Frank Herzog, the longtime play-by-play voice of the Washington Redskins, was bounced from one of the NFL's most popular local radio announcing teams yesterday. Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff will remain as team broadcasters, but Herzog will be replaced by veteran broadcaster Larry Michael.
WJFK Radio, which holds the rights to Redskins broadcasts, announced the change yesterday in a news release. Herzog said he got the news at lunchtime from station manager Alan Leinwand.
"They gave me two reasons," Herzog said. "They said they wanted to save money. And more important they thought it was important for the continuity of their sports department that the guy who reports on the Redskins all during the week do the games on Sunday. There was high praise for me but he said he wanted to make the change.
"I'm really disappointed. It's not the way you expect it to end. You'd like to walk off into the sunset and let it be your decision. But I've got a lot to be thankful for. I've called three Super Bowl championships, 498 consecutive games over 25 years and it was a great run. I'm still a good broadcaster. If I want to find another play-by-play job, I'd like to think someone might want to hire me."
Herzog, a longtime local sports anchor, has been the team's play-by-play voice since 1979. In 1981, the team known to Washingtonians as "Frank, Sonny and Sam" worked together in a three-man booth for the first time, and a local institution was born, with Herzog playing no-nonsense straight man to the highly opinionated Jurgensen and Huff.
Local broadcasting sources said last night that the station almost made the switch several years ago to get a younger, fresh voice in the broadcast, but that Jurgensen persuaded management not to break up the popular team.
"It's going to be very strange for us," Jurgensen said last night. "We've been together for a long time. It's an inevitable thing for all of us but when it happens it really does take you back a little."
Michael, a native Washingtonian and University of Maryland graduate, has been involved with the Redskins broadcasts since WJFK won the rights in 1996. He has served in a variety of roles for the station, handling pregame and postgame shows and other Redskins-related programming.
"For the last month or so, I was asked by the station to increase my responsibilities and try to take the entire Redskins package to another level," Michael said. "We're hoping to improve it, expand it and generate more interest in the broadcast. We're going to do more on draft day and training camp coverage; we're going to expand on what we've done.
"I'm thrilled to be part of it. There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with this, considering how much this team means to the city, and I'm very aware of that. I never really thought it would be a possibility, and I'm tremendously excited. Frank's record speaks for itself. He's done a great job with the Redskins."
Michael, 46, grew up in Silver Spring and went to Northwood High School. He's earned a national reputation handling play-by-play on a variety of sports, including boxing for ESPN and Showtime, NFL and college games for Westwood One and also has been the play-by-play voice for George Washington University basketball in recent years.
WJFK also announced he would become the station's sports director, but will continue in his role as senior vice president of Westwood One.
"We're at the point in the evolution of Redskins radio where we needed Larry to be involved in all aspects of Redskins programming," Leinwand said. "It's a tough decision. Frank is a great guy and a great broadcaster but Redskins fans can continue to count on a great broadcast.
"Clearly it becomes a station decision. I can't speak for the Redskins but I've not gotten any feelings that they were unhappy with him."
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said the team had no role in the decision.
"We were notified by Alan today that they decided to make the change," Swanson said. "We had no input and wouldn't want any input. It's their business in how they choose to staff it. . . . If they had asked us, and they didn't, we would have pointed to Larry. He's been very involved in their broadcasts and knows this team very well."
"I really do think it was the station's decision," Herzog said. "I'd never had any indication the Redskins were dissatisfied, not from Dan Snyder, not from anyone else over there."
Speaking of Herzog, Swanson added: "It's always a shame when a legend steps out of the role. But he's still a force on Channel 9 and we're glad we'll still be working with him."
Fans at ESPN Zone in Washington last night expressed shock when they learned Herzog had been fired.
"Sonny, Sam and Frank are the voice of the Redskins," said Scott McCall of Falls Church, who described himself as a lifelong Redskins fan.
Well, this is total crap. Not that I don't like Larry Michael, but Sonny, Sam, and Frank are an institution. I hope that there's enough shit raised about this that Frank gets his job back.
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Didn't a similar thing happen with the Tigers a few years ago? I seem to remember Ernie Harwell being let go, only to be brought back (albeit quite some time later), after his replacement never caught on and people still pined for his announcing.
I'm sure that his replacement is just another ESPNism spewing clone that seem to be all the rage these days. Though, to be fair, I haven't heard the new guy talk, I just like to be pessimistic and angry.
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Is Sonny still doing the games while intoxicated? He sounds drunk as hell every time I heard him call a game. The best ones are the preseason scrimmages against Pittsburg. Seems like has been drinking since the night before.
So it became a variation on Super Bowl XXV after all:
The Super Bowl is played in a warm, waterside community (Tampa/New Orleans) at a time of war (Gulf War/War On Terrorism) and is suffused in patriotic gestures.