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Don Meredith dies at 72; Dallas Cowboys quarterback joined Monday Night Football team

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By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 9:40 PM

Don Meredith, 72, a Texas-born quarterback who after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys became the boot-wearing, country-crooning foil to Howard Cosell as a color commentator on the original cast of ABC's "Monday Night Football," died Dec. 5 at a hospital in Santa Fe, N.M.

His wife, Susan, said Mr. Meredith died after a brain hemorrhage. In recent years, he was treated for emphysema and had suffered a stroke in 2004.

In more than 170 appearances on ABC's prime-time Monday evening NFL telecast, Mr. Meredith came to be known as "Dandy Don," the fun-loving Southwestern bumpkin who baited Cosell, the stiff and abrasive New Yorker.

Mr. Meredith was part of the original three-man Monday Night team from 1970 to 1974. He took a brief hiatus for an attempt at Hollywood stardom but returned to the show in 1977 and retired in 1984, the same year Cosell left.

As a football broadcaster, Mr. Meredith provided keen analysis from the perspective of a retired professional. He was the 1966 NFL Player of the Year, led his team to back-to-back title games and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

But he was best known among viewers for witty one-liners.

Commenting on his demanding former Dallas coach, Tom Landry, Mr. Meredith said: "He's such a perfectionist that if he were married to Dolly Parton, he's expect her to cook."

The pioneering weeknight sports show's success was attributed widely to cast chemistry.

Cosell brought his journalism background to add credibility to the show's reporting, while Keith Jackson (and later Jackson's replacement, Frank Gifford) added insightful play-by-play analysis.

Mr. Meredith added panache and splashed the airwaves with color commentary.

"I'd just wait for Howard to make a mistake," Mr. Meredith once said of his secret to success. "Didn't usually take too long."

Joseph Donald Meredith was born April 10, 1938, in Mount Vernon, Tex., about 100 miles east of Dallas.

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