Remembering an MLB legend: Tim McCarver’s 10 best games

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 1968: Tim McCarver #15 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Detroit Tigers during the 1968 World Series in October 1968, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Tigers won the series 4 games to 3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 1968: Tim McCarver #15 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Detroit Tigers during the 1968 World Series in October 1968, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Tigers won the series 4 games to 3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Tim McCarver, who died Thursday at age 81, is largely recalled today for his extensive work as a TV color analyst. That’s understandable; McCarver logged more than 30 years calling the biggest games on all four networks.

That career led to his being named recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

But McCarver also had a first-rate two decade career as a player. A member of two World Series winners with the St. Louis Cardinals, he caught more than 1,500 games and retired with a career .271 average.

Although McCarver’s work behind the microphone is what he may be best-remembered for by fans alive today, it’s also worth reviewing his best on-field moments, of which there were many.

This is a recap of the 10 best individual games performances from Tim McCarver

The standard for inclusion is Win Probability Added, or in the cases of postseason games, Championship Win Probability Added.

10. Sept. 11, 1966. St. Louis 4, Pittsburgh 3.

The Pirates were just one game behind the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and clinging to a 3-2 lead entering the top of the eighth inning at Forbes Field. After Bob Veale allowed inning-opening base hits to Julian Javier and Lou Brock, ace reliever Elroy Face came in and retired Curt Flood on a groundout. Face intentionally walked Orlando Cepeda to set up a potential inning ending-double play, but the Pirates could only convert Mike Shannon’s grounder into a forceout at home.

That brought up McCarver, and he lined a single to right field that scored both Brock and Cepeda with the go-ahead runs. Shannon was thrown out at third, but McCarver’s hit decided the game 4-3 in favor of the Cardinals. The Pirates eventually finished third, three games behind the Dodgers. McCarver WPA: .499.

9. June 3, 1973, St. Louis 2, Houston 1

McCarver’s Cardinals faced the visiting Astros at Busch Stadium in a matchup of also-rans. Behind Ken Forsch, the Astros led 1-0 until McCarver came to bat leading off the bottom of the ninth.  His single to center put the tying run on base, and after Luis Melendez singled him to third McCarver scored on a passed ball charged to Skip Jutze.

That sent the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, the Cards loaded the bases when McCarver came up again, this time facing reliever Jim Crawford. His second critical hit, a drive to left, sent Ted Simmons home with the winning run. McCarver WPA: .534.

8. April 15, 1972, Philadelphia 4, Chicago 2

It was opening day at Wrigley Field, Steve Carlton locked in a 2-2 tie with Fergie Jenkins and then Bill Hands entering the ninth inning. Hands retired the first two Phillies, but Ron Stone — pinch hitting for Carlton — singled and Larry Bowa followed with a hit of his own.

That brought up McCarver, facing reliever Steve Hamilton. McCarver lofted a fly ball to right field for what should have been the inning-ending third out. But on a cold, blustery day, Cubs right fielder Jose Cardenal dropped the ball, allowing both runners to score what proved to be the decisive runs. McCarver WPA: .582.

7. July 8, 1971, Philadelphia 7, Montreal 5

The Expos led 5-4 at Veterans Stadium when McCarver came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth. The situation was pivotal: Expos reliever Mike Marshall had come in with runners at first and second and one out, and proceeded to strike out Willie Montanez.

The next hitter, McCarver, took a pitch off the plate then tied in to a Marshall screwball and sent it hurtling toward the stands in deep right field. His three-run home run turned the outcome to a 5-3 Philadelphia lead and — one inning later — a victory by the same score. McCarver WPA: .597.

6. Sept. 7, 1966, St. Louis 6, Houston 5

The Astros were a favorite whipping boy of McCarver’s. On this occasion, Houston led 5-1 behind Dave Giusti when McCarver opened the home half of the seventh with a double. Shannon followed with a home run to make the score 5-3.

One inning later, facing Mike Cuellar in a 5-4 game, McCarver came to bat with one out and a runner at first and launched a home run that put St. Louis ahead for the first time. When Hal Woodeshick set down the Astros without harm in the ninth, McCarver’s Cardinals had the victory. McCarver WPA: .629.

5. July 20, 1974, St. Louis 6, Houston 5

The Cardinals trailed 5-3 when McCarver entered the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth. He was retired and St. Louis did not score.

By the time he got a second at bat in the bottom of the ninth, the Cards had scored once and loaded the bases with two out. Facing Don Wilson, normally a starter, McCarver punched a base hit into right field driving the tying and winning runs across the plate. McCarver WPA: .684.

4. October 10, 1964. New York 2, St. Louis 1, Game 3, World Series

Jim Bouton held the Cardinals to a single run and six hits, and McCarver was one of the few Cardinals who had any luck against him. After walking and being stranded in the second, McCarver led off the fifth inning with a line single to right, taking second when Mickey Mantle misplayed the ball. He reached third on a groundout and scored on Curt Simmons’ infield single.

The Yankees would win the game when Mantle atoned for his error with a 10th-inning home run off Cardinals closer Barney Schulz. McCarver Championship WPA: 7.60.

3. Oct. 15, 1964, St. Louis 7, New York 5, Game 7, World Series

Game 7 was scoreless when McCarver came to the plate with teammates at first and second in the bottom of the fourth. He managed only a ground ball to first that Joe Pepitone tried to turn into a double play. But Pepitone’s wild throw to second allowed Ken Boyer to score the first run and set up a three-run Cardinal inning.

The Cardinals added three more runs in the fifth, McCarver capping the inning with a sacrifice fly that got Ken Boyer home from third base. That made the score 6-0, more than enough for Bob Gibson to sew up the victory. McCarver Championship WPA: 10.10.

2. Oct. 12, 1964, St. Louis 5, New York 2, Game 5, World Series

With the series even at two games each, the fifth game in1964 is widely viewed as the pivotal one, and McCarver was right in the thick of the excitement.

His first two hits failed to produce a run, but the Cardinals still led 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth behind Bob Gibson at Yankee Stadium. Then Tom Tresh homered, scoring himself and Mantle, who had reached on a Gibson error, and  sending the game into extra innings.

In the 10th, the Cardinals had runners at first and third with one out when McCarver came up. Facing reliever Pete Mikkelson, he shot a home run deep into the right field seats that gave the Cardinals a lead Gibson was not about to relinquish. McCarver Championship WPA: 10.10.

1. Oct. 5, 1968, St. Louis 7, Detroit 3, Game 3, World Series.

The 1968 Series was even at a game each when Ray Washburn faced Earl Wilson at Tiger Stadium. But Detroit led 2-0 entering the fifth inning.

With one out, Lou Brock singled and then stole second, scoring on Curt Flood’s double. When Roger Maris walked, Tiger manager Mayo Smith lifted Wilson in favor of Pat Dobson, who got Orlando Cepeda on a foul pop. McCarver was the next batter.

McCarver sent a Dobson fastball deep into the lower deck at Tiger Stadium for a three-run home run. The Cardinals breezed home from there, and one day later took a three games to one advantage before Detroit won the final three to claim the series. At the time he hit it, however, McCarver’s home run appeared to be the pivotal moment of the 1968 Classic. McCarver Championship WPA: 16.35.

Next. The 25 most decisive plays in World Series history. dark