Depending on your age, you might not even know who he was. Even if you know who he was, you probably don’t remember much about him. And that would have been just fine with Andy Musser.
Musser, a longtime broadcaster in the Delaware Valley, died on Sunday at the age of 74. With the possible exception of Bill Campbell, Musser broadcast more local sporting events – Eagles, Phillies, 76ers and Big Five basketball – than anybody who ever lived.
That should make him a cultural icon, but for a public figure Musser tended to blend into the background. Andy Musser was sort of like Larry Fine in the Three Stooges – he was an integral part of the team, but never the star of the show. While Moe and Curley get most of the good lines, Larry just took an occasional poke in the eyes or pie in the face. He was always there, but on the periphery.
That was Andy Musser. Taking over for a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster like By Saam with the Phillies, sitting alongside local legends like Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, he just did his job, including 26 seasons with the Phillies.
Musser never developed a hook or catch phrase like Kalas’ “It’s outta here!’’ He certainly didn’t waste his time or ours by trying to be a comedian, like so many clowns on ESPN today. He never spoke down to his viewers or pretended he knew more than they did, even though he did. He was, simply, a simple man who came to work every day and did his job, even if nobody remembers him doing it.
And, to be honest, we were usually annoyed when Musser replaced Kalas for a few innings. Harry the K was a legend and Musser wasn’t. Actually, Musser used to get on our nerves simply because we wondered how an ordinary stiff like him, a guy with no discernable talent, got such a great gig. He wasn’t special, so why did he have such a special job?
Eventually, what made Musser special were his longevity and his versatility. He’s the only person to ever be a regular broadcaster of the Eagles (1965-71), Sixers (1971-76) and Phillies (1976-2001). He also was the voice of Villanova athletics and he also had a brief stint with CBS Sports and in the early 1970s he worked two World Series, two Super Bowls and two Masters. That’s a pretty impressive resume.
But there’s another reason why people of a certain age remember Musser fondly – he’s one of the last of a dying breed, the men to whom we listened when we tuned out transistor radios to one of the local teams back in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Most of those golden voices have been silenced, including Saam, Ashburn, Kalas, Tom Brookshier, Les Keiter, Gene Hart and Bob Vetrone, and others have retired, including Bill Campbell, Bill Pheiffer and Al Meltzer.
Granted, we listened to them because we had to listen to them, since there weren’t a zillion cable stations back then. If Andy Musser was broadcasting a boring Sixers game there were no alternatives – we couldn’t just flick to ESPN27 and watch something else.
Whatever the reason, those voices were a big part of growing up in the Delaware Valley back in those days. They seeped into our subconscious and eventually passed into legend. And how many of today’s broadcasters will be held in that kind of esteem 40 years from now? Will kids today have warm, fuzzy memories of listening to Mike McCarthy, Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews? Nothing against those guys, but I doubt it. In fact, the only current local broadcaster who fits that description is Merrill Reese, the long-time golden voice of the Eagles.
Andy Musser was part of that generation, even if he never got the adulation from the fans that Kalas and Ashburn did. So the next time you’re watching the Three Stooges, focus on Larry a little bit. He deserves some love, too.