Holy Cow, What a Play!

by Oct 1, 2020North Brunswick, People

Legendary sports broadcaster Frank Herzog, once known as The Voice of the Washington Redskins, is a Magnolia Greens resident.

It’s amazing how one play can change everything.

The date was January 30, 1983. The place was the legendary Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The event? Super Bowl XVII — the favored Miami Dolphins versus the Washington Redskins. This rematch of Super Bowl VII was witnessed in person by more than 100,000 crazed fans and was the second highest rated televised football game in NFL history. The table was set for a memorable game — and the teams delivered.

Late in the game, the Redskins were trailing by 4 and had fourth and 1 at the Miami 42 and decided to go for it. And then came the famous WMAL radio call by Frank Herzog: “There’s the snap, hand to Riggins, good hole! He’s got the first down at the 40, he’s gone! He’s gone! He’s gone! Touchdown, Washington Redskins! Holy cow, what a play! 42 yard touchdown run on fourth and a foot!”

It was the run that earned the Redskins their first Super Bowl ring and crushed the hearts of Dolphins fans like myself.

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Frank Herzog is now a Leland resident. I recently sat down with him to ask how he got into sports and broadcasting. He grew up in the Denver, Colorado, area and has been a huge sports fan since his youth. As a child he loved the Denver Broncos and the Triple A baseball team Denver Bears. He shares a great story about meeting baseball legend Whitey Herzog at one of the many games he attended. “I had a seat near the visiting team’s dugout and got Whitey’s attention,” he says. “I told him people ask me if I am related to him as we share the same last name. He slyly looked at me and said, ‘There is no way — I am way better looking!’”

Herzog also loved basketball and played for his high school team. It was in college in 1965 at Colorado State that he got his start in broadcasting. He had some friends who worked at the college radio station and was hanging around at the station one day when someone suggested that he try doing some play-by-play on the school radio for the football team. He had no training or prior experience, yet his friends were amazed at his natural ability to call the game. Just like that, he had begun what would become a lifelong career in broadcasting.

Herzog got his first radio job while in Air Force Tech school, working part time at KGKL on the banks of the Rio Concho in San Angelo, Texas. There he began listening to the Dallas Cowboys radio on Sunday afternoons, the same year Cowboys Coach Tom Landry was beginning his record 20 consecutive winning seasons.

After spending two years in Vietnam, Herzog finished his Air Force tour working for the National Security Agency. He met his wife Sharon there; they married in 1969 and have been happily together since.

During the 1970s Herzog had several radio positions in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1976 he got his first big break and became the play-by-play announcer for the NBA’s Washington Bullets. When the Bullets made the championship series against the Seattle Supersonics in 1978, Frank was there to call a “thrilling seesaw battle” that went to game 7. The Bullets took game 7 to become NBA champs, and little did Frank know that he had just called the first of four championship games for a D.C.-area team.

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In 1979 Herzog was asked to do radio play-by-play on Redskins radio WMAL with two former Redskins fan favorites — Hall of Fame Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and Hall of Fame Linebacker Sam Huff. Thus began the 25-year radio show that fans affectionately called “The Sonny, Sam and Frank Show.”

Herzog felt empowered by the knowledge of Jurgensen and Huff, while they were impressed with his broadcasting abilities. They became a beloved broadcasting team, and Herzog was known as “The Voice of the Washington Redskins.” Many Redskins fans would turn their television volume all the way down and listen to the radio broadcast while watching a game on TV. It didn’t hurt that the Redskins won three Super Bowl titles while they were together!

When asked to describe what it was like working in the booth with Herzog, Huff said, “He was The Voice. We were a team, and Frank was the leader of me and Sonny. And to be able to handle a quarterback and a linebacker all that time, you had to be somebody special. And Frank Herzog is somebody special.”

It was the iconic call of the Riggins run that paved the way for Herzog’s eventual induction into the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame. When asked why his “Touchdown, Washington Redskins!” call became such a hit, Herzog explains, “It caught on because it spoke of a collective team effort and not just an individual.”

Herzog called 498 consecutive Redskins games over 25 years, including two more Redskins Super Bowl victories. When I ask which coach he admired the most, he replies, “Joe Gibbs. He was always a players’ coach and very conscientious of their state of mind.”

During his career Herzog also called college basketball and football games for CBS. He did radio play-by-play for the Maryland Terrapins basketball team during their successful run with Hall of Fame coach Lefty Driesell. He also did play-by-play for the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team.

In the 2000s Herzog did something he had always wanted to try — acting.

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“I started out as a movie extra, then would talk with the casting director and found out how to show up for ‘calls’ and started doing it,” he says. “It was fun to take part, watch how movies are made and meet some very talented people.” Some of the stars he worked with include Nicholas Cage, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. He appeared in 11 films including two in which he had speaking roles.
In 2010, while he was the news anchor with WTOP radio in D.C., the vice president of news took Herzog out to lunch and told him they were very happy with his work and said if there was anything he wanted to do they would make it happen.

“I went home that night, talked it over with Sharon and then typed up a list of all the things I had done in my career, all the events I had covered and all the places I had been,” he says. “And I realized at that moment, there was nothing left I wanted to do!”

He typed up a retirement letter the next day.

After a thorough search for the perfect coastal town in the southeastern United States to live in retirement, the Herzogs decided on Magnolia Greens in Leland. “It has everything on our list: lots of activities and super close to the city and the beaches,” Herzog says.

He plays lots of golf and is taking his photography hobby to the next level. “My photography hobby began in Vietnam in 1967 and eventually became a nice break from my eventual life in broadcasting. It was the exact opposite in several ways and it has stuck with me into retirement now.”

When I ask what he thinks is his biggest accomplishment in life, Frank replies, “We raised three beautiful daughters, put them through college and they are all three out there now as productive members of society. Each one of them very individual in their own right, but they are all accomplishing things and we are very proud of that.”

With all the uncertainty in pro sports these days, Herzog and I agreed that we prefer to reminisce about the good old days, when our sports heroes were being made on the field and those all-time classic calls echoed out over the airwaves — “Touchdown, Washington Redskins! Holy cow, what a play!”

Photography by Matt McGraw

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