WTIC-radio cans sports talk show featuring UConn announcer Joe D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio (left) and Gresh (right) were on the air for two years. Photo: CBS Connecticut

The state’s sports media took a big hit starting today (April 17) with the silencing of Joe D’Ambrosio and partner Andy Gresh, whose radio talk show has been canceled by WTIC-1080 in Hartford.

It’s the same station on which the late Bob Steele and Arnold Dean became broadcast icons. Steele, the great so-called “morning man,” made sports an important part of his shows. He often jokingly referred to his predictions as the “kiss of death,” perhaps because they were often based purely on emotion and turned out wrong.

Dean hosted the longest lasting daily call-in sports program in Connecticut. It was heard starting at about 6:30 each evening.

Now the station, whose call letters were originally taken from the Travelers Insurance Company, is losing another voice upon whom our regional sports fans have been depending.

He started doing UConn’s play-by-play

D’Ambrosio, while he and Gresh have been taking calls from listeners for only a few years, has been the Voice of University of Connecticut sports since goodness knows when.

Joe told Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant that the cancellation of the program took him “totally by surprise. I didn’t see it coming.” He has known it for several weeks, but, being a true professional, he did not give any indication of the show’s approaching demise.

Meanwhile, former major leaguer Rob Dibble, whose father ironically was once a staff announcer at WTIC, is still doing a sports talk gig carried simultaneously on the ESPN radio stations in Hartford and New Haven. Still, D’Ambrosio, with his huge Husky following, will be missed.

“I’m heavily biased, but I thought we had a great show,” D’Ambrosio said. “Gresh (his partner) was terrific.”

He did not back down when discussing the Huskies. “I thought we were extremely fair to UConn when football went downhill, which eventually got me in trouble with the head coach.” That head coach was the since fired Bob Diaco.

The ratings game

The public may not realize it, but radio and television live by ratings -— a process which claims to be able to measure the number of listeners or viewers a program draws.

“At the end of the day, we just didn’t get the ratings,” Joe told the Courant. “That’s the bottom line in the business. If you don’t get the ratings, you’ve got to try something else to draw people to your radio station.”

When the decision was passed on to them, Gresh had already made plans to leave WTIC and work at WPRO in Providence, to host a nightly 3-hour show.

Plenty left to do

D’Ambrosio will still be heard on WTIC on a limited basis, but not on a talk show. He will be a fill-in when needed for drive-time announcers Roy Dunaway and Bob Joyce. Plus, it’s the flagship station of UConn sports, and he still serves as the play-by-play announcer for football and men’s basketball.

In addition, Joe D can be seen doing some TV sports on NBC Connecticut. But radio listeners will no longer be able to interact with him on the air. The days of sports call-in programming are now gone from WTIC – maybe forever.

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