Redskins reach out to a long gone, but not forgotten, friend

Dan Steinberg
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Redskins' alumni tent at the team's recent homecoming celebration was filled with images you wanted to permanently squish into some unused corner of your brain. Joe Bugel and Russ Grimm laughing over barbecue. Jeff Bostic walking around in an Ed Hardy shirt. Doug Williams holding court in the same room as Deacon Jones (who played here in 1974).

But the moment that struck me more than any other was this: when I walked past the huge frames that would eventually be fitted with group photos, began reading some of the names, and came across the very unobtrusive signature of one Frank Herzog.

The team's removal of the legendary radio play-by-play man has been high on the list of fan gripes since he was replaced by Larry Michael on broadcasts before the 2004 season. So it just felt right to learn that GM Bruce Allen - who has relentlessly worked on repairing alumni relations this year - e-mailed Herzog and asked him to attend the Saturday night reception for the team's alumni.

"I was delighted," Herzog told me this week. "It's nice to have a friendly relationship with all those guys, and it's nice to have a friendly relationship with Bruce Allen."

Prior commitments had forced Herzog to miss both the Art Monk-Darrell Green Hall of Fame weekend and the later celebration for Grimm in Canton. The announcer has seen Redskins alumni at charity golf tournaments and the like, but he said this was the first time he was invited to a formal team gathering since he left the broadcast team.

"I'd rubbed shoulders with a few of the guys in the years since I left, but I hadn't really seen that many, and this was a chance to see a bunch of guys at once," Herzog said. "I wouldn't blame Dan Snyder for feeling a little uncomfortable having me around, except I'm retired now, so I'm kind of harmless. But at the same time, you've got a lot of ties to these guys. Gee whiz, I saw them every week in the locker room, every day in training camp."

And many of them he hadn't seen in decades. He saw Fred Dean for the first time since Super Bowl XVII. He talked with Deacon Jones about the extra point he once converted after weeks of begging George Allen for a chance. He chatted with the Hogs, with Frank Grant, Brig Owens and Larry Brown. And he caught up with Allen for the first time since the latter was a young man accompanying his dad in Carlisle, Pa.

"I told him it was special, and I made a point of sending him a note the next day to say thanks," Herzog told me. "For the players, I think now they're beginning to realize what a very special era that was, that decade and a half, the '80s and early '90s. . . . You may never see an organization succeed like that again. They were part of something very special, and it means more to everybody to get together and see how everybody is doing."

Herzog retired from WTOP last year, and said he's spending his time on photography, golf, and spoiling his grandchildren. He still can't sit down and watch an entire NFL game on TV - too many commercials, too much down time for someone used to keeping stats, watching game trends and monitoring scoreboards. But he said he would be open to attending future Redskins alumni gatherings, despite the fact that he's no longer part of the organization.

"My mind-set is, 'Look, all that is over; I've moved on,' " Herzog said. "I've got a life to lead, and that's what I'm doing now. It was a great time; it will never be repeated. It could never be the same, and you kind of savor it and realize how lucky you were."

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