MULE': Politz's famous call lives on

They will, of course, be linked forever in LSU lore: Billy Cannon's epic 89-yard punt return, perhaps the signature play in Tiger football history, and J.C. Politz' call of that play, unquestionably the most memorable radio description of an LSU sports moment – and this is an athletic program with 43 national titles.

Cannon himself later said the call was as exciting as the play, which is quite a statement since he secured the 1959 Heisman Trophy with the stunning return.


"I used to kid him about it,'' Cannon said, "that, hearing it, it was hard to believe the  excitement of his call – even years later.''


Without question, as long as LSU plays football, Politz' voice, the usual staccato delivery becoming increasingly roused, will be the soundtrack of Cannon's heroics in the No. 1-ranked Tigers' 7-3 victory over No. 3-ranked Ole Miss, which extended their victory streak to 19. 


In that legendary call, keeping his intonations above the crescendo of the crowd, Politz' description went: "Billy Cannon watches it bounce. He takes it on his own 11. He comes back upfield to the 15, stumbles momentarily. . . he's at the 20. . . running hard at the 25! Gets away from one man at the 30. He's at the 35. . . He's at the 50, he's at the 45, 40!''


A classic miscue occurred at this point as a sound technician tried to lower the crowd microphone while heightening Politz' and ended up reversing the tasks. The roar from the crowd drowned out the broadcast until near the play's end. "He's at the 5! He scores . . . Listen to the cheers as Billy Cannon comes off the field. . . . Great All-American!''


It was one of the sport's most memorable moments, and – though it would hurl him to broadcasting's major leagues – the career highlight for Politz, who died last week at age 81.


He loved LSU, and he loved broadcasting Tiger games. But it wasn't completely a happy experience.


At LSU at least, every silver lining must have a dark cloud.


WAIL in Baton Rouge used to do the Southern games, and Politz, a World War II veteran recently graduated from LSU was working at the station and doing Jaguar games. Legendary coach A. W. Mumford had an eye – and an ear – for talent.


The Southern icon spotted the Jaguars' new play-by-play announcer and made a point of going over to the table, set high in the stands where Politz sat. "Son,'' Mumford said, "I like your style.''


So did station owner Ralph "Pappy'' Burge, and in 1957 when WAIL won the rights to LSU football over longtime Tiger carrier WJBO, he wanted Politz as the Tigers' play-by-play man – a dream job for the young broadcaster. But LSU athletic director Jim Corbett wanted John Ferguson to do the games. When Burge insisted on his own choice, an arms-length relationship ensued.


"The players and coaches were great to me,'' Politz said four years ago, just before his retirement. "But I don't think anyone in the administration – and Corbett and I were friends before that – ever spoke to me (afterward).''


Not even after Cannon's run and it's equally exciting play-by-play? "Never,'' Politz said.


"I think Corbett thought Ferguson was just a little more polished,'' said Paul Dietzel, coach of the Tigers in '59. "But J.C. was really good, and added a degree of excitement for the listening fans.''


In an ironic coincidence, just months ago, Ferguson also died. Between them, the two men represented 60 years of LSU broadcasts.


Probably because of Politz' call of Cannon's run, which was heard on 109 stations, including three 50,000-watt flame-throwers (WWL in New Orleans, KWKH in Shreveport, and KMOX in St. Louis), Politz was voted the nation's best football announcer in 1959.


After that season, though, WJBO won back its rights to LSU football, and Ferguson was in and Politz was out – though not for long. With an offer to do games for the fledgling Dallas Cowboys in one hand, Politz opted for St. Louis Cardinals football at KMOX, where he worked with such broadcast heavyweights as Jack Buck and Harry Carey. He also did a weekly talk show with Stan Musial at the future Hall of Famer's restaurant, and regularly interviewed sports luminaries Ted Williams, Dizzy Dean, Vince Lombardi, and Joe DiMaggio, in whose honor Politz constantly wore a Yankees cap.


Three years into his St. Louis gig, Politz' father suffered a major heart attack, and he left what to him was sportscasting paradise to return home and care for his ailing parents.


Politz spent the next 30 years working on Lafayette television, did a year of University of New Mexico football, traveling back and forth, then Tulane and University of New Orleans basketball games, and was even asked, and did for one season, commentary on LSU football.


He finished up where he started, at Southern where he felt most comfortable – and appreciated.


"I know, though,'' he said in 2002, "every time they replay Billy Cannon's run – and that will be for years and years – that someone might remember me.''




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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