UGA announcer Larry Munson seriously ill

Longtime Georgia play-by-play commentator Larry Munson is in stable condition at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, Ga., recovering from a respiratory infection.

University of Georgia sports information director Claude Felton said the family wanted to convey Munson's condition.
Earlier in the morning, Twitter was abuzz with prayers for Munson, who after more than 4 decades in the radio booth stepped down in September 2008. He will be 89 later this month.

The updated news will come as a relief to Georgia fans. The Bulldogs (0-2) seek their first win of the season when they play host to Coastal Carolina on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

Dawgsonline, a blog site that covers Georgia football, wrote on Twitter: “Praying for Larry Munson. Hear it could be a somber gameday.”

Dawgbuzz wrote, “Several reports Larry Munson being ill this morning.”

Linday Licht, a Georgia alumna, wrote: “Thoughts and prayers with Larry Munson and his family and friends.”

Munson became Georgia’s play-by-play football announcer in 1966, when he replaced the popular Ed Thilenius. A former Army medic during World War II, Munson paid $200 to attend a 13-week radio school. Upon graduation, the Minnesota native took a job calling Wyoming football games.

In 1947, he moved south to Nashville, Tenn., to broadcast Vanderbilt basketball and football. Nineteen years later, Munson was part of the radio team for the Atlanta Braves in their inaugural season. After an 11-hour drive to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the start of spring training, he plopped down in his hotel room and pulled out his newspaper. He read about Thilenius leaving Georgia after 11 years for a broadcasting job with the Atlanta Falcons.

That night, Munson called his friend Joel Eaves, the Georgia athletic director. He was hired on the spot.

“When Larry Munson replaced Ed Thilenius, they thought Ed Thilenius was irreplaceable,” former Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley said. “He was a legend himself.”

“Ed Thilenius had a great voice,” said spotter Dick Payne, who worked one season with Thilenius and 39 with Munson. “He was very prepared. He was very methodical.

“He wasn’t as biased as Larry was.”

It’s that bias that endeared Munson to the Georgia faithful. But it wasn’t always that way. It took several seasons for Munson to make an impression.

Munson made his first notable call in 1973 when Georgia knocked off Tennessee.

“My God! Georgia beat Tennessee in Knoxville!”

Two years later, he delivered another memorable call.

With Georgia losing to Florida late in the fourth quarter, Dooley called a trick play. Tight end Richard Appleby took an end-around, stopped and threw a pass to a wide-open Gene Washington. Cue up Munson.

“...Washington caught it thinking of Montreal and the Olympics and ran out of his shoes right down the middle 80 yards. Gator Bowl rocking! Stunned! The girders are bending now!”

Dooley said Munson took his game to a new level in 1978, when a vastly underrated Georgia squad finished at 9-2-1 with close wins over Louisiana State, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia Tech.

“When you win a game at the last moment and the next week you win another, it only makes the announcer sound better,” Munson said. “I had a lot of luck.

“Any team that’s winning makes the announcer sound good.”

Munson’s top call that year came when the Bulldogs trailed at Lexington, Ky., and mounted a late charge. With Georgia down by two and driving down the field, Munson agonized as the clock kept ticking.

“They’re on about the 11 and now with eight seconds, the Dogs call time!”

While Rex Robinson came out for the game-winning attempt, Munson lamented the fact he spoke to his parents in the lobby of the hotel because Robinson missed his first two field-goal attempts. He had little to worry about.

“He puts it up. It looks good. Watch it. Watch it. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Three seconds left. Rex Robinson put them ahead, 17-16. The bench is unconscious.”

Two years later, Munson vaulted to Larry Legend status among Georgia fans with the emergence of freshman Herschel Walker and one desperate play against Florida. In Georgia’s first game of the 1980 season, the Bulldogs trailed by 13 in the second half at Tennessee when Walker came off the bench.

“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. Herschel ran right over two men. They had him dead away inside the 9. Herschel Walker went 16 yards. He drove right over orange shirts just driving and running with those big thighs. My God, a freshman!”

Georgia went on to defeat Tennessee, and it entered the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party as the No. 2 team in the country against Florida. The Gators rallied in the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead. Georgia’s hopes of an undefeated season appeared dim.

Then, the miracle.

“Buck back. Third down on the 8. In trouble. Got a block behind him. Going to throw on the run. Complete to the 25, to the 30. Lindsay Scott 35, 40. Lindsay Scott 45, 50, 45, 40. Run Lindsay! Twenty-five, 20, 15, 10, 5. Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!”

Georgia’s run of consecutive Southeastern Conference championships from 1980-82 was prime time for Munson. In 1982, he begged Georgia’s defense to “hunker down” against Auburn. The Bulldogs survived a late drive by the Tigers for a return trip to the Sugar Bowl.

“Oh look at the sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!”

With a vast amount of calls to choose from, Munson said in a 2007 interview the one he made at Tennessee in 2001 is his favorite. After the Vols appeared to snatch victory from Georgia with a touchdown in the final minute, the Bulldogs stormed back down the field. Quarterback David Greene tossed a short pass over the middle to back Verron Haynes to give the Bulldogs a shocking win with five seconds left.

“Tennessee playing what amounts to a 4-4. Fake, and there’s somebody. Touchdown! My God, a touchdown! We threw it to Haynes. We just stuffed them with five seconds left! My God Almighty, did you see what he did! David Greene just straightened up and we snuck the fullback over! ... We just dumped it over. 26-24. We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their faces!”

His call sent legions of fans searching on the Internet. Hobnailed boot?

“I’m not sure where I got it,” Munson said. “I had in mind the jack boot, what the German storm trooper wore.”

It was classic Munson. For more than 40 years, he wore his emotions on his sleeve and let them trickle over to the airwaves.

“I probably really made some bad calls,” he said in 2007. “That was probably too much emotion. I was probably too much of a homer. A homer’s someone who pulls too much for his team. And I’ve done that.”

And Georgia fans had no problem with that.

 

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