With all the talk in recent days that University of Georgia football play-by-play man Larry Munson may soon retire after more than 40 years behind the microphone, it dawned on me that a generation or two of Georgia Bulldog fans have known nothing else when it comes to Bulldog football on the radio. But, my a favorite will always be his predecessor.
The late Ed Thilenius was the play-by-play announcer for the Bulldogs from 1955-1965, during some of their leanest years, when they compiled a 53-53-6 record, according to UGA's archives.
Through it all, there was Thilenius - with his smooth delivery... calling the plays in a calm, deliberate, yet, entertaining way. I can still hear him describing the huddle when Fran Tarkenton was quarterback, and the Bulldogs were showing signs of some respectability: "Tarkenton talking to his two rows of five at the 15." And, his description of the drive for the winning touchdown against Auburn in 1959, which gave the Bulldogs the SEC championship and propelled them into the 1960 Orange Bowl, is forever embedded in my mind.
Thilenius' work was almost void of the cheerleading that now seems the norm - outside of network coverage - in college and, to a degree, pro sports play-by-play. His Georgia Tech counterpart, Al "Toe Meets Leather" Ciraldo, may have been one of the first of the college play-by-play men to "cheer for the old home team" from the press box - something Munson has mastered.
No doubt about it. Munson is the master today. Even some non-Bulldog fans tune in to his call of the game when UGA is playing "their" team - they are so taken with his "I just broke my chair!-Look at the sugar falling from the sky!-There's gonna be some property destroyed tonight!-Run, Lindsay, run!!!" delivery.
But, Thilenius could turn a phrase himself.
There were no "oranges falling from the sky" after that winning touchdown against Auburn, but Thilenius did allow that "bedlam has broken loose" and after Charley Britt returned a punt for a UGA touchdown a few minutes earlier, he described Britt as "weaving his way like a rabbit through a cotton patch." And, Tarkenton under pressure before delivering the winning touchdown pass was "as cold as ice water."
Munson is one of a kind - and we'll probably never hear another one like him once he hangs up the headset for good. I know I'll be listening this fall - regardless of how many games he works.
But, I'll also be remembering Ed Thilenius and the joy he brought a south Georgia boy years ago when Sanford Stadium seemed light years away from the pecan groves and dusty farmland around Moultrie and Tifton.
***FOOTNOTE: The player who kicked the extra point that put Georgia ahead after the final touchdown in the 1959 Auburn game was "The Automatic Toe," Durward Pennington, a longtime Gainesville resident.
(Ken Stanford is Newsroom Manager for WDUN NEWS TALK 550, MAJIC 1029, SPORTS RADIO 1240 THE TICKET, and, AccessNorthGa.com.)