HUCKABY: Happy birthday to the legendary Larry Munson

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

“We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face.”

"I broke my chair, a metal steel chair with about a five-inch cushion. I broke it."

"Man, is there gonna be some property destroyed tonight!"

"Oh you Herschel Walker! My God, a freshman!"

"Run, Lindsay!"

As long as football is played in Athens, Ga., between the hallowed hedges, generations of Georgia football fans will associate certain plays in the storied history of UGA football with the man who immortalized them on the radio. Any time Lindsay Scott is shown catching the immortal pass from Buck Belue in the 1980 Florida game, thousands of fans will scream "Run, Lindsay!" Larry Munson will never be separated from Georgia football and will never be forgotten.

"Hunker it down, one more time!"

When I was in high school my friends and I would mimic the man who would become the Legendary Voice. Everyone used to "do Munson." That gravelly voice just invited imitation -- which, in this case, was truly the sincerest form of flattery.

"Watch it! Watch it! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"

This was before virtually every game was televised and AM radio was the medium of choice for following the fortunes of the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoons. When the Astrodome opened in Houston we used to spoof what might happen if Georgia ever played in a domed stadium. "The air-conditioning is from the east at 5 mph. It is not a gale. Will not be a factor." We never dreamed that actually playing indoors would become semi-common place for our favorite team.

"This has not been a night for old Lady Luck!"

I became totally enamored of Larry Munson in 1973 while listening to Georgia play Tennessee in Knoxville. Andy Johnson faked a handoff and kept the ball for the winning touchdown and Munson, who had spent many futile Saturdays in Neyland Stadium during his 20-year tenure as the voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores, screamed "My God, we've beaten Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time --(long hesitation, and then)--EVER!"

From that point on Munson was a citizen of the Bulldog Nation.

A few years later Munson came to the Mansfield Community Center, at the invitation of then-cotton farmer David Hays, to make a speech to the local Georgia Bulldog Club. It was one of the funniest talks I had ever heard. He told a hilarious story about reading the sports news from a teletype, with the copy paper trailing between his legs to the floor. One of his colleagues set the copy on fire, and there Munson sat, trying to stay calm while reading from the burning paper.

"Gator Bowl, rocking, stunned! The girders are bending now!"

Munson and Hays became closer than friends over time and I got to hang around on the periphery of their relationship. I visited Munson in his home dozens of times one summer, working on a never-published book about his remarkable career. I cherish the time I spent with him and the remarkable stories he shared with me.

Munson was from Minnesota. He served at Fort Hood, Texas, during World War II and went to broadcasting school on the GI Bill afterward. This greatly disappointed his father who was certain he could have made shift foreman if he had just stayed with his job at the local auto plant.

Munson was a talented pianist who once played back-up to Frank Sinatra. His first gig as a broadcaster was in Wyoming -- where he worked with Curt Gowdy, of New York Yankee fame. He was a Nashville icon for two decades, doing fishing shows on television and calling Vanderbilt University and Nashville Vols minor league baseball games on the radio.

He worked for a year as a member of the Atlanta Braves radio crew and was hired to replace Ed Thilenius as Georgia's play-by-play man on the strength of a call to Georgia Athletics Director Joel Eaves after reading in the Atlanta Constitution that Thilenius was stepping down.

He was a consummate professional, dedicated to his craft. He worked year round to prepare for the 12 Saturdays a year that he would call games, and I have walked into his living room in the middle of June only to find him studying the pronunciation of a foreign-born place kicker whose name he might or might not be called upon to say in November.

The greatest compliment I can give Larry Munson came on Oct. 6, 2001. My then 11 year-old son Jackson and I had been watching the Georgia-Tennessee game at a friend's house, but had to leave before it was over. We listened on the radio as we drove home. Tennessee tried to break our hearts with a last-minute touchdown, but we listened to Munson describe the action as Georgia came flying down the field.

We pulled into our driveway just before the key play in the drive, but we had plenty of time to get inside and watch the climax of the game on television. As I parked the car I turned to Jackson and said "TV or Munson."

Without blinking he said, "Munson." Ten seconds later, we were treated to the hobnail boot call. It was perfection.

Today Larry Munson celebrates his 89th birthday. Happy birthday, Larry. You are the best there will ever be at what you do.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.