Greg Hansen: Versatile Sitton had a golden voice, heart

2013-08-13T00:00:00Z 2013-08-14T19:22:18Z Greg Hansen: Versatile Sitton had a golden voice, heartGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

At one time, before cell phones, you could reach Dave Sitton at five different numbers.

He moved at such an accelerated pace that I could never be sure for whom he worked. A beer distributor? A billboard company? A radio station? A marketing firm? A hospital?

Yes. And more.

He was an insider at the March of Dimes, the Tucson Pops Orchestra, the Catholic diocese, the Conquistadores, the UA athletic department, and that's just the top of the alphabet.

I would turn on the radio on a random Sunday afternoon and Sitton's familiar voice would come through. Every conceivable topic would be in play, from Caddyshack's Carl Spackler to, as he would say, Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

I saw him accept a $10,000 donation to a local charity from John Denver, and grab a microphone at the old Tucson Open and sing "Mack the Knife'' better than Bobby Darin could sing "Mack the Knife."

"Dave was a man of many hats," said long-time UA assistant basketball coach Jim Rosborough. "Always cheerful. Always upbeat."

Dave Sitton died Monday morning of a heart attack. He went way past the warranty, getting more mileage out of 58 years than someone who lived to be 158.

"Never met anyone who didn't like him," said former UA associate AD Bob Bockrath, the man who hired Sitton as a marketing specialist in 1984.

Dave Sitton was Mr. Tucson, as connected as a Drachman or a Ronstadt, a get-things-done personality who, among other things, revived and revved up the old Button Salmon legend at the UA, and joined the Father's Day Council so he might help in a crusade against juvenile diabetes.

Most Tucsonans will forever know him as the voice of UA football and basketball telecasts from 1990-2012, or the UA's enduring rugby coach. But that was just a few hours a week.

In between, he was a dynamo, cooking up another project, in two places at one time more than humanly possible.

His ego was a no-show.

A few years ago, when his profile was magnified by a (failed) attempt to become a U.S. congressman from the great state of Arizona, Sitton asked if I could edit stories that said he played baseball for the Arizona Wildcats.

"I got cut from the team," said Sitton, who was diagnosed with lymphona eight years ago. "I tried out, but I wasn't good enough to play on those teams."

Unfortunately, I never had the chance, until now, but the part about "I wasn't good enough" doesn't fly.

About 20 years ago, some friends started an Over The Hill Gang to play baseball against college kids and those who still had a fastball. We lined up a sponsor, bought game jerseys and the next thing you knew Sitton was stepping into the batter's box.

He must've been 35 but, given his joy and approach for baseball, you would have guessed 25. He brought his own shin guards, relics from the '70s, wore his baseball socks high, the way ballplayers did in the '60s, and when he stepped into the on-deck circle for the first time, he kicked back the aluminum bats.

He would use a wood bat, something from long-ago, a bat whose color had been dulled by age and warped by rain.

"When the Dodgers start using aluminum bats, I'll start using one," he said. He was, even as he approached 40, a fearless player, always getting his uniform dirty.

He lived his life that way, too. Dirt on the knees.

A Dodger fan of the highest order, Sitton would often say he grew up exactly 14 miles from Dodger Stadium, sold game programs there as a teenager, and sculpted his broadcasting and public speaking skills after Dodger Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully.

Along the way, Sitton became more than a broadcaster. He became a good man.

Three days before Christmas, 1991, fogged in after an Arizona basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Sitton, analyst Bruce Larson and their producer got a pre-dawn call telling them all flights from Fayetteville had been canceled.

My phone rang about 4:30 a.m. It was Sitton.

"I'm driving to Tulsa for a 6:30 flight. I reserved a ticket for you, but it takes about 90 minutes to get there and it's so foggy you can't see past the headlights. Do you want to go with us?''

It was about our only option to get home that day.

We drove through the fog, Sitton at the wheel, unbowed, the only man in the car who thought we would make it and not get hit by a bus on the way.

We screeched into the Tulsa airport at takeoff time. Sitton pulled up to the terminal, instructed us to get out, and said that he would drive the car to the rental return building.

"You'll never make it," I said.

"I know," he said. "But you guys will."

Later that day, back home in Tucson, the phone rang. It was Dave Sitton.

He was still in Tulsa.

"Just wanted to make sure you got home OK," he said.

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362. On Twitter @ghansen711

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Video

More videos

La Estrella: Mariachi, Cantinflas y río Sonora

Ernesto "Neto" Portillo Jr. y Liliana López Ruelas hablan sobre música, películas y Sonora.


Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Deals, offers & events

View more...