Lawrence Harry Munson
September 28, 1922
|Died||November 20, 2011 (aged 89)|
|Known for||Longtime University of Georgia football and basketball announcer|
Lawrence Harry Munson (September 28, 1922 – November 20, 2011) was an American sports announcer and talk-show host based out of the U.S. city of Athens, Georgia. He was best known for handling radio play-by-play of University of Georgia Bulldogs football games from 1966 to 2008. He also handled the play-by-play for UGA basketball and Atlanta Falcons radio broadcasts and hosted sports-related talk shows.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Munson attended Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis and Minnesota State University Moorhead. While at MSUM, he played basketball as a center and guard and football as an end and tackle.
Munson served as a United States Army medic in an Army Hospital during World War II. Upon leaving the military, he spent all $200 of his mustering-out pay to enroll in a Minneapolis radio broadcasting school. His first job was at a Minneapolis arena announcing the names of boxers and wrestlers for $15 a week.
After an on-air job at the KDLR AM radio station in Devils Lake, North Dakota, Munson moved on to AM radio station KFBC in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a sports reporter in 1946. At KFBC, Munson met and became friends with co-worker Curt Gowdy. At that time, Gowdy was also the football announcer for the Wyoming Cowboys. On January 1, 1946, Munson called the Sun Bowl between the University of Denver and the University of New Mexico for the Associated Broadcasting System. Later in 1946, Gowdy took a job in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as the announcer for a minor league baseball team and successfully recommended Munson as his replacement for the Wyoming Cowboys job. When Gowdy became a New York Yankees announcer in 1948, he recommended Munson again to replace him in Oklahoma City. Gowdy would later become a national sportscaster for NBC and CBS.
Munson broadcast in Oklahoma until 1952 when he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, for an announcing job with the Nashville Vols minor league baseball team on AM radio station WKDA. During the baseball off-season, Munson convinced local Nashville radio station WSM (AM) to broadcast Vanderbilt Commodores men's basketball games with himself as the announcer. The basketball broadcasts were immediately successful, and WSM added Vanderbilt Commodores football games to its schedule as well with Munson as the broadcaster. Munson, along with local sportsman Herman Waddell, created a local television show about hunting and fishing called The Rod & Gun Club on NBC affiliate WSM-TV (now WSMV), a local Nashville station.
The first year the Braves were in Atlanta, the television broadcasts were on WSB-TV. An occasional guest color commentator was former major leaguer Dizzy Dean. One memorable Friday night during a rain delay, Dean warbled several verses of the Wabash Cannonball and purchased peanuts from a vendor in the stands, much to Munson's on-air amusement.
In March 1966, Munson was in West Palm Beach, Florida, for the Braves' spring training and read in the Atlanta Journal that Georgia Bulldogs football radio announcer Ed Thilenius was resigning to become a broadcaster for the new Atlanta Falcons National Football League franchise. The next day, Munson called Georgia athletics director Joel Eaves to express his interest in the Georgia job, and Munson was hired shortly thereafter. Athens radio station WRFC held the broadcast contract and was the parent station for the Georgia Bulldogs. After announcing Braves games for the first two months of the baseball season, Munson returned to Nashville in June 1966 to continue The Rod & Gun Club for Nashville's WSM-TV, and prepare for his new role with the Bulldogs. For many years after joining the University of Georgia broadcasts, Munson would make the commute to Athens, Georgia for the weekend football games from his home in Nashville so that he could continue producing The Rod & Gun Club during the week. His engineer for many years was L.H. Christian, the owner of WRFC radio, who ran the audio board out of personal interest and for fun; Christian was sometimes joined by Larry Melear or Everett Langford as engineer for the sports broadcasts. Munson continued to live in Nashville until 1978 when he moved to metro Atlanta, Georgia, after joining the Georgia Radio Network as a reporter. Munson moved to Athens in 1997. On September 22, 2008, Larry announced his retirement from being the play-by-play announcer for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
Munson has received numerous awards honoring his accomplishments. In 2003, he received the Chris Schenkel Award presented by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. Munson was inducted into the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association awarded Munson its state-based Sportscaster of the Year Award on multiple occasions: 1960 (WSM, Nashville), 1963 (WSM), 1964 (WSM), 1965 (WSM) and 1969 (WSIX, Nashville) as the Tennessee Sportscaster of the year; 1967 (WSB, Atlanta), 1971 (WRFC, Athens), 1982 (Georgia Network, Atlanta), 2002 (WSB) as the Georgia Sportscaster of the year. In 2007, Munson was presented with an honorary varsity letter from the University of Georgia for his contributions to Bulldog football.
Munson's gravelly voice was one of the most distinctive in all of U.S. sports announcing and was regarded as endearing by Georgia Bulldog fans. Unlike many of his peers, Munson avoided any pretense of journalistic objectivity or accuracy during his broadcasts. He was an unabashed Bulldog fan who almost always referred to the Bulldogs as "we." However, despite his open and unashamed homerism, he generally espoused a dour or pessimistic view of the team. For that reason, his broadcasts were considered among the modern generation of sportscasters as not only acceptable, but sometimes even more authentic than contemporary sportscasting. His unique turns of phrase – which were virtually always made offhand – became a part of Bulldog fan vernacular.
Approaching his 85th birthday in 2007, Munson was in failing health and planned to call only UGA home games that season. Prior to the 2007 season, Munson had missed only one game as announcer, a 34-3 loss to Clemson on October 6, 1990: he was recuperating from back surgery and Dave O'Brien substituted. Munson also called the Georgia-Georgia Tech game which was at Georgia Tech in 2007.
In the spring of 2008, Munson suffered a subdural hematoma and required emergency surgery. After undergoing rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, his family announced that he would be returning to call the home games in the fall of 2008. However, on September 22, 2008, Munson and his family announced that he would be retiring from the booth effective immediately. The road crew of Scott Howard and former UGA quarterback Eric Zeier finished out the season calling all games on the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network.
Some of Munson's well known calls include: