Bulldogs' voice Larry Munson dies at 89

Updated: November 21, 2011, 9:49 AM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia's Bulldog Nation has lost its most distinctive voice.

Larry Munson, who spent 42 years as the radio play-by-play announcer for Georgia's football team, died Sunday night at the age of 89 after complications from pneumonia.

"Georgia football being what it is, for most people Larry Munson makes it that much more special. Him and his calls," said former Georgia receiver Lindsay Scott, the subject of perhaps Munson's most famous call in the 1980 Bulldogs' comeback win against Florida -- when Munson cheered along as Scott streaked 93 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the game's final seconds. "It's about Georgia football, but it's more about listening to Larry Munson and what kind of calls he's going to make during Georgia football."

Munson's gravelly delivery and unapologetic cheerleading endeared him to Bulldogs fans, making them forget that the native Minnesotan cut his teeth announcing games at Wyoming and Vanderbilt.

Munson's legendary calls at Georgia placed him in the pantheon of beloved Southern college football announcers, alongside Tennessee's John Ward, Alabama's John Forney, Kentucky's Cawood Ledford, Georgia Tech's Al Ciraldo, Clemson's Jim Phillips, North Carolina's Woody Durham and Auburn's Jim Fyffe, among others.

His admitted homer-ism ran contrary to the impartiality taught in modern-day journalism schools, but Georgia fans wouldn't have had it any other way.

Munson provided hundreds of memorable calls in his time on the Georgia airwaves between 1966 and 2008, but the early 1980s -- when Herschel Walker stalked goal lines and Vince Dooley's Bulldogs regularly contended for the national title -- might have been Munson's heyday.

Few Georgia games were televised in those days, so Munson served as the eyes and ears for the fans. And even when TV became a common way to follow the games, many Georgia fans watched the game on mute while allowing Munson to paint the picture on the radio.

"That's exactly what I did," said Robbie Burns, author of the book, "Belue to Scott: The Greatest Moment in Georgia Football History," for which Munson wrote the foreword. "If they were on TV, I was turning it down and watching it and listening to Munson."

Munson suffered with the Bulldogs faithful through the down times, but was still in the booth when Mark Richt arrived in 2001 and restored Georgia football to the upper echelon of college football.

[+] EnlargeLarry Munson
Mike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesLarry Munson acknowledges Georgia fans' applause during a tribute to him at Sanford Stadium in 2008. He spoke to generations of fans with his colorful, gravelly delivery and unapologetic partisanship for the Bulldogs.

Richt was only four games into his UGA tenure when he achieved his first signature win -- a 26-24 upset of fifth-ranked Tennessee in Knoxville -- and Munson cemented the game in Bulldogs lore with his description of the dramatic final seconds.

Georgia drove deep into Tennessee territory before fullback Verron Haynes slipped out of the backfield to catch the game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback David Greene with only 6 seconds remaining.

"We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose," Munson said. "We just crushed their faces."

Munson later joked that he didn't even know what a hobnailed boot was -- he intended to make reference to the jackboot members of the German Army wore during World War II, he said -- but the unique call became many listeners' -- and Munson's -- favorite.

Munson had missed only one game in his UGA career -- he sat out the Oct. 6, 1990 loss to Clemson following back surgery, while ESPN's Dave O'Brien filled in -- before he opted to call only home games in 2007.

He was only a few months removed from surgery to treat a brain aneurysm the following year when he stepped aside for good. Munson was in the booth for the top-ranked Bulldogs' first two games of the season, against Georgia Southern and Central Michigan, but he decided his failing health simply wouldn't allow him to perform to his standards behind the microphone.

His final game, a 56-17 win over Central Michigan on Sept. 6, 2008, ended a glorious run where Munson presided over seven SEC championships and one national title and the Bulldogs posted a 348-142-10 record.

Although Munson left the microphone, the university found a way to honor his legacy in a pregame tradition that exists to this day. As Georgia's Redcoat marching band plays "The Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation" before each game at Sanford Stadium, Munson's voice still implores the fans to cheer for the Bulldogs that day while highlights from throughout the years play on the stadium's video board.

"As we prepare for another meeting between the hedges," Munson's voice reminds them, "let all the Bulldog faithful rally behind the men who now wear the red and black with two words, two simple words which express the sentiments of the entire Bulldog Nation: Go Dawgs."

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.