1986
"I've never known a college announcer who means more to his school's alumni and friends than Larry Munson. He delivers a passionate, emotional broadcast that has endeared him to all Bulldogs and it has also made him the toast of the state."
--Mike Faherty, General Manager, WSB Radio, 1986
"Nobody that I know does play-by-play like Larry. He has a certain way of following the ball and his powers of concentration are unbelievable. He captures the feeling of the moment. He's great, but he's a horrible roommate. He could be doing a game in Montana in December and have the air conditioning on. He must have descended from a polar bear."
--Phil Schaefer, Georgia color analyst, 1986
"The voice of the Georgia Bulldogs has become the voice of college football in the South."
--Boyd McWhorter, Southeastern Conference Commissioner, 1985
"Hardly a day goes by in my hectic world that I don't remind my staff to 'Hunker Down.'"
--Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, 1986
"Larry Munson is to Georgia football what fried chicken is to a tailgate party. You can't enjoy one without the other."
--Lewis Grizzard, 1985
"He's like a folk hero. He has that special style people love and relate to. I finally claimed him as one of the best after the '78 season. He just shot straight up. 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."
--Vince Dooley on Munson, 1994
"Matt Robinson fakes, end-around to Appleby. Appleby's gonna throw a bomb! He's got a man open down on the far side! Complete! A touchdown!..........Appleby to Washington. Eight yards! Appleby! End around! Just stopped, planted his feet and threw it! Washington, caught it, thinking of Montreal and the Olympics, and ran out of his shoes right down the middle. Eighty yards!"
-- Nov. 8, 1975 vs. Florida
"The whole stadium is standing up and roaring against Georgia.....The whole game coming down to this!......He sets it down and it's up! Watch it! Watch it! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!"
--Oct. 28, 1978 vs. Kentucky, Rex Robinson winning field goal
"We hand it off to Herschel! There's a hole! Five! 10! 12! He's running over people! Oh, you Herschel Walker!.......My God Almighty, he ran right through two men.....He drove right over orange shirts, just driving and running with those big thighs. My God, a freshman!"
-- Sept. 9, 1980 vs. Tennessee, Herschel's debut
"Buck back, third down on the eight. In trouble. Got a block behind him. Gonna throw on the run. Complete to the 25! To the 30! Lindsay Scott! 35, 40! Lindsay Scott 45, 50! 45, 40! run Lindsay! 25! 20! 15! 10! Five! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!...........I can't believe it. I broke my chair. A metal, steel chair with about a 5-inch cushion. Well, the stadium fell down.....I didn't mean to beg Lindsay to run, but I had to."
-- Nov. 8, 1980 vs. Florida, winning TD with 1:04 left
"Auburn trying to break our hearts here!......Again you guys, hunker down!....Eight-four seconds. I hate to keep saying it, but HUNKER DOWN!....A minute and four seconds. Sixty-four seconds. Sixty-four seconds to everything!....If you didn't hear me you guys, HUNKER DOWN!....It's fourth down....Ball on the 21 and they've got to go to the four for a first down. I know I'm asking a lot you guys, but HUNKER IT DOWN ONE MORE TIME!.....(A Pass by Auburn is broken up in the end zone)....The Dogs broke it up!.....Twenty-three, twenty-two, twenty-one. Clock running, running. Oh, look at the sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!"
-- Nov. 13, 1982 vs. Auburn, Georgia wins third straight SEC title
"So we'll try to kick one 100,000 miles....We're gonna try to kick one 60 yards plus a foot and a half....And Butler kicked a long one, a long one....Oh my God, oh my God....The stadium is worse than bonkers."
--Sept. 22, 1984 vs. Clemson, Kevin Butler winning field goal with 11 seconds left.
"We have come flying down the field we are on their six yard line. We are gonna have one play to try and save ourselves. Remember we left our heart down on the other end of the field. We have come all the way back to the six yard-line and we just took the last timeout like gold bouillon and had to spend it. Six yard line. Can you believe that David Greene brought us down the field that quick? Now we have one play to steal a win. 24-20 and they got the 24 with the great play Clausson to Stephens in three or four blocks. What in the world would you call now? You're on their six yard line and Greene has brought you down there all the way. What are you gonna do now?
"McGill led us out. Now he calls his hands and raises them for the huddle on the ten. Ten seconds, we're on their six. Michael Johnson turned around asked the bench something. And now Greene makes him line up on the right slot, we have three receivers. Tennessee playing what amounts to a four-four fake. And there's a TOUCHDOWN! MY GOD A TOUCHDOWN! We threw it to Haynes. We just stomped 'em with five seconds left. My God Almighty did you see what he did? David Greene just straightened up and we snuck the fullback over, Haynes is keeping the ball, Haynes has come running all the way across to the bench. We just dumped it over to 26-24. We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face. We dumped it over, David Greene brought us flying down the field and Haynes caught a sneak pass wide open."
-- Oct. 6, 2001 vs. Tennessee in Knoxville
"I actually heard a commercial on a radio station. They were begging for announcers. Guys hadn't come back yet (from the war) and more and more new radio stations were popping up. There was a shortage like you can't believe. You were supposed to study for six months and they would try to place you. I went for nine weeks and they placed me."
--Larry on how he got his first job
"The Braves sent me to a car dealer to pick up a car to drive to their training camp in Florida. Before I left Atlanta, I picked up a copy of The Journal. When I got to West Palm Beach, I check into my room, threw the paper on the bed, hung up my clothes, took a shower and lay down on the bed. Then I saw this box in the paper saying that Ed Thelenius was going to have to drop Georgia football. The next morning I called Joel Eaves at the University. He offered me the job that day."
--Larry on how he got the Georgia job
"I was 20 years old and I read in a magazine want-ad somewhere that the University of Wyoming was looking for a play-by-play radio announcer to do its football and basketball games. I sent them a tape of me doing a play-by-play game. The tape was a fake. I went into the studio and taped me doing the play-by-play for the Ohio State-Minnesota game. I had never done sports or play-by-play before in my life. I recorded about seven or eight plays and added sound effects. I sent that in as my tape. Looking back on it now, I can really see just how bad that tape was. It was awful. When I got out to Wyoming the guy I was replacing was named Curt Gowdy. Back then, I didn't know him from anybody. He was just another guy. He was led to take the job doing Oklahoma A&M football and basketball. I got the Wyoming job and it paid $45 a week. Gowdy and I became good friends. His home was in Wyoming so we hunted and fished a lot together."
--Larry on how he got his first big break
"Porter Wagoner was the first to teach me to worm fish very deep. Years ago, he was throwing plastic worms off a bluff at night into 100 to 110 feet of water and walking the worm up the sides of the rocks. He was coming in with great strings of largemouths from deep water in Center Hill.
--Larry on learning to fish with plastic worms