Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies
December 6th, 2010
12:09 PM ET

Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies

Don Meredith, an all-pro quarterback who made his greatest impact on the game after he finished playing, died Sunday at a Santa Fe, New Mexico, hospital, according to a spokesman. Meredith, above at center, was 72.

The spokesman was unable to confirm the cause of death.

Meredith, nicknamed "Dandy Don," was part of the original Monday Night Football broadcast team when the program debuted on ABC in 1970.

At that time, virtually no NFL games appeared in prime time, and many at the time thought it would fail because - wait for it, wait for it - women who controlled the TV set at night would not want to watch football. (Digital video recorders could have solved a lot during such TV gender wars.)

But in a then-unprecedented three-man broadcast booth, Meredith and Howard Cosell - joined by Keith Jackson the first year and Frank Gifford (above at right) after that - created a broadcast unlike any other.

Cosell (above at left), a former New York lawyer, and Meredith, the Cowboy from Texas, provided commentary and entertainment that attracted football and non-football fans alike. Their success was chronicled in the 1988 book "Monday Night Mayhem."

Meredith left Monday Night Football in 1984, but the series has run for 40 years - first on ABC, and more recently on ESPN. (Both networks are owned by Disney.)

Before entering the broadcast booth, Meredith played college football for Southern Methodist University and eight years for the Dallas Cowboys. He made three Pro Bowls and was the league's player of the year in 1966.

ESPN plans to run a tribute to Meredith and an interview with Meredith’s longtime announcing partner Frank Gifford at halftime of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones issued a statement on his passing in which he called him a "Dallas Cowboys original."

"His wit, charm, and strength of personality were matched only by his wonderful leadership, toughness and athletic skill. His persona defined the Cowboys of the 1960s and set the course for what the franchise became. Throughout 50 years of history, the Cowboys legacy has been built by dynamic and colorful personalities who could also compete at the highest level. No one fit that description better than Don Meredith," he said.

Jones also acknowledged and praised Meredith's transition to his legendary broadcast career.

"After guiding this team from expansion franchise to title contender, his charismatic style helped build Monday Night Football to a level of popularity that was unprecedented for sports television in America," Jones said in the statement.  "Few men have contributed, both on the field and as a broadcaster, to the impact that the NFL currently has on our country today more than Don.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and his spirit will be with Cowboys players and fans forever."

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soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. eggman

    The article state which one he is. "Meredith, above at center, was 72."

    December 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jaxson13

      But he wasn't at center, he was at quarterback, though my wife liked his tight end.....

      December 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Randy

    Turn out the lights, the party's over, they say that all good things must end. RIP Dandy Don!!!

    December 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mike wanek

    The party's over. Rest in Peace Dandy Don.
    Picture from left to right Cosell, Meridith, Gifford

    December 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark Forror

    Wow! Don Meredith is gone. He wasn't all that old, either. You didn't mention his non-MNF television career. His appearance on "Police Story" as genial but tough motorcycle cop was so successful he got an Emmy nomination. After that, he was a frequent guest star on the show. You will be missed, Dandy Don!

    December 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JohnY

    There was no finer Dallas quarterback than Don Meridith...he did put the Dallas Cowboys on the map, not Roger......this man played with heart and soul every play...best quarterback SMU every had......just my opinion...

    December 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      You are so right, John ... these Cowboys, led by Tom Landry ... were a class act all the way! There'll never be another.

      December 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ruth

    As a lady who loves football & baseball I foliow the seasons closely.
    Funny I was listening to my game (Oakland vs Chargers) on internet radio and when looked lik ewe won I thought of Don singing "TURN OUT THE LIGHTS THE PARTIE'S OVER " .
    Little didIi know for him the party mover UP sure hore there's football and a booth waiting for him in Heaven.
    He was a great loveable guy God Bless him and his family
    Our memory of you will not dim .
    You were one of kind

    December 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Johnnyreb

    Jeff and Hazel's baby boy. Turn out the lights, the party's over. If and buts were candy and nuts we all have a Merry Christmas. Football's answer to Dizzy Dean. Rest well Cowboy.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Adrielle

    His passing brings a tear!!!!! He was the best and helped us women find the fun in football!!!!

    December 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LEVERETT

    LIKE HE WOULD SAY (turn out the lights the party's over) NEVER KNEW HIM PERSONALLY BUT HE SEEMS LIKE A MAN WHO KNEW HOW TO ENJOY LIFE. HE AND HOWARD COSELL IN MY OPINION WERE THE LAST OF THE ANNOUNCERS THAT TRUTHFULLY TOLD WHAT WAS HAPPENING ON THE FIELD DURING A GAME.TO MANY OF THOSE GUYS SOUND LIKE USED CAR SALESMEN. DANDY DON WAS REALLY REFRESHING. HOPE I'LL SEE HIM LATER.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ReadTwiceB4Responding

    First paragraph identifies Merideth as "above at center". The location of Cosell and Gifford in the picture is also mentioned in the article. RIP Mr. Merideth.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Martin Goldberg

    "Digital video recorders could have solved a lot during such TV gender wars." Do your research. We had home video recorders since the 60's.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joane Johnson

      Home videos is not the same, dear. One is for recording from the set. You know, like DVR's, VHS, burning a CD? You coul dnot do that with a home video. THAT would have alleviated a lot of problems. Especially during the, gasp, dare I mention it, 'Heidi bowl'!!!!

      December 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jc Ohio

      Betamax home video machines came out in 1975, followed by VHS in 1977.

      December 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RowdyRoddy

    Don Meredith was the first color commentator.
    Cossell had a good sense of humor, and played off him. Gifford only did the play by play, then married Kathy.
    Watch the movie "North Dallas 40" with Mac Davis. Fit Don Meredith to a T.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Maripat

    Don Meredith was a gem, both on and off the field. But how typical of the male-driven decisions of the time, that women will veto watching football. I was 16 in 1970 and raised on Green Bay Packer football by both my dad and mom. We can all be thankful smarter heads prevailed and we were treated to Monday Night Football (and now Sunday and Thursday nights as well).

    December 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. john

    According to Bloomberg, Dandy Don died from a brain hemorrhage and had suffered from emphysema. The team of Don, Howard, and Frank not only provided top level booth analysis but also added significant entertainment value to sports broadcasting; these three might never be matched. Former QB Don provided a down-home, humorist approach playing off former QB Frank Gifford's straight man image, while TV commentator, Cosell, a personality in his own right, mixed it up with an occasional caustic jab. This was the perfectly balanced sports broadcast team.

    December 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • SallyT

      My younger sister Amy & I would watch MNF with Mom & Dad & my brother if he was home from college in Eugene (Go Ducks!!) and it was the one night of the week we were allowed to have dinner in front of the tv ~ Dad teaching us about football and all of us laughing at Howard & Dandy Don carrying on ~ that was a great time... RIP Dandy – give Howard our best ~ Sally in Oregon

      December 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. historian

    I raise my glass of Lipton iced tea to you Don.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSMinDC

      Here Here

      December 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • The1sarge

      I don't drink but in fond memories of Dandy Don who loved his drink a toast of real 100 proof to you Don, Monday Nites, were never the same after you left. So we all will turn out the lights they party is over...so sad.

      December 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
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