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Arnold Dean's death takes another state sports legend from us

If you are north of 40 and grew up in Connecticut, you knew two voices before all the others. It was Bob Steele in the morning and Arnold Dean at night. The voices of childhood. The voices of the state. The voices you still hear now echoing all the years later.

I still quote Bob Steele, who died 10 years ago. (This is Robert L. Steele. The "L" is for Elmer.")

And I'm proud to have known Arnold Dean, still talking to him as recently as last Saturday, at the UConn football game.

It is with profound sadness that I learned of Arnold's death over the weekend.

The Dean of Sports was 82.

He was the once and future voice of sports on WTIC Radio in Hartford. He began "Sports Talk" every night after the 6 p.m. news in the mid 70s. He is the patriarch of excellence at the state's biggest radio station, later extending to Scott Gray and Joe D'Ambrosio.

"I was 23 or 24 when I met him," said D'Ambrosio, the voice of UConn sports. "I was working at WLIS (in Old Saybrook). One of the many great things about Arnold is that he talked to everybody in the business. He always had time for everybody."

Arnold came from a more civil era. Sports talk was sports talk. Not guy talk. Not shouting. Not cutting off callers. Not self-entitlement. He was a gentleman. And it was through that ironic twist that I first met him.

Arnold was in Iowa City with the UConn women for the 1997 NCAA Regional. I'd never met him. But there we were, gathered in the first media hotel in the history of the world without a bar. Seriously. A media hotel without a bar is like a fat farm without salad: What's the point?

So, of course, we commandeered the breakfast room and turned it into a party area. We were watching the National Player of the Year announcement. Kara Wolters didn't win. I was irritated. And, somewhat loudly, spewed at least six of the George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television.

Arnold was either startled or impressed. He came up to me later and asked if I wanted to be on Sports Talk the next night to express my dismay. Dream come true. I was on with Arnold Dean. It's true how your childhood heroes are the heroes who endure.

Arnold's retirement was quite busy, still involving station work. He also spent ample time reading his e-mail. He is part of the "Pinstripe Brethren," a D'Ambrosio-created e-mail thread of various Yankee fans who pretty much complain the season away.

It's about the most fun you can have for free, believe me.

Arnold was going to join us for dinner next week when The Brethren entertain Yankees radio voice John Sterling, who has become our friend and patron saint.

What a life for Arnold Dean. He was born in Cortland, N.Y., and went to Syracuse. He came to Hartford in the 60s to broadcast the Hartford Knights, a semi-pro football team. He did the morning show after Steele retired. He once did a Big Band show on WTIC. He loved Artie Shaw. He said on WTIC's web site "athletes and musicians always impress the heck out of me."

"Arnold hosted just about every show on the station,' D'Ambrosio said. "His versatility was amazing."

Dean is best known for Sports Talk. This was back in the day there was limited sports talk everywhere. There was no WFAN. D'Ambrosio said WBZ in Boston would do a Sunday night show. There wasn't much else.

"Arnold was the guy in this market," D'Ambrosio said. "The rest of us are picking up the scraps."

The Connecticut media is so much poorer today. In recent years, we've lost Randy Smith, the brilliant columnist at the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. We lost New Haven Register columnist Dave Solomon. Now we have lost The Dean of Sports. They were all heroes of the business.

"Arnold was such a special, special person," D'Ambrosio said. "He never considered himself too big. He was never the story. It was always the game or the athlete he was talking to."

Rest in peace, Arnold. You voice will resonate always.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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