For ‘Toot’, the horn sounds

February 28, 2013 

If it’s a game where something is caught, thrown, hit with a bat or tossed through a hoop, Caulton Tudor, known to his colleagues as “Toot,” has written about it. Now retiring, today, after more than 40 years with The News & Observer and The Raleigh Times, he is an institution, a status confirmed by no less than Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who said: “He has been the ACC.”

We cannot argue. Tudor has profiled every significant figure in the Atlantic Coast Conference, whether it was David Thompson or Michael Jordan or the coaches and commissioners. He covered 40 ACC basketball tournaments and 24 Final Fours and along the way wrote something like 6,000 columns. Most of them, by the way, he did on tough deadlines with the “hand speed,” to use an athletics term, seen only in sports writers.

It happens that Tudor also enjoys a bit of fame as an athlete in one of the most famous, and certainly the longest, high school basketball games in North Carolina history. He played every minute of a 13-overtime game his Angier team lost to Boone Trail.

He’s logged tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of miles in the job he loved. Everywhere he went – restaurants, airports, the park – people wanted to talk sports, and often they’d go home feeling they’d acquired a special insight because “Tudor said ...”

For his part, Tudor was typically generous when we told him we’d like a couple of thoughts for our own farewell.

He said, “My heroes aren’t David Thompson or Christian Laettner. They’re the sports writers I’ve seen who have produced incredible work on impossible, cruel deadlines.

“Last weekend I was watching some of the Daytona races’ TV coverage and found myself thinking what a treat it would be to have the late Gerald Martin down there writin’ racin’ as only he could. I can’t watch a minute of the golf majors these days without feeling sad that Bruce Phillips wasn’t born late enough to write about Tiger Woods and the generation of youngsters just behind him.”

Caulton, we must say, was a most agreeable colleague as well, friendly to newcomers, helpful with reporters and editors who didn’t know as much about sports as he did (pretty much everybody) and a good lunch and coffee companion. He’s thinking he might take some time and then perhaps write a piece once in a while. Hope so, Toot.

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