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Interview with Otis Boggs

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Title:
Interview with Otis Boggs
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Clayton, Bob ( Interviewer )
Marston, Ruth C.
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Matheson Historical Museum
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English

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Matheson History Museum
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Matheson History Museum
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

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MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: TRANSCRIBER:


Otis Boggs Bob Clayton 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. C: Yes.

B It has been about the same length of time for us. I think you came here in 193 8?

C: Yes.

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 born 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. 1 was up and kicking around, but I don-7t 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 interested. I
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.
Uncle
M
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
there.
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 born 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
sports?

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 filled
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
Parade.

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 hour--s 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
town.

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 Rivets- and when he left, Dave Russell was the next in line to do the play-byplay, 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 spoiler 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.

C: Yes.

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 husband=s 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.

B: Yes.

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 6070-80 yards. Of course, some of them would go out of bounds, but man, could that guy
quick kick!









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 don7-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, Alt=s great to be a Florida Gator,_ and that=s really true.

C: Do you still follow the Gators?

B: Oh yes, I do. 1=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 Goveruor.
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.




Full Text

PAGE 1

1 MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM INTERVIEWEE: Otis Boggs INTERVIEWER: Bob Clayton TRANSCRIBER: Ruth C. Marston April 13, 1999

PAGE 2

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 3 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. C: Yes. B It has been about the same length of time for us. I think you came here in 1938? C: Yes. 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 fr om South Carolina. I was born almost on the campus at Clemson. It was in Clemson College at South Clemson University. _________________ He and another fellow work ed 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 excep t 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 t ook those during the summer, and was very interested. _____________________________________________________________ I 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?

PAGE 3

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 4 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. ______________________________ Uncle M_________________________________________________________________________ _____________. Red Barber, who was later to become world famous as a sportscaster, was the MC of the show, and Red, whose ambiti on was to be a singing minstrel and go on ____________________ shows had a chance __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________. C: So that s how you got interested in radio. No w when you came to Florida, WRUF was there. B: Oh yes, it was there and operating, and I got to meet a couple guys, w ho invited me down for an audition. I went down and took the audition i n, 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 a nd 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 born in Scotland -Jack and Dave. So that s what I did. I went down ____________________________________________. C: Now, we were talking about whether you di d anything in radio befo re you got involved in sports? B: Well, at WRUF you had to do just about ever ything 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 d eal 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 wr ote 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. Certai nly 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 Ba nd and there was one called Variety Musical Parade. 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 th e 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 a bout eighteen of those for an hour s show and you were loaded down because they were the big 78's and about the size of a discus that you d throw

PAGE 4

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 5 in track! Maybe not that thick, of course, but they weighed up. The Variety Music Parade had tremendous audience in this part of Flor ida, because WRUF was the only station in town. 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, a ll 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 stati ons 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 Da d and I used to listen to Orange Grove String Band down in Okeechobee, and down on the big lake that s a fur 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 di d 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 a job 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 a job that paid him quite a b it of money. One of his specialities was a show called Moon River and when he left, Dave Russell was the next in line to do the play-byplay, 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 th e 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 WF AA 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 wa s 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,

PAGE 5

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 6 _________________________, 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. C: Yes. 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 wa s 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 li ghtly, and the Warriors ______________ (?) beat them something like 27-13. The only loss that Georgi a 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 gr eat star at Georgia T ech. He had been a _________, a field goal kicker, and he beat Florida a couple games. Pepper was the offensive coordinator. It just so happe ned 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 husband s 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

PAGE 6

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 7 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 D odd, Jr., came in and threw a reverse pass off to one of the ends and he went down to abou t 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 Peppe r flashing it back, and they are going to go for two, and they throw it to John McBeth, and J ohn 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 tw o-point conversion. Bobby told Ray , I 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 Spurri er made in his senior year in 194_ when he kicked one like a clothesline to beat the A uburn Tigers by three points and pull one out of the fire. He was an exciting player to watc h. 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. B: Yes. C: Off the top of your head, of the multi-talent ed 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 ha ve to be Rick _______________. Rick was a great quick kicker. I have never seen anybody kick a ny 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 6070-80 yards. Of course, some of them would go out of bounds, but man, could that guy quick kick!

PAGE 7

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 8 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, One thing about him. If Rick is down a nd 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 Fergie 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, It 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 ll 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 co mmander 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 st reet 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

PAGE 8

Interview with Otis Boggs April 13, 1999 9 to thousands and thousands of people across this state you are still the Voice 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.


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MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER

ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM


INTERVIEWEE: INTERVIEWER: TRANSCRIBER:


Otis Boggs Bob Clayton 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. C: Yes.

B It has been about the same length of time for us. I think you came here in 1938?

C: Yes.

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 born 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 interested. I
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.
Uncle
M
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
there.
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 born 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
sports?

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 ofthe 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
Parade.

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 hour-s 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
town.

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 River and when he left, Dave Russell was the next in line to do the play-byplay, 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.

C: Yes.

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 husband=s 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.

B: Yes.

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 6070-80 yards. Of course, some of them would go out of bounds, but man, could that guy
quick kick!







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 AFergies 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
Gatorse, 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.