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From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot: The Life and Times of Larry Munson

From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot: The Life and Times of Larry Munson

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by Larry Munson, Tony Barnhart

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A behind-the-scenes look into the life and career of University of Georgia football broadcaster Larry Munson, From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot tells the story of a legendary announcer and his loyal followers. The autobiography includes an exclusive audio CD of Larry Munson’s 10 greatest calls, details on his youth in Minneapolis and his love for the


A behind-the-scenes look into the life and career of University of Georgia football broadcaster Larry Munson, From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot tells the story of a legendary announcer and his loyal followers. The autobiography includes an exclusive audio CD of Larry Munson’s 10 greatest calls, details on his youth in Minneapolis and his love for the outdoors and musical talents, his broadcasting journey around the country before finally landing in Georgia, and the ups and downs of his four decades as part of the Georgia program. Munson passed away on November 20, 2011, at the age of 89. In this tribute edition, coauthor Tony Barnhart adds a new section that includes several memories and tributes to the legendary Georgia broadcaster. A must-have for fans of the University of Georgia, Larry Munson's story is a remarkable look at an era where the radio voice of college football was king.

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Triumph Books
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5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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From Herschel To A Hobnail Boot

The Life and Times of Larry Munson

By Larry Munson, Tony Barnhart

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2013 Larry Munson and Tony Barnhart
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60078-869-7


Get the Picture: It's Been a Helluva Ride

Forty-three years? How is that even possible? Hell, I was 43 years old when Joel Eaves hired me at Georgia in 1966. And I'm still here 43 years later getting ready to walk back into that stadium, maybe for the last time? How does that happen?

Saturday, November 29, 2008.

Part of me was looking forward to this day. But the biggest part of me flat-out just didn't want to go. I didn't want to face what I knew I was going to have to face. It wasn't going to be easy. In fact it was going to be pretty damned hard. Pretty damned emotional. I don't handle that stuff well.

After I announced my retirement back in September, I knew this day was coming. I knew that sooner or later I would go back to Sanford Stadium to say good-bye and to say thanks for what the people in that place had done for me for 43 years.

Forty-three years? How is that even possible? Hell, I was 43 years old when Joel Eaves hired me at Georgia in 1966. And I'm still here 43 years later getting ready to walk back into that stadium, maybe for the last time? How does that happen?

I really didn't think about the fact that we were playing Georgia Tech or the meaning of the game. Georgia Tech is always a big game for us, and early in the week I was really worried about our defense. We just didn't have that stud defensive end like David Pollack that we usually have. We just didn't seem to have the athletes to slow down Georgia Tech, who had been running the ball up and down the field on everybody. And how did they get so good all of a sudden?

But by the time we got to Saturday, I wasn't thinking about any of that. I was thinking about myself and what this day was going to mean. This made it official. I was going away, and that was kind of bothering me. Because to tell you the truth, right up until this time there was still a part of me that thought I could come back. I had been through a tough deal with brain surgery and rehab, but I thought it was just a matter of time before everything was right again.

I had problems with my back, my brain, and just about every body part you can name. I thought that no matter what, the voice would always be there. But it wasn't. I really thought I would be able to work a little longer, but you forget how old you are. And damn it, I was old.

So here you are. My sons Michael and Jonathan and their families are in the house getting ready to go do this thing. I'm not saying a whole helluva lot. I was probably pretty tough to get along with that day.

* * *

This whole deal really started the year before, when I finally decided that the traveling was just killing me. Damon Evans (the athletic director at Georgia), Claude Felton (Georgia's longtime sports information director), and Loran Smith came out to the house to talk about what we were going to do with the radio broadcast in 2007.

Before that meeting I had pretty much made up my mind that I was just going to do the home games that season. I found out later that was kind of what Damon had on his mind and that Claude was ready to support him on the idea. So when Damon brought it up, I immediately said "Yeah." I thought it was a good idea for Scott Howard to do the road stuff. We got through the whole thing in about 45 seconds. The idea of not having to scramble to and from the Atlanta Airport really appealed to me. I could see the look of relief on their faces, because I'm sure they were worried that I might fight it.

It didn't dawn on me that my voice might be so bad that there was no choice whatsoever in this — that I had lost something in my pipes without realizing it. Until you actually open your mouth to call a game, you really don't know. But at the time there was no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do. My thinking was that it wouldn't be too offensive to people if Scott and I just split the games. I know you sort of have to sell the idea to sponsors and stuff.

To me it was okay. It didn't bother me at all. Frankly I was a little surprised at my own thinking, because 10 years ago it would have bothered me a lot. But Georgia football is such a big thing, and our audience is really in tune and intelligent about the sport. I knew they would understand.

The thing that kills you when you get older is getting on and off of planes, getting to the airport, getting up to all these different press boxes. I was having back problems, and some arthritis was starting to kick in. The travel just totally exhausts you, and then you have nothing left to do the game. I remember (longtime Kentucky radio voice) Cawood Ledford telling me near the end for him that it was getting tougher and tougher for him to see. He told me, "Munce, I can't get up the first step of the bus."

So I decided just to do the home games. To me, that was the best thing to keep me going for as long as possible.

So in 2007 I did the home games and then went over to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech game at the end of the year. We had a pretty good season (10–2) and got invited to play in the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii. My plan was to make the trip to New Orleans and do the game.

I don't remember all of the details of why I didn't make the trip to New Orleans. It made sense to do the game. There was some publicity with it because the other guy (Hawaii) thought he was good enough to hang with us. Fans wanted to see the game to see what we were going to do with that scoring machine. I don't know why I backed away, but all of a sudden I didn't want to touch it. In the background waiting for you is always the plane that you have to catch the next morning. I just decided not to go.

I didn't know what the problem was, but I was starting to have some spells where I would suddenly black out and fall. I can remember a couple of nights when I would find myself on the ground or halfway on the ground. I know it shocked some of the people around me. I wasn't completely aware of what was happening, but it knocks you for a loop and scares the hell out of you. I would wake up and I would be on the ground. I didn't know what the hell was going on, and I didn't remember a thing. It would just happen

The doctor told me I had a blood clot on the brain and that it was going to have to come out. I was told by the brain-surgery people that I could not take another blow to the head in this place. I hate doctors and I hate hospitals, but it was something we had to do. (Note: On April 4, 2008, Larry had surgery to remove a subdural hematoma from his brain. The surgery was performed at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, Georgia).

I had to go to Atlanta to do some rehab work at the Shepherd Center. I called it the Tech place because all of those Georgia Tech people were hanging around there. I don't think a lot of people knew about that at the time. I didn't know if I wanted to go to Shepherd, but Mixon Robinson, who played for us and went on to become a great doctor, convinced me that this was the way to go. I trusted him.

When you get to Shepherd they are scared to death that you are going to fall and hit your head again in a serious way. And they don't want that. So they strap you into your bed because they don't want you getting up in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom. That was kind of a tough fight. I didn't like that very much.

God, they train you like Rocky over there. They work the hell out of you. At least that was the way it seemed to me. They make you do all of the little dumb things that you never would have thought of doing yourself.

I was there about a month and finally came home sometime in May and started doing more rehab back at Athens Regional Hospital. I had to do the physical therapy, but I also had to do some speech therapy to try and get my voice back to the way it used to be. The speech therapist told me she had been listening to me since she was a little kid. So at least she knew what I was supposed to sound like.

After I got back from Shepherd I was feeling a lot better. I knew I had some work to do, but at that point there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to work the home games for the 2008 season. I needed some help getting ready, and I got it from a lot of friends, including Louis Phillips, my longtime spotter. Louis and I would go to Athens Regional Hospital. He would bring the spotting boards that we would use during the games and a tape for that particular game. We would steel ourselves and pretend we were doing the games in the stadium. We would watch the game, I would call the action, and Louis would do the spotting on the boards. A therapist sat there and watched everything that we were doing.

What they were trying to determine was whether or not I could actually do play-by-play again. As we went through it I began to feel pretty confident that I could come back. We did about four or five of those sessions, and when they were over, we didn't anticipate any problems whatsoever. I felt good about what I was doing. That's why later on it would be such a disappointment when I realized I was still a step or so behind.

Later in the summer, after practice started, we went to the stadium to watch Georgia scrimmage. The therapist was convinced that the only way we were going to know for sure if I was ready was to get outside and do something that was pretty close to a real game. It was different than doing the games on television, and it probably wasn't as smooth as I would have liked it to be. There were a bunch of people who were sitting behind us who wanted to watch and listen. But I still thought I was going to be okay. Whatever problems I had, I figured I could talk right through them.

But after that scrimmage, part of me knew damn well that it wasn't going to work. I just didn't want to admit it to myself.

I did the first game against Georgia Southern. I was looking forward to it. I felt there would be interest in the crowd about me, and my interest was up because Georgia Southern is a state rival, and there was an option problem there that we would have to deal with. Once the game started I thought that my voice was high. And when I would go reaching for something with the voice it simply wasn't there. You keep clearing your throat, thinking that your voice is going to come back. But it wasn't coming back, and after the Georgia Southern game I knew it.

The next week I did the Central Michigan game hoping that the next time out it would be better. Maybe I was just rusty the week before and the voice just needed to get back in shape. But the voice, which had never let me down, was going up and dying off. It wasn't going to happen. I knew my voice wasn't where it should be.

When you go through all that rehab and stuff, you don't think for one minute that you can't come back. The one thing that I had always been able to rely on was my voice. But the more and more I tried to use it, the thinner and thinner my voice became. I thought I might have problems in a big game in a big atmosphere, but I was even struggling in these first two games. It's a really strange thing, boy, and at that point you've got to know that you absolutely need to step out ... to just go away.

Charlie Whittemore drove me back to the house after that second game (with Central Michigan). I can remember that I just wanted to get into the house and turn on whatever big game was on television. I just wanted to see a big, important game.

My mind was racing. I just wish I could remember all those thoughts that were in my mind at the time. But I knew something was wrong, and I remember feeling that I was probably done. I guess I must have felt that I really stunk up the joint.

Michael seemed to be satisfied when I told him I could not go on. I had said to him before that this was coming, but at that point he was ready to argue. This time he accepted it pretty quick. There must have been some moments he heard when I was not doing it right.

There were people we had to talk to, and Michael helped me make those calls. I had to talk to Marc Morgan (the chief operating officer of WSB Radio). He and Damon Evans had made it clear to me that it was my call. They felt that after all this time I should be able to go out on my own terms.

There was never really any real worry on my part about the broadcast because Scott Howard was there. He had been patiently waiting. I had told him to be patient because it was coming for him. It would all be coming. So Scott, who is a solid guy and has a great family, just waited. That helped me a lot. We could have had some guy who was full of flea powder and was ready to blow up the world and start World War Seven! That would have been very tough.

They let me tread water the next week (Georgia had a road game at Arizona State the next Saturday, September 20) and make up my mind. It was difficult. It is damned difficult to admit that you're done.

(Note: On Monday, September 22, 2008, the University of Georgia announced that Larry Munson, who had been the Bulldogs' radio voice since 1966, was retiring effective immediately. Scott Howard would take over play-by-play duties for the rest of the season, beginning with Saturday's home game with Alabama).

When the announcement was made that I was retiring, the whole damn world was calling. I have a caregiver who stays with me, and I just told her that I didn't want to talk to anybody. I went to bed early. What are you going to say? The time had come. When I was done I knew I was done.

I had always had a plan for the days when I was done calling the games for Georgia. When the first game came around after I quit, I was going to be out in the boat fishing and listening on the radio. That is how I would get away and deal with it. But the first game against Alabama was at night, so I didn't get to do that. I was at home with Michael when the Alabama game came on that night. I went to bed early.

* * *

On the morning of the Georgia Tech game, Charlie Whittemore showed up early like he always did. A lot of folks don't know this, but Charlie made it possible for me to work a lot longer than I thought I would be able to. He was one of our great wide receivers, and then he became a coach under Vince Dooley. Then he got into administration at Georgia, where he was in charge of travel and a lot of different things. I can't tell you how many great things Charlie did for those of us who were traveling with the team.

Several years ago just getting to the press box in Athens — fighting the traffic, getting parked, all of that stuff — was just killing me.

So Charlie basically took me on as his project. On game days he would come to my house and take me and any of my family to the game. And when the game was over, he would get us back home. Traffic in Athens on game day has always been a bad thing, but when you get older it gets worse. And when I started having a tough time getting around because of my back, what Charlie was doing for me meant everything. He really went beyond the call of duty.

There were a lot of people doing stuff behind the scenes that really prolonged my career. Michael Kahn, a big Georgia supporter out of Charlotte, allowed me to fly home from road games on his private jet. That kind of stuff really adds up and helps with the wear and tear on your body.

So we all piled into Charlie's truck and headed to the stadium. And let me tell you, Charlie knows every back street in Athens. I was always amazed at how he could get us through that traffic, and suddenly we were at the stadium. I don't remember a lot about how we got there, but every now and then he would roll down the windows to show the cops who he was carrying around, and the cops would kind of let us through. That was a great deal.

We got to the stadium and kind of slipped in the press box because we didn't want anybody to see us and make a fuss. Right about then I was getting pretty quiet because I didn't know what was going to happen. All I remember is that we stayed in one of those extra press boxes for most of the first quarter. The ceremony was going to take place between the first and second quarters. When the time came to go down to the field, we walked down to an elevator. That's when a bunch of the fans saw me and started saying stuff. I don't remember what all they said, but I remember thinking at the time that the people were very nice.

We got off the elevator, and they put me and my granddaughter, Madeline, into a golf cart. At some point UGA, our mascot, got in the cart with us.

Then suddenly we were through the gate at one end zone and out onto the field. And there was this big roar. It was a cold, rainy kind of day, and here were all these photographers and media guys just going nuts. I didn't expect that. But I really didn't know what to expect.

The crowd suddenly got louder. I was standing there with Damon, not quite sure what I should do. There was a tribute playing on the video board. I had never been in a situation like that before. All of a sudden you find that you can't control your emotions. It's hard to keep a straight face because you can't keep the tears out of your eyes. You kind of want to choke or sob a little bit. Michael told me that he and Whittemore were off to one side because they were having trouble. I even heard that some of my old crew up in the radio booth were having a tough time with this thing.

It was an emotional moment because the thing you try not to say to yourself is, "I'm done. I'm through. I can never do this again." That kind of stuff can bother you, because at that moment I was thinking that my whole career from Wyoming to Vanderbilt to whatever ... was now gone. It had all ended, and that was a little hard.


Excerpted from From Herschel To A Hobnail Boot by Larry Munson, Tony Barnhart. Copyright © 2013 Larry Munson and Tony Barnhart. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Larry Munson was hired as the radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs in 1966 and over the next 43 years became one of the most beloved broadcasters in college football history. He worked at numerous stations before landing the job as the voice of the Bulldogs, where he remained until his retirement two games into the 2008 season. In May 2009, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. Tony Barnhart has covered college football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years and continues to write the popular Mr. College Football blog. He hosts his own weekly television show, The Tony Barnhart Show, and is a regular contributor to the College Football Today show on CBS. He is the author of Always a Bulldog, Dooley, Southern Fried Football, and What It Means to Be a Bulldog. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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From Herschel to a Hobnail Boot: The Life and Times of Larry Munson [With CD (Audio)] 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt read it but tell me how it was