George Mooney, who was 'Voice of the Vols' from 1952-67, dies

George Mooney, 'the original voice of the Vols', has died. Mooney, shown here in a 2009 photo, worked on the Vol Network from 1952-1967.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

George Mooney, "the original voice of the Vols", has died. Mooney, shown here in a 2009 photo, worked on the Vol Network from 1952-1967.

George Mooney, who was "Voice of the Vols" from 1952-67, died on Thursday night. He was 91,

In the spring of 1952 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee football coach Robert Neyland asked Mooney to be the "Voice of the Vols." When the offer was made, Mooney did not hesitate.

"There was one answer to that. 'Absolutely. I'm going with the best.' I knew the reputation he had and what a great coach he was," Mooney told the News Sentinel in 2009.

There were hardly any televised games in those days, only 14 TV games out of 167, so Mooney's job was to convey the happenings on the field in as exciting a way as possible.

Saturday afternoons in those years meant Mooney's voice crackling over the airwaves from whatever radio was in vogue. Vol fans lived and died with his calls of many of the great moments of Tennessee history.

There was Nov. 7, 1959, Homecoming Day on the Hill. Tennessee versus LSU. Billy Cannon's name came up, and George was ready. Tennessee led 14-13 early in the fourth quarter, and LSU was going for two to retake the lead.

"That was a great play," Mooney said. "If Cannon had veered from the play and gone the other way, he could have walked into the end zone. He went to the right, but Tennessee's defense was set, and they still almost didn't stop him."

Then came memories of another UT legend, the "Swamp Rat," Dewey Warren, and the 1965 UCLA game.

"He wasn't the fastest guy in the world, and I thought he was never going to get to the end zone, but he made it. He always said, 'I made it, didn't I?' "

Mooney was one of Dewey's early fans, seeing Dewey's potential before anyone else did.

"They almost didn't play him. Dickey was experimenting at quarterback before the season. Bob Woodruff, Skeeter Bailey and I ran around together and were at practice. Dewey got a chance, and I said, 'That's my quarterback.' Dewey could pass that ball. He had a good group to work with."

Mooney worked with 1940 Vol All-America selection Bob Foxx from 1956-67.

"Bowden Wyatt called and asked if I would mind having a former teammate of his to be the 'color' man. He said he had Lou Gehrig's Disease, but he lasted 11 years. I'll never forget the first game we did, the Auburn game of 1956, when the Vols just mauled Auburn. I said 'Bob, we're going to have a great year.' "

Here's a sample of how it transpired with Mooney and Foxx on the air, Tennessee and Alabama, Oct. 16, 1965, at Legion Field.

Mooney: "Thirty-four seconds remain on the clock. Alabama has the ball on the 17- yard line, directly between the goalposts. David Ray set a national scoring record by the foot last year. He's kicked 9-of-9 extra points, 10-of-10 including today. They're going to pass the ball.

"Stabler has it. He goes down to the 10 to the 5, brought down at the 4-yard line and fumbles the ball. Let's see who recovered on the far side of the field. It didn't go out of bounds. The clock is running, 18, 17."

"They faked it and he ran to the Tennessee 3. It's fourth and goal at the Tennessee 3. They're lining up now. The ball is taken by Stabler. He throws the ball out of bounds with 6 seconds to go, but it was fourth down and apparently he didn't realize it."

Foxx: "Right. It was fourth down, and he didn't make it. It was 10-and-goal."

Mooney: "Tennessee takes over. Alabama didn't realize it was fourth down, and Stabler threw the ball away to stop the clock. David Ray was thinking he was going to have a chance."

Foxx: "He was practicing."

Mooney: "Alabama lost track of the downs. Tennessee has the ball, 6 seconds to go. That was a beautiful fake on third down by Stabler. They had the ball on the 17, but what the young quarterback and the rest of the team forgot was that they had been pushed back by Tennessee from inside the 10."

Foxx: "It was 10-and-goal."

Mooney: "Tennessee ball. Charley Fulton, the quarterback, takes it and the clock is going to run out. Tennessee and Alabama are going to tie. There it is. Tennessee 7, Alabama 7."

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Comments » 19

Tenn_Traveler writes:

Wow!! What a memory. We were listening to the game on the radio in the 1404 Club. We went nuts when we realized Stabler had thrown the ball out of bounds on 4th down.

No one gave us a chance against Ala that day.

Let's make history tomorrow.

Go Vols

shoelessvol#236864 writes:

I remember growing up and listening to George Mooney and Bob Foxx. My parents would go to the games and I had to find WNOX on the airways to pick up the broadcast. Back in the day the AM stations would fade in and out even in good weather. George was a really good announcer and will be sorely missed!!

TommyJack writes:

Great memories. RIP Mr. Mooney.

bigOutfan writes:

Sorry I missed hearing a guy like that. Sounds like a good book may be coming. There was a George Mooney that worked for the Chattanooga Free Press some years ago. Wonder if he was kin? I came along during the John Ward era. Sure do miss him these days.

Millisa writes:

Prayers are with the Mooney Family and I miss John Ward being the Voice Of The Vols :) :) :)

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

I knew George for several years a long time ago. He was a terrific guy, wonderfully entertaining and highly respected. I always enjoyed his play-by-play back in the day.

It's a sad day in Big Orange Country.

volsmith writes:

Never mentioned that he used to say the opponent was brought down by a "whole host of orange jerseys".

TommyJack writes:

in response to SeeBlue:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yes

givehim6 writes:

in response to Millisa:

Prayers are with the Mooney Family and I miss John Ward being the Voice Of The Vols :) :) :)

Yes prayer to his familyand and all Vols of that generation. I know how I'd fill if we lost John Ward, he will allways be THE VOISE to me. Bob K some how does not cut it.

volfan73120#211815 writes:

in response to Lane_Kiffins_Daddy_Wears_Diapers:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I've been thinking about that all day. The only difference was the 1959 game was homecoming. In 1958 we knocked off #1 ranked Ole Miss at Homecoming, after losing the week before to Chattanooga. Anything can happen tomorrow. Go Vols.

bwilliams writes:

I worked with George on the Vol Network (radio) and the playback (TV) in the 60's. The Saturday following the death of three (3)UT coaches in the car/train wreck. George opened the show in the normal manner, and then completely broke down. We took his microphone off the air. However, it took several seconds with Ed Huster Sr's arm around him for his composure to return. There was more to George than what was heard on the air.

cooper65#432178 writes:

George Mooney and Harry Caray were the first two sports announcers I was familiar with. George also did Memphis Chicks (Southern Association baseball games and even did American Legion baseball games in Memphis. I will never forget his commercials for King Cotton hotdogs during the baseball games. John Ward was the greatest but George Mooney takes me back to my youth and holds a special place in my heart.

pingkr62 writes:

in response to givehim6:

Yes prayer to his familyand and all Vols of that generation. I know how I'd fill if we lost John Ward, he will allways be THE VOISE to me. Bob K some how does not cut it.

B.K. had some really BIG shoes to fill. Who would want to follow a legend? Not me! G.B.O.!!!

RetainDerekDooleyPlease writes:

And the creator, and senior admiral of the Volunteer Navy.

volcycle writes:

Wow! This is before my time, but listening to him on Youtube (look up George Mooney), he takes you there just like John Ward. We've had some great "Voices of the Vols". We didn't skip a beat between George and John.

Praying for his family!

theoldbear writes:

I saw my first Vol game in 1951. I was on campus as a student through the 1967 season.

George Mooney was the voice of the Vols the whole time I was in school, from first grade to college graduation, and seldom was the Saturday that I did not hear his voice.

I also remember Lowell Blanchard, the one-time mayor of Knoxville broadcasting, but was that only basketball?

They just don't make them like that any more.

If the Vols should happen to win tomorrow, game ball should go to the Mooney family.

AncientVolFan writes:

Like others I remember Mooney well. He was a great announcer.

arkyvol writes:

in fairness to the snake (stabler), as i recall the starting q.b. was steve sloan who got hurt on the preceding play. stabler (a sophomore) didn't expect to play. i don't know if he had been watching the game, but somebody should have reminded him of the down while he was looking for his helmet. i was a sophomore, listening on the radio in knoxville. bryant later said it was all his fault.

Couchdummy writes:

Wasn't the game broadcast over WKGN rather than WNOX back in the 60's?

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