McCarver Talks a Good Game, Too
On the next-to-last day of the 1980 season, a 38-year-old sportscaster reactivated for the Philadelphia Phillies’ pennant drive pinch hit for Pete Rose and doubled to right.
As he stood on second base, Tim McCarver grinned, then tipped his cap toward the Phillies’ broadcast booth.
“It was a terrific ending to a great career,” Chris Wheeler, a Phillies’ announcer, recalled. “Tim told us that last hit was dedicated to the guys in the booth.”
Now, after a career that spanned four decades (1959-80), only the seventh modern-era player with do so, McCarver is a broadcaster, both for the New York Mets and on network baseball telecasts. And he’s not just another ex-player-turned-color analyst.
His insight is so respected that the Montreal Expos courted him to be their manager, the St. Louis Cardinals to be their general manager.
But McCarver, who beginning Monday will be paired with Don Drysdale as one of the announcing teams on ABC’s Monday Night Baseball, says he is “quite content” behind the microphone.
“It’s a fascinating thing to be in the booth and vicariously transmit what I’ve seen on the field for 21 years,” he said.
As ABC’s roving interviewer at last year’s National League playoffs, McCarver popped up in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen in the seventh inning of the decisive fifth game. He told viewers that Steve Trout, normally a starter, was warming up, was unaccustomed to relieving and could in “no way be readily available” to bail out tiring Rick Sutcliffe.
By the time Trout was ready, San Diego had scored four runs off Sutcliffe en route to a 6-3 victory and the pennant.
On the Mets’ broadcasts, McCarver also gets his point across.
“Tim’s the best, well-received announcer we ever had,” says Mike Ryan, the Mets’ manager of broadcast services. “That’s why the Mets felt it was crucial to sign him up for another four seasons.”
Which is why McCarver has put notions of a managerial or front-office job on the back burner.
“Right now, I’m committed to the booth,” he said. “When I can’t stand talking about baseball anymore, I’d like to back up my thoughts into action, possibly as a manager.
“In every ex-ballplayer, there’s a certain part of you that wants to be on the field again. However, I fully understand the odds I’m bucking.”
As a broadcaster, McCarver also understands his weakness: a lack of brevity.
“I am by nature loquacious, and that can be bad in a visual medium,” he said. “My biggest problem is timing, being more concise.”
If McCarver will sometimes run on a bit, he won’t go to great lengths to criticize a player.
“This isn’t a witch hunt,” he said. “I try to be fair. After being in the pits for so long, I’m able to draw on my own successes and failures and relate how the game should be played.”
McCarver had a lifetime batting average of .271 and earned a reputation for being a winner. He starred in the 1964 World Series against the Yankees, hitting .478, and was a fixture on a St. Louis team that appeared in two more Series in the next four years.
He refused to believe he was finished at age 34 after being released by the Boston Red Sox. And he proved it with productive seasons in Philadelphia, as the Phillies won three straight division titles (1976-78). He also gained fame as unofficial media liaison to Steve Carlton.
In recent months, McCarver has written several articles for national sports magazines on his theories on baseball and has narrated a series of sports specials for cable television. He’s working on a book. But he especially enjoys being a broadcaster.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate,” McCarver said. “The money’s good, it’s a lot of fun, and you’re still involved in the game.”