COOPERSTOWN–Tim McCarver has been a broadcaster for so long that new generations of baseball fans probably don’t even remember that he previously also had a long career playing.
McCarver’s upbringing was in Memphis, Tennessee, but you won’t detect much of a southern accent during his Fox national baseball broadcasts these days. Broadcasting tends to be a verbal leveling field for speech patterns. As a player, McCarver was solid as one of those catchers who are always on top of what’s going on and handling a pitching staff.
Now 70, he actually broke into the majors in 1959, playing eight games at age 17 for the St. Louis Cardinals. He retired 21 years later at 38, playing his final six games for the Philadelphia Phillies. In-between he batted .271 with 97 home runs and 645 RBIs and earned a reputation as a savvy student of the game.
Being smart without back-up statistics, won’t get you into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, however. Saturday, McCarver was honored at Doubleday Field here with the Ford Frick Award, putting him into the Hall’s broadcast wing.
Anyone who grows up playing the game with skill dreams of being an all-time great. About one percent of the roughly 17,000 major leaguers throughout history have been admitted to the Hall, so the odds are long. McCarver took the path less traveled. When he was asked Saturday if he would rather have made the Hall as a player he was blunt in his self-analysis. “No,” McCarver said, “I wasn’t good enough.”
McCarver, who had almost no formal training as a broadcaster, made himself good enough in the booth. These days he is one of the best known of baseball announcers because of his playoff and World Series work in the national spotlight when he shares the job with Joe Buck.
Phillies boss Bill Giles invited McCarver into the broadcasting world with that team as his playing career was running down and McCarver develpped from there. He had a long stint with the New York Mets, talked for other teams, and since going national he has won three Emmys in the industry’s sports analyst category.
As retirement beckoned, McCarver knew he wanted to stay in the sport and said broadcasting floated to the top because “No one offered me a me a job to manage.” The comment was half joke, half serious. Few start managing in the majors these days. Later, McCarver, he was approached to be interviewed for manager jobs with the Minnesota Twins and other teams. Also, his old Cardinals teammate, Joe Torre, asked McCarver if he wanted to coach for the Mets.
By the time these opportunities popped up, though, McCarver was much more entrenched as a broadcaster and said he wanted to stick with it. For someone who will enter his eighth decade of life in October McCarver is youthful looking despite a full head of gray hair. He said he was humbled by this broadcast honor and he reflected on his entire career in the booth, some of it sharing yuks with Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner with the Mets. The time spent with Kiner, he said, was “priceless.”
“It was the most exciting time in my professional life,” McCarver said of his decade and a half with New York.
For Phillies fans and sportswriters with long memories, though, McCarver honed his skills as an analyst when he was catching for future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton. Carlton was a tremendous hurler, but refused to talk to reporters. So whenever Carlton pitched and McCarver caught, he was the stand-in interview telling everyone what happened.
“Doing that with Steve Carlton helped trained me,” McCarver said Saturday.
And now they are both in the Hall of Fame, passing through different doors.
Tags: Baseball Hall Of Fame Bill Giles Ford Frick Fox Sports Joe Buck Joe Torre Minnesota Twins MLB Playoffs New York Mets Philadelphia Phillies Ralph Kiner St Louis Cardinals Steve Carlton Tim McCarver World Series