MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Ruth C. Marston
April 13, 1999
Interview with Otis Boggs 3
April 13, 1999
C: My name is Bob Clayton, and I am at the residence of Mr. Otis Boggs in Gainesville,
Florida, on April 13, 1999, doing an oral history for the Matheson Historical Center. It is a
privilege to be talking to the original and still the Voice of the Gators. Hello, Otis.
B: Hey, good to see you, Bob. You and I kind of grew up in this town together.
B It has been about the same length of time for us. I think you came here in 1938?
B: And I came here in 1937. Man, we=ve seen Gainesville grow from a one-horse town to a
full stable town!
C: You=ve got that right. Well now, you weren=t born here in Gainesville, were you?
B: No, my dad was a railroad man and he was from South Carolina. I was bom almost on the
campus at Clemson. It was in Clemson College at South Clemson University.
He and another fellow worked in the Seaboard office.
It was one of the smartest moves I ever made. First of all, I picked it at school. As you
know, WRUF is one of the
C: 1928, which is the year I was born, so it=s easy for me to figure out how old it is.
B: That=s the year the Gators won every game except that vile one at Tennessee, which they
lost on the wet field, 13-12. I was up and kicking around, but I don't remember the game.
C: You weren=t in radio before you came to Gainesville?
B: No, no. Not at all.
C: Now, when you came to Gainesville, you came as a University student?
B: Yes, I did. In fact, I was going major in chemistry and I already had a couple semesters of
college chemistry at Clemson, where I took those during the summer, and was very
went out to do an audition. I took it in and bought a You don't get
it quite as cheap and reasonable as I did in those days.
C: Now, how did you get involved in radio?
Interview with Otis Boggs 4
April 13, 1999
B: Well, my dad was a listener to WRUF. Back in those days, WRUF didn't have any
competition. There were not too many stations on the dial. We were living in Okeechobee.
Red Barber, who was later to become world famous as a sportscaster, was
the MC of the show, and Red, whose ambition was to be a singing minstrel and go on
shows had a chance
C: So that's how you got interested in radio. Now when you came to Florida, WRUF was
B: Oh yes, it was there and operating, and I got to meet a couple guys, who invited me down for
an audition. I went down and took the audition in, as I recall, early March. Dan Riss, who
was a sportscaster who later became a fine movie star. Hollywood Dan. That name is
spelled Riss. We had the tryouts, and
I was kind of bad at this. Dave Russell was another fellow. He
was a co-announcer with Dan Riss and he was slated to be the next play-by-play man. Very
fine boxer. He and Steve O=Connell were on the boxing team at the same time. Dave=s dad
brought the kids over from Scotland -- they were both bom in Scotland -- Jack and Dave. So
that's what I did. I went down
C: Now, we were talking about whether you did anything in radio before you got involved in
B: Well, at WRUF you had to do just about everything when I started working down there. I
thought I was just going to be a sports announcer, but they trained you in writing. One of the
big things that I did that helped me a great deal was that they assigned me to write a show
called the It was just wonderful. It was a tough thing to do but I
learned a lot about classical music and who wrote it. Also, I got to do news and special
events. With special events, you=d go out and cover maybe a parade or a social event, and it
was a great broadcasting experience. Certainly you found which niche you were best fitted
for, and although I loved doing the news and the
C: You mentioned the Orange Grove String Band and there was one called Variety Musical
B: That was a show that all the guys who worked at WRUF wanted to do because that was an
hour in the afternoon when you got to play all the pop stuff, the best of the new records, and
everybody was eager to get a hold of those new records. And when I say records, those
babies were heavy. You took about eighteen of those for an hours show and you were
loaded down because they were the big 78's and about the size of a discus that you=d throw
Interview with Otis Boggs 5
April 13, 1999
in track! Maybe not that thick, of course, but they weighed up. The Variety Music Parade
had tremendous audience in this part of Florida, because WRUF was the only station in
C: I remember that Variety Music Parade in Lake City when I was a young lad listening to that.
B: Oh yes, we had requests from Lake City, all over Columbia County, all over North Florida as
far as Jacksonville to the north and down even to Orlando on the south. In those days, in the
early 30's, there were not that many radio stations in the state, probably a maximum of about
ten, if that many.
C: And you could reach much further.
B: Oh yes, the reason I say that is because Dad and I used to listen to Orange Grove String
Band down in Okeechobee, and down on the big lake that's a Afur piece~ from Gainesville.
C: After you got established and doing programs at WRUF, then you had gotten involved with
Mr. Russell in the sports department, when did you really start doing your play-by-play for
the Gators and for the various sports teams?
B: I was very lucky. I took that audition in March of 1939 and Dan Riss, the man who was
giving the auditions, got ajob at WLW in Cincinnati, which at that time was one of the great
stations in the nation. It was 50,000 watts and was as powerful as you could get. Dan went
up there to take ajob that paid him quite a bit of money. One of his specialities was a show
called AMoon Rivers and when he left, Dave Russell was the next in line to do the play-by-
play, and Dave did a very, very good job.. He was the play-by-play man in 1939, and that
was the year that I got my chance to be the co-announcer. I stepped up, and I had not been
on the air a year until I was assigned to be the co-announcer, and that's the guy that does the
lead into the ball game, does the half-time interviews, does the wrap-up at the end and fills in
during time outs and that sort of thing. I thought that I really received a great break to make
that big a step in such a short time.
C: Did you start out in your play-by-play in the football business?
B: Oh yes. I did high school basketball games, which was an experience. I don't know
whether the public ever recovered from that one or not. My play-by-play started in 1940
when Dave Russell got a job with WFAA in Dallas, which was owned by the
Corporation, the Dallas Morning News, and Dave went out and got
the new Southwest Conference Football, so I was the next man in line and I moved up to do
the play-by-play in 1940. I did the opening game, and I remember it very well. We played
Mississippi State and I believe old
who was sports editor of the Gainesville Sun for a while and a
great in the and a great baseball player,
Interview with Otis Boggs 6
April 13, 1999
,was my spotter for that first game. We lost 14-0, but that
1940 year was not a bad year because the first Georgia game I broadcast, the Gators upset a
powerful Georgia team 18-13, and generally wound up having a pretty good season. Just
beating Georgia made the year in those days.
C: Speaking of Georgia, my first Florida-Georgia football game was the you-know-what.
B: Not 75-0.
B: Oh, bad.
C: Tell me how you enjoyed that one.
B: Well, I tell you, even if the team is winning, I don=t think it=s too much to do a game like
that. They call it a laugher, 75-0, but the Gators were completely outmatched. That was the
Georgia team that went to the Rose Bowl, and it was the team that had owicz on it,
and it was =s first year, and they had Race Horse Davis and
George Posher, just a tremendous football team that had
recruited. Far and away the best offensive team in the Southeastern Conference.
An ironic thing happened. Gene Ellison, who was the become head of Gator Boosters, was
on that team, and he told me that they figured they could handle Florida pretty well and they
knew that their next big game would be over at Columbus, Georgia, against Auburn, and the
Gators had beaten Auburn 6-0, but Georgia went over there and they just didn't take Auburn
too strongly. They took them rather lightly, and the Warriors (?) beat them
something like 27-13. The only loss that Georgia suffered, and they still got the Rose Bowl
bid and beat UCLA 9-0. Shows you can=t compare the scores.
C: I say amen to that. Of all the games that you have broadcast -- and I=m sure that 75-0 had to
be in there somewhere -- which games live in your memory as the most memorable, the most
exciting, the most heart-wrenching, or whatever?
B: Well, I think probably the most dramatic game when Grace came down in 1960 and brought
Pepper Rogers with him. He had been a great star at Georgia Tech. He had been a
a field goal kicker, and he beat Florida a couple games. Pepper was the
offensive coordinator. It just so happened that Bobby Dodd had sent his son to the
University of Florida while Bob Williams taught here, and Bobby Dodd was still on the
team. He was a second string quarterback. The dramatic thing was that Mrs. Dodd came
down for the ball game and she is sitting over and her husbands team, Georgia Tech, is
playing against Florida and of course she knew Pepper real well, and there=s her son playing
against her husband! That=s a predicament to be in. Who do you root for? It turned out to
Interview with Otis Boggs 7
April 13, 1999
be a dramatic game. Tech got the lead late in the ball game and went ahead by seven points,
and they were leading by seven when Bobby Dodd, Jr., came in and threw a reverse pass off
to one of the ends and he went down to about the 20-yard line and then Bobby made a couple
more passes and then he fumbled the ball and they took him out and put in a little guy named
Larry Libertor. I guess he weighed about 145 pounds soaking wet, and he threw a pass with
about 37 seconds to go, on the pitch out to Lindy Enfante who later
became a great coach in NFL -- was at Green Bay for a while, and is still one of the keen
minds in football -- and Lindy took it just inside the flag to make the score 17-16. The
Gators are down by one, so everybody figured they would go for the
and tie it up -- they wouldn't dare go for two. But not Pepper and Ray. You=d see Ray
holding two fingers up in the press box and Pepper flashing it back, and they are going to go
for two, and they throw it to John McBeth, and John gets it in the end zone and he hugs that
ball to himself and gets two points, and I=m telling you Gainesville just erupted. It was like
a giant explosion. Now today they have tremendously big crowds and the noise is deafening,
but that was the biggest noise and the most excitement I had ever seen at Florida Field.
I don=t know how Mrs. Dodd felt. She had to be happy on one side and yet sad because her
husband had been beaten 18-17 on the two-point conversion. Bobby told Ray, AI didn't
think you would dare go for two.
C: But he did.
B: That was quite a ball game. There have been years of tradition. I
remember the famous field goal kick that Spurrier made in his senior year in 194_ when he
kicked one like a clothesline to beat the Auburn Tigers by three points and pull one out of
the fire. He was an exciting player to watch. The Gators have had so many great, great
players. Larry Smith and Wes Chan (a great receiver he was), Neil Anderson. I
hesitate to name any one because there have been so many great ones to watch. Florida
football is exciting.
C: They have had a lot of athletes who played more than one sport.
C: Off the top of your head, of the multi-talented athletes, who would you say probably in your
mind, in your opinion, was the best athlete?
B: In my mind, without a doubt, it would have to be Rick Rick was a great
quick kicker. I have never seen anybody kick any better than Rick. If you sent him back in
punt formation, he might kick it 45-50 yards, but you put him back on a short snap and
there=s a quick kick, the ball simply came like it was a cannon. I=ve seen him kick them 60-
70-80 yards. Of course, some of them would go out of bounds, but man, could that guy
Interview with Otis Boggs 8
April 13, 1999
Not only was he a great football player -- he later had a fabulous career with the Bears -- but
he was an amazing basketball player. He was real strong. used to tell
me, AOne thing about him. If Rick is down and getting the basketball and he gets any
contesting from an opposing player, if that player hangs on long enough, Rick will stuff the
ball and the opposing player though the basket. He=s that strong.=
He was an excellent fighter. He could have had a professional career as a boxer, and he was
a good track man. He did everything well.
Another one was AFergie= Ferguson, who did a number of things well. I=d say they were
two of the great all-round athletes that I knew.
C: Now you also did basketball and baseball, too. You did it all for the Gators.
B: I did a little bit of everything!
C: Not just the jack of all trades, but a master of all trades.
B: I don't know about that, but I had a lot of fun, I tell you. Following Gator sports can be a
rewarding thing. I meet people every day that heard me do the Gator games, and I run into
former Gators and see them in different parts of the state, so it=s a real great thing to be a
Gator. They have this saying, AIt=s great to be a Florida Gator,= and that's really true.
C: Do you still follow the Gators?
B: Oh yes, I do. I=11 never forget my freshman year when I came to Gainesville. The school
was smaller. I think the student body was something around 2100 or 2200 students, and
everybody knew everybody else. I walked out to ROTC drill in my freshman year on a
Thursday, and who was my company commander but a gentleman named Steve O=Connell,
who was later to become Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court and later become one of
the great presidents of the University of Florida. A dear friend and just a great, great Gator.
They don=t come any better than Steve.
Then as President of the Student Body, I used to sit in the stands and talk football with a
young gentleman who moved from New Jersey down here and later became a United States
Senator, George Smathers. Across the street was Dan McCarty, who became Governor.
Unfortunately we lost Dan when he died in office. But all these great people on campus at
one time. We had quite a collection of talent.
C: There=s no doubt about it, and there=s a lot of history connected with the University of
Florida, and Otis Boggs is a bit part of that. I want to thank you for this today and to say that
Interview with Otis Boggs 9
April 13, 1999
to thousands and thousands of people across this state you are still the AVoice of the
Gators=, Otis Boggs.
B: Thank you very much, Bob. I appreciate this. The other fellows who followed have done a
good job covering Gator football. It=s an honor to have done Florida football and to have
been associated with a great university that grows greater each day.
C: Thank you, Otis.