Press row will always hold a spot for Solomon

Goodbye, my friend. Goodbye, one of my mentors. Goodbye to a good, decent, funny man.

This is a very hard day.

My friend Dave Solomon is dead.

And I will miss him.

Dave died Saturday night in a one-car accident on Interstate 91 in Cromwell. He was 59.

He was the sports columnist at the New Haven Register since what feels like forever. He worked there for 35 years. He was the face of the paper.

I have so many happy memories of him.

That is all I have now.

Like, for instance, if you ever bought Dave a drink. Make sure the credit card was handy. Because he'd go straight for the Scotch. Glenfiddich 15. Smoother than good jazz. So many nights, so many cities, so many sips. And we'd sit there and talk about so much more than sports.

Dave would talk often of Judy, his wife, who like all wives of sportswriters, are so remarkably patient and adaptable, given the absurdity of our schedules. He was so proud of his daughters, Abby and Lisa. He'd speak often of his trips to Washington, D.C., where Abby attended college. Abby attended George Washington, located in the "Foggy Bottom" section of the city. One night after too many Glenfiddich 15s, we made a bet to see who could get "Foggy Bottom" in a column first.

Dave was a tremendous contrarian. He'd take the opposite side of an argument just to push buttons. It is required behavior for a columnist sometimes. And Dave would poke and prod, all with the slightest grin, thoroughly enjoying himself.

I began my inane "Mr. I" column on Sunday because of Dave. His random thoughts, "I Was Thinking," was a must read in the Register every Sunday. Quick and funny and irreverent. He'd generate a number of vicious comments from readers. What they didn't know is that Dave really won. The madder he got you, the happier he was. More required behavior from a columnist.

My favorite line of his came during an "I Was Thinking" extravaganza. Maybe you remember the story of Tom Brady taking some criticism for appearing in a photo wearing a Yankee hat. Dave wrote: "Tom Brady appears in a photo with Gisele Bundchen and you're all staring at his ... hat?"

Dave had the job at the newspaper everybody wants and thinks they can do better. It works that way a lot now. Newspapers are full of people who are quick to offer opinions without the slightest hint at how to dig for information. Dave earned the right to offer his opinion every day. Because he was a first rate beat guy on UConn basketball for many years, learning the art - and it is an art - of cultivating relationships with the people you cover to gather the best information.

Dave was one of the people responsible for teaching me that.

He never knew.

But Dave taught me that in life, you find the people who know what they're doing and watch them.

I watched Dave - and Jeff Jacobs of the Courant, the late, great Randy Smith of the Journal-Inquirer and Chris Elsberry of the Connecticut Post - a lot as I grew up doing this.

Dave was the guy who asked maybe the most famous question in Connecticut sportswriting. He prompted Jim Calhoun's classic rant about Ryan Gomes a few years back now. Funny thing, though. Dave and Jim always had a solid relationship. Nobody told UConn basketball stories better because he always had Calhoun's respect.

Dave's finest moment came a few years ago when he delivered the eulogy for colleague Tom McCormack, a legendary state sportswriter. Tom, too, was an icon, whose 77 years were full of quirks and quips. Dave got out of the way and let Tom's life speak for itself. His words were soothing and hilarious at the same time. Another great lesson: Just let the subjects of our work speak for themselves.

There's an empty seat in the Rentschler Field press box today. And courtside at Gampel and Hartford. Whenever I need some inspiration, I'll sit there for a second and think of my friend.

Hope you are having a Glenfiddich 15, Dave.

And rest in peace.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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