Somehow it was perfect that Larry Munson went out with his beloved Bulldogs back on top. Munson died Sunday night due to complications from pneumonia. He was 89.
During 42 years at the microphone as the voice of Georgia football, Munson endeared himself to generations of Bulldog faithful with his unwavering passion for his Dogs.
Some announcers strive for objectivity when calling a game. Munson realized his true calling — and greatness — when he left objectivity behind.
That was on Nov. 3, 1973 in Knoxville, Tenn.. A nondescript Georgia team sporting a 3-3-1 record faced the 11th-ranked Volunteers. The Dogs were coming off consecutive losses at Vanderbilt (18-12) and to Kentucky (12-7, at homecoming). Things were so dismal that the stadium announcer misspelled “Georgia” during the famous “Spell Georgia Cheer” concluding the Kentucky halftime. A humbling prelude, indeed.
Adding to the background, from 1947 through 1965, Munson worked as Vanderbilt’s football voice. During that time, the Commodores won in Knoxville exactly once, 14-0 in 1959.
Bear in mind that back in those dark ages, very few games were televised. In 1973, only the Georgia-Florida game made it onto television. Until 1984, Georgia never appeared on television more than three times during the regular season. So, if you weren’t on the road with the Dogs, your only connection to the game was through Munson’s word pictures.
Georgia scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to cut Tennessee’s lead to 31-28. With 2:27 remaining, Tennessee coach Bill Battle inexplicably called a fake punt from the Vols’ 28-yard line. Georgia stopped the play and took possession. Here’s Larry:
“Tennessee didn’t kick it, went short snap. Minute 17 … minute 16 …minute 15. Second down on the 8 1/2. Andy going to fake it, give it to Harrison, faked it. Andy Johnson! Touchdown, Andy Johnson! Touchdown, Andy Johnson! What a fake! They hit Harrison dead on the 9, and Andy bootlegged to the left and scored! 34-31, Georgia over Tennessee!
“My God! Georgia beat Tennessee in Knoxville! Georgia has defeated Tennessee, 35-31, in Neyland Stadium!”
“That was such a big, fat win, when nobody expected it,” Larry wrote in his autobiography, “From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot.” “I got a little wild there at the end, and later on some people told me that was the first time they had really heard me lose it a little bit. Some people told me that is when the Georgia fans and I started to really connect. I think there is probably something to that.”
Indeed. Over the next 35 years, Munson would come to be more closely identified with Georgia football than anyone or anything, with the possible exception of Uga.
In fact, Uga VI was officially named “Uga V’s Whatchagot Loran” after the way Larry always cued sideline reporter Loran Smith.
Most Georgia fans enjoyed imitating the gravelly voice making Munson’s famous calls: “Run, Lindsay!” “Appleby to Washington, 80 yards!”
And, of course, “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot!”
But myriad little things endeared Larry to his audience. Kickoff was imminent when Larry intoned, “Alright, get the picture.” It was always “us” against “them.” And the worries. “Do you realize we’ve got to give the ball back to those guys?”
His weather reports were usually an amusing diversion.
One night in Lexington, he kept noting the “cold north wind sweeping in through the open end of the stadium.” Temperature? “36, 37, 38 degrees, I’m guessing now.”
Larry clicked with Georgia fans because he was a Georgia fan. When he exclaimed, “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” at Auburn in 1982, he was verbalizing the emotion every Bulldog fan felt.
He expressed the faithful’s agony as well. Georgia went to Auburn in 1978 with a chance to win an SEC championship. With no telecast, Larry was the only connection to events on the Plains.
The game ended in a 22-22 tie, but it remains memorable 33 years later for Larry’s repeated cries of, “There’s a hole! Here comes Cribbs!” as Auburn running back Joe Cribbs repeatedly kept Tiger drives alive.
There was a time when you could walk from the arch on north campus all the way down to Sanford Stadium before a game, and hear Larry’s voice the entire way. Fans would be listening to the pre-game show, or tapes of his greatest calls, or the complete broadcast of a previous game. But they were all listening to Larry.
To the Bulldog Nation, Larry was Georgia football.
The sad part is that there will never be another one like him.
The glad part is that he will always be a part of Georgia football.
Missed terribly, but never forgotten.