Tom Verducci calls the World Series games then writes about them

October 29, 2015
Category: Uncategorized
Harold Reynolds, Joe Buck & Tom Verducci. After calling the game, Verducci then files a column for Sports Illustrated. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

Harold Reynolds, Joe Buck & Tom Verducci. After calling the game, Verducci then files a column for Sports Illustrated. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

Tom Verducci is a busy man during the World Series.

He has a “night” job working with Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds on Fox Sports’ No. 1 announce team for the games. Then after the final pitch, he makes the transition to his “late, late night/early morning job” in writing columns for the games on SI.com.

Verducci says his game day routine usually ends around 3 a.m.

“There’s always November for sleeping,” Verducci said.

Perhaps nobody else in sports media has conquered the multi-media aspect like Verducci. He is the first non-player to work as an analyst in a World Series TV booth since Howard Cosell. He also remains a must-read with his baseball writing for Sports Illustrated.

So how does Verducci view himself these days: As a broadcaster or a sportswriter? His answer reveals why he has risen to the top in both categories.

“That’s an interesting question,” Verducci said. “To begin with, I view myself as a reporter. Whether it’s writing or during a broadcast, it is all about information and how to use words, either spoken or written. I don’t see myself as a writer who also is broadcasting, or a broadcaster who is writing. I’m a reporter with a job to convey information.”

There are valuable journalism lessons to be learned from Verducci’s approach to both jobs. A common thread is the quest for information, specifically new information. It dates back to Verducci’s first days at Sports Illustrated in the early ‘90s.

“At Sports Illustrated, you’re usually writing about teams and players that were well-known,” Verducci said. “You better have something new. You can’t just do a rehash. That thirst to find new information about a mostly-known subject always has been a motivating factor.”

Two stories illustrated that point during the Kansas City-Toronto series. While working the locker room, he saw Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitski tending to an old battered glove. Verducci thought it was incredibly big and floppy for a middle infielder.

“If you saw it at a garage sale, you wouldn’t buy it,” Verducci said.

As a result of Verducci’s research, Fox did a segment during a game focusing on the glove and why Tulowitski insists on sticking with it, apparently to the bitter end.  It added a nice element to the telecast.

Then after the series, Verducci did a terrific story for SI.com on how Kansas City scouts figured out that Toronto’s David Price was tipping pitches. During a pivotal rally against Price in Game 2, Verducci wondered why it seemed as if the Royals hitters knew what was coming. In particular, their left-handed hitters were sitting on his change-up. Verducci went back to look at the video and then started asking questions.

“It all goes back to the backbone of journalism,” Verducci said. “You have sources you trust and they trust you. I asked them to confirm what I saw, and they did.”

Two elements are common to both stories. Clearly, Verducci has an elite knowledge level that comes from 30-plus years of covering baseball.

But there’s something bigger at play here. Verducci demonstrated the reporting power of observation and natural curiosity. He took notice of Tulowitski’s glove; his antenna was raised about Price.

“I think Susan Sontag once said, ‘Good writers pay attention to the world,'” Verducci said. “With the best writers, it’s not just what they do with words. It’s that they also are great observers.”

It helps that Verducci also is pretty good with words. Last week, he wrote a wonderfully eloquent piece on the 40th anniversary of Carlton Fisk’s famous World Series homer. This was his first paragraph:

A waning gibbous moon hung like a medallion over Charlestown, N.H., on the first clear night after a three-day nor’easter. A light wind rustled the lindens and oaks along Main Street. The bells of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church suddenly began clanging at the strange hour of 1:07 a.m. Such an intrusion on the dead of night alarmed the local police. No services could possibly be held in these first hours of Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1975.

Not to disparage John Kruk, but you won’t find him or any other former player turned analyst describing “a waning, gibbous moon.” Verducci, who also is a regular on MLB Network, is breaking new ground with his high-profile role for Fox. He now is in his second year with the network’s No. 1 team.

Will Verducci open the door to other plugged-in, elite reporters in various sports becoming game analysts?

“It can,” Verducci said. “I think viewers just want a good listen. To me, the back of someone’s baseball card [referring to a former player] doesn’t necessarily make for a good listen. If you look at baseball today, teams are being run by [general managers] with no playing background. They don’t have the back of a baseball card. Why can’t it be the same for [a game analyst]? To me, it always gets back to the information you can bring to the telecast.”

*****

Recommended reading on sports journalism:

Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop details what it was like for him to leave the press box and watch a game in the stands.

An interview with Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald.

ESPN’s Sage Steele discusses the evolution of her career with Jeff Pearlman.