Three Great Murphy Calls
From the Miracle at Maples to the Biggest Upset Ever, the broadcaster’s love for the Cardinal shone through.
By Sam Scott
There was no mystery about which team Bob Murphy, ’53, wanted to win.
The longtime radio voice of Cardinal football and basketball — who died August 22 at 86 — had a love affair with Stanford going back to his birth at Stanford Hospital. And he didn’t pretend otherwise just because he was speaking via a 50,000-watt signal.
“He was not your typical X’s and O’s-type announcer,” says Lee Hammer, vice president of San Francisco sports radio station KNBR, who produced many of Murphy’s broadcasts. “But you didn’t care. Because the people who were listening to Murphy didn’t expect that from him.
“He wore the game on his sleeve,” Hammer says. “His emotions were out there. He didn’t hide anything back. He bled Cardinal red.”
Or, as longtime friend and former Stanford tennis coach Dick Gould, ’59, MA ’60, puts it: “If there was ever a homer broadcaster, it was Murph.”
It’s impossible to boil four decades of work down to few calls, but here are three of Murphy’s greatest, most ecstatic moments,
1998 Elite Eight
Perhaps Murphy’s most iconic call comes from one of the most incredible comebacks in NCAA basketball history. Down 6 with less than a minute to go in its Elite Eight game against Rhode Island, the Cardinal clawed back to within 1 with 26 seconds left. Then Arthur Lee, ’99, forced a backcourt steal, which Mark Madsen, ’00, MBA ’02, grabbed, dribbled and two-hand slammed home for 2 points and a trip to the line.
“Madsen stuffed it,” Murphy screams. “Madsen stuffed it. . . . And . . . he . . . was . . . fouled.”
For John Platz, ’83, JD/MBA ’89, who was calling the game with Murphy, the call is every bit as majestic as the action it captures.
“His voice and choice of words conveyed the suddenness of it all, the surrealness of it all, the joy of an instant realization that defeat was turning into victory and that a Holy Grail of sorts — a ticket to the Final Four — was firmly within grasp,” Platz says.
“This is what those 10 words conveyed. And it constitutes, in my mind, the greatest broadcasting call in Stanford Athletics history.”
The Miracle at Maples
Six years later, the №2 Cardinal men were in dire danger of losing their perfect record. Down 4 against Arizona with 45 seconds left, the Cardinal managed to come back and tie the game, but with enough time for the Wildcats to regroup for a final shot. Concern is in Murphy’s voice as Arizona’s point guard dribbles up. But with 4 seconds left, the Cardinal forces a turnover. Nick Robinson, ’04, MA ’05, scoops up the ball in his own half before unleashing a running 35-foot prayer that plunges through the rim and unleashes mayhem in Maples.
“Nick Robinson’s shot,” Murphy calls out. “He hit it! He hit it. Nick Robinson hit it. It’s over!”
“It was as surreal as the Lee-steal-and-Madsen-dunk play in St. Louis six years earlier,” Platz says. “Murph went even more crazy on the Robinson shot, way more pandemonium, because of the miraculous nature of making a shot from that distance, while on the run.”
“He was standing up, he was going crazy,” says Hammer, who was also working the game. “Bob was beside himself. It was a great call. It gave the emotion of what Stanford fans wanted to hear.”
The 2007 Stanford football team was 1–3 and expected to get slaughtered on its road trip to face the №1 USC Trojans, who hadn’t lost a home game in six years. Instead, the 41-point underdogs found themselves down 6 in the final minute of the game. Murphy explodes as first-time starting quarterback Tavita Pritchard, ’09, connects with Mark Bradford, ’07, in the corner of the end zone: “Touchdown . . . touchdown . . . touchdown.”
But the signature moment comes after Derek Belch, ’07, MA ’08, kicks the extra point to take the lead and Stanford intercepts USC’s final attempt at a comeback.
“The clock is running. . . . Nine . . . eight . . . seven . . . five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one,” says Murphy, momentarily forgetting how to count. “Stanford 24, Trojans 23. How about that one, folks!”•
Audio: Courtesy KNBR