Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Saga of Sonny, Sam & Frank - Part One

It's Frank. Sonny, Sam & FRANK.

The Redskins had one of the most respected and longest-tenured radio broadcast teams in the league, a team that was universally loved by Redskins fans. Both Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff came from NFC Beast division rivals and went on to become two of the greatest Redskins ever. For 23 years they were teamed with local broadcaster Frank Herzog to bring the games to us, but then the business of radio got in the way and when money talks...

Part 1: The Home Team
Part 2: The Empire Builder


About a month ago Mike Wise at the WaPo ran a piece on London Fletcher and how he studied tape of Redskins and Giants great Sam Huff as preparation for his debut as a Redskins linebacker. Sam was aw shucks about it and it reminded me that there was a Redskins Radio broadcast team that called 498 games over 25 years before the one that radio listeners hear now.

About three weeks ago Mike continued his old man love with a Grumpy Old Men piece on Sonny & Sam in the booth. The piece thankfully makes minimal mention of Larry Michael.

Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff & Frank Herzog is the radio broadcast team of the Redskins, period. Frank started doing Redskins broadcasts in 1979 and Sonny and Sam joined him two years later. I listened to them in high school and then through college. As a road-tripping Deadhead and then as a rock & roll roadie I missed many games on TV and we could usually find them somewhere on the AM dial.

These three guys had the right combination of knowledge, humor and experience and boy were they homers, shameless like only a good homer can be.

And they had fun, both the laughing and carrying on type as well as the martinis and free food in the booth type.

I remember driving with friends from Hampton Virginia to Charlotte North Carolina to see the Jerry Garcia Band, listening to the broadcast of this game. As Mark Rypien was on his way to tying Sammy Baugh's record of six touchdown passes in one game Sonny and Sam were obviously on their way to getting completely hammered, Frank did his straight man bit and drew attention to a banner hanging over the rail of the second deck at RFK, for a philanthropic organization dedicated to reducing hunger in urban America and it went list this, pretty much word for word:

Frank: can you guys read that banner?

Sonny: no...

Sam: ...

Frank: it says 'Sonny & Sam: Help Us Tackle Hunger.'

Sam: tackle hunger? I'm not hungry. Sonny, are you hungry?

Sonny: no, I'm not hungry...

Sam: we didn't just tackle hunger, we blitzed it! (laughter)
Sonny & Sam were in the bag by the end of this game.

At Redskins games at RFK the PA system was so bad it was considered de rigeur for regulars to bring in-ear radios to listen to them. Some even brought little boomboxes so those around them would not constantly be asking what did they say? Why are you laughing?

So much did I and fellow Redskins fans love Sonny Sam & Frank that where possible we would turn off the TV audio and listen to the radio simulcast. Even if the two were a few seconds off nobody cared. They were literally a part of the game, a part of the team, a part of the Redskins gameday.

It all came to an end before the Redskins 2004 season.

The Saga of Sonny, Sam & Frank concludes tomorrow with part 2, The Empire Builder

Sam Huff, Sonny Jurgensen and Frank Herzog, the one and only radio broadcast team for the Redskins from here.