Joe Vecchione, past NY Times sports editor, dies at age 85

NEW YORK (AP) — Joseph J. Vecchione, whose decade tenure as sports editor of The New York Times included columnist Dave Anderson’s Pulitzer Prize and the hiring of William C. Rhoden to become among the earliest Black columnists at a U.S. major metropolitan newspaper, died Friday. He was 85.

Vecchione died at his home in Manhattan. He had suffered from Lewy body disease since 2017, his wife, Elizabeth said.

Joseph John Vecchione was born on Jan. 9, 1937, grew up in Union City, New Jersey, and was a 1959 graduate of Saint Peter’s. He joined the Times as a copy boy in 1960.

About six months after he started work, Vecchione prevented a misprint of the text of the second presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. Listening to the debate and then noticing a section omitted by a transcriber, he got it corrected for the next edition. That earned him a Times’ Publisher’s Award, internal monthly citations for distinguished work.

He worked as a makeup editor and deputy picture editor, overseeing coverage of Operation Sail in 1976.

Vecchione edited the SportsMonday section from 1978 until May 1980, when he became deputy editor of the newly launched national edition. He helped expand coverage beyond game stories to include features on a wide variety of sports and investigative reports into steroids and gambling.

He succeeded Le Anne Schreiber as sports editor that September. Vecchione increased the number of women, Black and Latino reporters, and among the writers he hired were Rhoden and Ira Berkow, who became columnists.

Early in Vecchione’s tenure, Anderson won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Just before Vecchione left the sports department, he hired Claire Smith, a pioneering Black and woman sports reporter who became a columnist. Smith in 2017 won what is now known as the Hall of Fame’s Baseball Writers’ Association of America Career Excellence Award.

Vecchione became a senior editor in October 1990, when he was succeeded as sports editor by Neil Amdur. Vecchione stayed at the paper until retiring in 2001 and then worked as a consultant, assisting the paper’s move to a new headquarters building in 2007.

Vecchione co-authored with Times reporter David W. Dunlap the book “Glory in Gotham: Manhattan’s House of Worship: A Guide to Their History, Architecture and Legacy” (2000) and Vecchione edited “The New York Times Book of Sports Legends” (1992).

He married Elizabeth Tobin in 1964 and is survived by her, daughters Elissa Vecchione Scott and Andrea Vecchione, and three grandchildren.