Larry Munson (Photo: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images Sport)
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Larry Munson, whose growling delivery as the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for nearly 43 years made him as celebrated as the players and coaches he covered, died Sunday night. He was 89.
A university statement said Munson died at his Athens home of complications from pneumonia, according to his son, Michael.
Munson's broadcasting career covered more than 60 years and included a stint with the Atlanta Braves when they moved from Milwaukee in 1966. But he'll always be remembered as the radio play-by-play announcer at Georgia, endearing himself to generations of fans with his quirky calls and unabashed partisanship for the Bulldogs.
"Hunker down!" he would implore when the team faced a crucial play.
Munson was as cherished between the hedges as Georgia's other football icons, including coach Vince Dooley, Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker and tough defensive coordinator Erk Russell.
His death cam e one day after Georgia clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game for the first time since 2005.
Munson's delivery was unique and often imitated. There were so many imitators among Georgia fans that contests became common to determine the best impersonation.
He thrilled Georgia fans with calls such as "Run, Lindsay, run!" during Lindsay Scott's 93-yard touchdown reception against Florida that kept the Bulldogs on course for the 1980 national championship.
After telling fans he broke through his steel chair during Scott's run, Munson added that excited Georgia fans from Jacksonville to Jekyll Island, Ga., might follow his path.
"Man, is there gonna be some property destroyed tonight!" he exclaimed.
Occasionally, Munson's exuberance landed him in trouble. He had to apologize after yelling "My God! A freshman!" when Walker ran over Tennessee defensive back Bill Bates for a touchdown in his first college game.
After a 1982 win over Auburn sent Georgia to the Sugar Bowl, Munson's memorable line was "Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!"
Munson's death resonated beyond Georgia football. Two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy, who spent the bulk of his baseball career with the Braves, tweeted Sunday night: "Saw that Larry Munson passed away, voice of the Georgia football. Thankful to have lived in ATL and hear him call the games, great memories."
Not all of his famous lines came during Georgia's most successful years. In Mark Richt's first season as coach in 2001, Munson was moved by a last-second win over Tennessee.
"We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!" he said.
Indeed, Munson never hid his allegiance to the Bulldogs, part of a generation of play-by-play announcers who saw no reason to pass themselves off as unbiased.
He skipped road games in 2007 except for Georgia Tech, just a 75-mile drive from Athens. Munson had surgery to remove blood clots from his brain several months before the '08 season, but returned to work Georgia's first two home games.
Then, he suddenly retired, shortly before his 86th birthday.
"It caught me by great surprise," said Loran Smith, Munson's longtime sideline reporter and host of Georgia's pregame show.
Scott Howard, who was Munson's color analyst for 15 years, moved into the play-by-play role following Munson's retirement. Former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier joined the broadcast team as the color analyst.
Munson often came across as pessimistic about Georgia's chances, usually because he could make any opponent sound unbeatable. That only made him more excited when the Bulldogs won.
"He's like a folk hero. He has that special style people love and relate to," Dooley said during the 1990s after retiring as football coach. "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."
Munson, a native of Minneapolis, was an alumnus of Moorhead State Teachers College. After World War II, he used his military discharge pay to enroll in a broadcasting school in his hometown. He went through 10 weeks of training and landed a job at a radio station in Devil's Lake, N.D.
That started a series of short-term jobs for Munson behind the microphone, the last of which took him to Cheyenne, Wyo., after he recorded 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.
When Gowdy, who was calling Wyoming football and basketball games, left for a job with a minor-league baseball team in Oklahoma City, he recommended Munson as his replacement.
That was the break he needed.
In 1949, when Gowdy joined Mel Allen on the New York Yankees radio crew, he again recommended Munson as his successor. Munson worked in Oklahoma City for three years.
Then, it was on the Nashville, where he called minor-league baseball, worked as a disc jockey and even hosted a television show on fishing. He also got back into college sports with Vanderbilt, calling football and basketball games.
During his long career at Georgia, Munson held a variety of secondary jobs. He was the play-by-play announcer for Georgia men's basketball from 1987-96. He worked with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons from 1989-92. He also hosted various sports talk shows on radio and TV.
But he will always be known as the voice of the Dawgs.
In 1994, Munson was inducted into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 2005, he claimed a spot in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Two years ago, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
"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," Smith once said.
Funeral arrangements have not been determined.
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