Tim McCarver was one of the top big-league catchers of the 1960s and ‘70s, helping lead the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Series championships and playing in two All-Star games, but his playing skills never brought him a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has, however, managed to talk his way into the Cooperstown shrine: This summer, the longtime broadcaster will be honored with the Ford C. Frick Award, presented for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“If someone had told me I’d be around 32 years as a broadcaster, I’d have thought they were nuts,” McCarver says. “And here it is, 32 years later, and I’ve been voted into the Ford Frick wing of the Hall of Fame. It’s a bit daunting, to say the least. It’s wonderful.”
McCarver, who first got behind a microphone in 1980 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies broadcasting crew, following a 21-year playing career that began when he was 17, this week will start his 17th season as the lead analyst for Major League Baseball on Fox, working alongside play-by-play man Joe Buck.
The 70-year-old Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, who also worked with Buck’s father, Jack, at CBS, has been the lead baseball analyst for all four broadcast networks, as well as four Major League teams. He also has become a post-season staple; McCarver is the only network analyst to broadcast the last 27 regular and post-seasons, including a record 22 World Series.
“There is no mystery about McCarver making the Hall of Fame; the question is only about the timing . . . what took so long?” says baseball historian and author Curt Smith, a member of the Frick award selection committee. “Tim Mc- Carver’s selection is a no-brainer in the most glorious sense. He is, along with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek, one of the three best analysts I have ever heard.”
Legendary baseball announcer and wit Bob Uecker looks fondly on his playing days backing up McCarver in St. Louis, particularly during the Cardinals’ 1964 World Championship season. “We had a lot of laughs on those teams,” says Uecker, a Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster since 1971 and former Frick award winner who was on the committee that selected McCarver for the honor this year. “Timmy was one of the guys on the team who were good agitators and aggravators. I don’t think he’s changed that much, only now he talks a little bit more because he has a job where he has to talk.”
Having been in the public eye and ear as long as he has, McCarver also has his detractors. He prefers to leave discussions of his good and bad points to the critics. “I’ve always tried to stay contemporary, stay up on things and get it right,” says McCarver, who is also in his 13th year hosting a syndicated TV sports interview show. “Clearly, to last as long as I have, you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. It can’t be just a job.”
McCarver has witnessed many memorable events on the field, but surely his most surreal moment came in the broadcast booth just before the third game of the 1989 World Series in San Francisco. McCarver was narrating taped highlights of the previous night’s game when an earthquake rocked the stadium; he and play-by-play man Al Michaels fell to the floor in shock. “It was one of the strangest nights I ever experienced,” he says. “Al and I to this day don’t realize how we got bruises on both thighs.”
It has been a long, sometimes strange, but fine ride for McCarver, who has no timetable for how much longer the ride will last. He has two seasons left on his contract with Fox, when the network’s deal with Major League Baseball runs out.
“I often look back and think if it came to announcing or managing in the minor leagues and perhaps getting a shot in the big leagues, the odds are pretty good I would have gone into managing,” McCarver says. “But right now I know I chose the right thing.”
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