Nov. 28, 2007
The following story will appear in the gameday program for the 110th Big Game between Stanford and California this Saturday, December 1.
by Gary Migdol
Walk with him through a hotel where the Stanford football team is staying and you'll hear it.
Stand by him at his broadcast location in Maples Pavilion and you'll hear it time and time again.
Attend the Council of Chiefs or stand by his broadcast location on Chuck Taylor Grove for his pre-game radio show on football Saturdays and you'll hear those two words over and over.
"Hey, Murph" will be bellowed from the young and old, male and female, athletes and non-athletes, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and just fans of Stanford Athletics. It is the sound of the Stanford community embracing the Voice of the Cardinal, in many ways the face of Stanford Athletics over the past 40 years.
It is his myriad of fans and friends trying to get his attention and show their affection for him. No, the "Bob" in Bob Murphy is hardly ever heard. It's simply Murph. Like Cher, Madonna and Elvis, Murph is all you need to say.
And today, after 43 years in the broadcast booth and an affinity that began the day he was born in 1931 at Stanford Hospital, Bob Murphy bids farewell to Stanford Athletics by calling his final game as a member of the Cardinal broadcasting team.
"My association with Stanford University and Stanford Athletics has been one of the most important aspects of my life," says Murphy. "Even though I've had other jobs and lived in other parts of the country, I couldn't describe any separation from Stanford. It's always been a part of my life and I've always been involved in some way or another."
Throughout his life, Murphy has been a ticket taker at Stanford Stadium, a student-athlete and 1953 graduate of Stanford, Manager of Athletic Relations, Sports Information Director, emcee at countless Stanford events and, of course, radio broadcaster for football and men's basketball games on the radio and host of a variety of television shows.
After his birth at Stanford Hospital, Murphy grew up in Burlingame, Calif. While attending San Mateo School in the late 1940's, his principal, Joe Acheson, had the ability to decide which six students would get admitted to Stanford. Murphy was selected as one of the six and, to the delight of his father and uncle, who both attended Stanford, Murphy enrolled and joined the Cardinal baseball team as a pitcher.
"I lived in Encina Hall with 500 other guys," Murphy says, "and it was beyond my wildest expectations."
Murphy later lived in the Zeta Psi Fraternity House with football stars Gary Kerkorian and Bill McColl, who led the Indians to the 1952 Rose Bowl.
Murphy had his share of success at Sunken Diamond. As a bespecled right-handed pitcher, he played under head coach Everett Dean for three seasons (1951-53) and was a key player on Stanford's first College World Series team in 1953. He also placed his name in the Cardinal record book as one of its top all-time pitchers. He is a member of the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame as a baseball player.
After graduating from Stanford with a degree in History, Murphy played three seasons of professional baseball as property of the Oakland Oaks.
In 1963, Murphy returned to Stanford as the Manager of Athletic Relations, a position that involved marketing, ticket sales and public relations. While standing on the field at Notre Dame Stadium in 1964, Don Klein, Stanford's play-by-play announcer, asked Murphy a question that would change his life.
"We were just standing on the field as the team went through a light practice and Don asked me if I'd like to join him in the booth the next day," recalls Murphy. "I said sure, and I've been involved in broadcasting ever since."
Murphy added the role of Sports Information Director at Stanford in 1965 after longtime SID Don Liebendorfer retired. Murphy remained SID on The Farm through 1974, an era that included some of the great moments in Stanford history.
"I'll never forget the two Rose Bowls in 1971 and '72, working with John Ralston, and receiving the call that Jim Plunkett had won the Heisman Trophy. Those were great days for Stanford football and just a marvelous experience for me," said Murphy.
Murphy recalls the fall of 1970 when Plunkett and Mississippi's Archie Manning were battling for the Heisman. While Mississippi had a full-blown national Heisman campaign in progress, Murphy spearheaded the Plunkett campaign that was something less than a national publicity onslaught.
"I sent a letter to the national media indicating that I had spent $365 on the Heisman campaign," Murphy remembers. "It was for stamps and envelopes - that sort of thing. When I got that call that Plunkett had won, it was off the charts. We went to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for the Heisman ceremony, and it was just a wonderful experience."
After leaving Stanford in 1974, Murphy moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work for Jack Nicklaus and become the Executive Director of the first Memorial Golf Tournament at Muirfield Village. While living in Columbus, Murphy managed to continue his string of working at least one game per season in the Cardinal broadcast booth as he teamed with Klein when Stanford played at Penn State and Michigan in 1975.
Then, in 1976, Murphy returned to the Bay Area as Athletic Director at San Jose State, a position he held through 1979. During those four years, he worked with Hal Ramey on the Spartans' radio broadcasts, but he also worked the Stanford game each year, again continuing his streak broadcasting at least one Stanford game.
Murphy worked for SportsChannel in San Jose and for CBS Sports from 1979-82 before becoming Stanford's play-by-play announcer in 1983.
"[Stanford Athletic Director] Andy Geiger had just lost his play-by-play announcer right before the 1983 season," says Murphy. "And I went to Andy and said I can help. He said, "that's perfect, you saved me," and I've been in the booth on a regular basis ever since."
To say Bob Murphy is simply the radio voice of the Cardinal is an understatement. His ability to hold a crowd, make them laugh, poke fun at his friends while at the same time delivering the message that Stanford Athletics, and Stanford student-athletes, are special, is his gift.
Beyond the booth, he has emceed countless team banquets, fund raising events and other special events over the past 40-plus years. He began the Council of Chiefs, a booster group that convenes each Friday morning before home football games, in the late 1960's. The program, of course, is Murphy interviewing players and coaches while needling his friends in the audience.
"I really don't know how that happened," Murphy laughs. "I just fell into that [emcee] role. I've always enjoyed talking to people, in front of people, about a subject that is near and dear to me. Insulting my friends - in a playful manner - has always been delightful to me."
"The relationships I've made throughout the years mean the most," continues Murphy. "I've made great friends with coaches and players that are very special to me. Recently, we had [former Stanford player] Chris Draft at Council of Chiefs, and I had a chance to catch up with him. It was just a delight. That's been a source of never-ending joy for me. I've been very fortunate."
The Cardinal color runs deep in Murphy's veins. He has established The Jim and Marisa Murphy Woods Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of his two deceased children, and has set up a Charitable Remainder Trust.
Both of his daughters, K.C. and Vicki, were admitted to Stanford. Vicki played rugby at Stanford and graduated from the Farm while K.C. graduated from UCLA.
And while Murphy may be exiting the radio booth, his relationship with Stanford University and Stanford Athletics will continue. He hasn't had a separation since that day in 1931 at Stanford Hospital, and he has no plans for that to occur now.
As many of his old pals shout "Hey, Murph" at the 110th Big Game today, they will be shouting a term of endearment to one of the most beloved people in the history of Stanford Athletics, indeed in the history of Stanford University - Robert W. Murphy, Jr., Stanford Class of '53.
Today is also the final day with Stanford Athletics for the author of this story Stanford Senior Assistant Athletic Director Gary Migdol, who has served in the Stanford Athletics Media Relations office since 1984.