Former Arizona Wildcats baseball coach Jerry Kindall remembers Dave Sitton as a high school catcher from Los Angeles with a bum shoulder and bad knees.
Nevertheless, Kindall invited Sitton to try out for the team as walk-on in the fall of 1973. Sitton didn’t make the cut. When Kindall gave him the bad news, encouraging him to stick with his education, Sitton said he would like to get into broadcasting.
Kindall suggested he start working in the press box, allowing him to keep hanging around the team.
“He was such a hustler and such a great influence on all of us because he was a happy guy,” Kindall said Monday as the athletic department and city mourned the news that Sitton — a longtime broadcaster and public figure — had died at 58 due to an apparent heart attack.
“He didn’t make it as a player, but we always identified him as being on our team.”
That was Kindall’s first season as the head coach at Arizona.
“Dave came into my life, and he brightened my heart,” Kindall said. “He was a genuine friend.”
Sitton became the radio play-by-play voice of Arizona baseball in 1981 and spent much of the decade traveling with the team. Then, starting in 1990, he became part of telecasts for Arizona basketball and football.
Former football coach Dick Tomey commiserated Monday with Cheryl Smith, the wife of former UA coach Larry Smith, who shared a bond with Sitton as they were both battling cancer at the same time in 2005.
At a 2005 fundraising event for the Ara Parseghian Foundation, fighting Niemann-Pick Type C disease, Tomey and his wife, Nanci Kinkaid, approached a corner table that included Larry Smith, former UA athletic director Cedric Dempsey and Sitton.
“Sorry,” Sitton said, “You can only sit here if you have cancer.”
That type of humor was typical.
“He was such a spectacular person,” said Tomey, who played City League baseball with Sitton. “I think he was a bright light in a dark room.”
Tomey recalled Sitton addressing the crowd at that fundraising event in 2005.
“He was making everybody in that room feel so good about what they were doing in their lives and how fortunate they were and how they needed to do everything to help,” Tomey said. “He was such an uplifting person.
“There are only a few people who you encounter like that in your life. I know those who loved him are sad today, but when they think about Dave they won’t be sad because he gave them something no one could ever give. And those who didn’t know him missed out.”
Sitton was so active in the community, it seems as if everybody knew him. He was a 40-year fixture in Tucson.
“He crossed generational lines, crossed all political lines,” Tomey said of Sitton, who ran for the U.S. House in the 2012 Republican primary.
“For me to think that way about a Republican, wow, that’s amazing,” Tomey added. “But there was nobody I thought more of than Dave.”
And Sitton transcended sports because of his community involvement.
“It seemed he was at every charity and helping,” former UA basketball coach Lute Olson told Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com.
“Dave’s name was always involved in the community. He was a special kind of guy. He’s a guy we’re all going to miss. … It’s a huge loss for Tucson.”
From TucsonCitizen.com blogger Andy Morales: Longtime friend Dave Sitton passes away
From 2005 Tucson Citizen profile: Big Shot calls the shots