Login  /  Register  | 3 premium articles left before you must register.

Don Harrison: Writing Through The Ages

Published 09/03/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 09/03/2014 01:20 PM

By Jaki Lauper
East Haven Courier

East Haven-bred sports writer Don Harrison clearly recalls a highlight of his career. It was 1964.

"It was the first time I ever went into a locker room to do an interview, and it was at the World Series, believe it or not," says Don. "I was a kid [25] being sent out to cover my first World Series game, and it was like my baseball cards came to life...It was the Yankees against the Cardinals…bottom of the ninth inning, scores are tied one-to-one, Mickey Mantle comes up…It was Mantle's 16th World Series homer, which broke the World Series record that he shared with Babe Ruth for most home runs in a World Series."

Don is the award-winning author of such books as Hoops in Connecticut: The Nutmeg State's Passion for Basketball, Connecticut Baseball: The Best of the Nutmeg State, and 25 Years Plus One: Recounting the Meteoric Rise of Fairfield Basketball. Over the course of his 53 years in the business, he's also been a contributing author of numerous other books and has won countless awards, among them First Place, Best Editorial from the New England Press Association, Best American Sports Writing from Houghton Mifflin, Connecticut Sportswriter of the Year, and others.

But one of those awards will hit closer to home: On Nov. 23, Don, a member of the East Haven High School (EHHS) Class of 1957, will proudly accept the Distinguished East Haven High School Alumnus Award. This is especially poignant, as East Haven is where Don discovered his passion for writing.

"I moved to East Haven in 1949 in the middle of my 4th-grade year and lived on French Avenue, where my dreams of becoming a writer began," he says.

In his senior year at EHHS, Don wrote for the school paper, The Comet, and was one of four kids chosen to represent the paper at a journalism conference in Boston.

"We had a real treat and were able to see Boston University play against Syracuse, with [star football player and later movie actor] Jim Brown scoring all 21 points," Jim recalls.

In 1960, after graduation and "a succession of odd jobs," Don went to live with his dad. He moved to Queens, New York, and began looking for work at daily newspapers.

Don was elated to be hired at the New York Mirror, which was the second largest paper in the country at the time, to work as a copy boy alongside famed gossip columnist Walter Winchell.

"I still have a signed note from Winchell," says Don.

Don was soon promoted to the sports desk, in which position he recalls a special evening, when "everything came to a halt as Winchell came slowly strolling in with [movie icons] Natalie Wood on one arm and Steve McQueen on the other. I had such a crush on Natalie Wood at the time."

Don adds, "Winchell really had star power. They [Wood and McQueen] were in town filming the 1962 film Love with the Proper Stranger."

It was an exciting time, says Don, but then, in "1963, Hearst closed the Mirror, and 16,000 people including 'yours truly' were put out of work."

Luckily, "we had a famous sports columnist, Dan Parker, who told me about an opening at his old paper the Waterbury Republican, where I was hired as a sports writer."

From there Don continued climbing the ladder. He went on to work at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Citizen, Sacred Heart University Magazine, andother publications. He also branched out to other challenges.

Don attributes his success to some truly inspiring teachers at EHHS, including his English teacher, Sara Esposito, the first person to ever tell him, "You have writing ability," and to Charles Morrissey, his first journalism teacher, who selected him to represent The Comet in Boston.

Don and his wife, Patti, have three daughters, and will be celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary in October. When not writing, Don loves spending time with his three grandkids and recently enjoyed joining eight year-old grandson Luke at his first Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Jaki Lauper at j.lauper@shorepublishing.com.

Town News

Visit Zip06
Submit Your:  Submit Your News Submit Your Photos Submit Your Events

E-Newsletter Sign-Up