John Murphy retiring as Bills play-by-play announcer as his recovery from stroke continues


Staff member

A great radio piece with Van Miller and John Murphy talking up the Bills and Buffalo in the mid 80s, I
nterspersed with play-by-play highlights. Additional comments from Erie County Executive
Ed Rutkowski and Buffalo Mayor James Griffin and some classic WBEN jingles as well.

John Murphy is retiring as the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills as he continues to recover from the effects of a stroke he suffered in 2023.

Murphy, who took over the job following the retirement of the late Van Miller, the original Voice of the Bills, said his voice hasn’t returned to the point he will be able to return to call games in the broadcast booth.

“It is kind of ironic,” Murphy said in an interview Wednesday at his Orchard Park home. “I’m in the best shape of my life, and I can’t talk.”
Murphy, who has lost 70 pounds and does daily speech and occupational therapy, meant he can’t talk to an acceptable degree to do play-by-play.

“I’m retiring,” Murphy said. “I kept waiting to get better. The recovery is slow, and I know I won’t be ready in September, so I said, ‘That’s it.’ I’m not talking good enough to do a broadcast.”

John Murphy at home beside his prized photograph of him and Van Miller at a Bills game. Alan Pergament/Buffalo News

Murphy, who has one of the best voices in Buffalo sportscasting history, said he had a self-imposed deadline of June to make a decision on whether he would return, but decided to announce he is leaving the booth a few weeks early to help the Bills plan for his replacement.

Chris Brown, a Bills employee who hosts the program “One Bills Live” on MSG and WGR-AM, took over for Murphy on play-by-play alongside analyst Eric Wood for the 2022-23 regular season finale against New England and two playoff games that season, and for all games during the 2023-24 season.

The Bills and rightsholder Audacy, which owns WGR and WBEN-AM, had delayed naming a permanent replacement, allowing Murphy time to recover.

Brown is a candidate, but there will be a search for the coveted job, said Jeff Matthews, the vice president of media and content for the Bills.

Murphy said he realized in March while visiting relatives in Arizona that he would not be coming back.

“I am in peace with it, lately,” Murphy said. “When I’m done with this and I’m done doing interviews, I’ll be at peace with it.”

Murphy, 67, added that for the past few years he has been complaining more about the travel and the schedule.

“I just couldn’t put up with it anymore,” he said. “There were other things, but if I didn’t have a stroke I’d want to do it. But I found a lot wrong with the job, I guess.”

He has kept his sense of humor. He asked this reporter if his speech was understandable.

Told yes, he cracked, “then I’m not retiring.”

He isn’t fully retiring. He plans to do short pregame editorials at home games, assuming his voice continues to improve.

“Just to keep my hand in it,” he said. “I think about things during a season that aren’t being said. I need to talk better to do that, even.”

His wife, Mary Travers Murphy, said his prognosis is full recovery, but it can take six to eight more months.

“The prognosis is great because it is working, and they can measure it,” she said.

“I’m definitely fortunate,” Murphy said. “I put a lot of work in it, but I’m fortunate.”

Even if he eventually has a full recovery, Murphy conceded he couldn’t do play-by-play.

“Gone two years, you can’t do it anymore,” he said.

Murphy suffered the stroke Jan. 1, 2023, the day before the highly anticipated, prime time Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game at the end of the 2022-23 season that was called off after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field.

Murphy said Wednesday afternoon that he no longer thinks of the day he suffered the stroke.

“I try to forget that day,” Murphy said. “I didn’t want to go to the hospital, and Mary insisted. And it was all downhill from that. I never think about that.”

Van Miller and John Murphy in the broadcast booth at then-Rich Stadium. Buffalo News file photo

He has been working on Bills radio broadcasts for 35 years, 19 on play-by-play after Miller’s retirement, and 16 years as the analyst working with Miller.

Asked for highlights, Murphy mentioned several people he worked with on Bills broadcasts on and off the air. He singled out the four analysts he worked with over the years – Alex Van Pelt, Mark Kelso, Steve Tasker and Eric Wood.

As far as a highlight game, he thinks of the 13 seconds game – the 42-36 overtime loss to Kansas City on Jan. 23, 2022, in an AFC divisional playoff game.

“It was such a good game,” Murphy said. “They go back and forth. (Patrick) Mahomes versus Josh (Allen). I couldn’t even take a breath in between drives. It was incredible to the point when it ended, I didn’t even react like it was a loss. I didn’t fully appreciate they should have won that. I was so caught up what a great game. I think that would be the No. 1 game.”

Murphy wrote in the book, “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Buffalo Bills Sideline, Locker Room and Press Box” that he co-authored with Rochester sportswriter and author Scott Pitoniak, that he dreamed he would eventually exclaim on the air “The Buffalo Bills are Super Bowl champions!”

If it happens, Murphy’s distinctive voice won’t be shouting those words.

“I’ll be happy for them,” Murphy said. “It would be sad for an instant, but not really.”

Then, he cracked: “Nineteen years doing play-by-play. I certainly gave them enough chances to do that.”
He uses the same words to describe how he feels about his play-by-play career ending.

“It is sad. But it’s not really,” he said. “We have two grandchildren. … Our whole family lives around here. I am happy. I wish it had gone longer. It wasn’t the way I wanted to get out. It was 19 years of good times and good people.”