For 60-plus years, Tim McCarver had a huge impact on Major League Baseball. McCarver was first known for a long playing career as a catcher, appearing in major league games in four decades (one of just 29 players to do so), then for a long national broadcasting career. He’s now passed away at 81, as per the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:
The Hall of Fame remembers 2012 Frick Award winner Tim McCarver, who passed away on Thursday.https://t.co/Np1cTyEJbV pic.twitter.com/ydNjOJqrBY
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) February 16, 2023
In 1959, at just 17, McCarver signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and made his major-league debut for them that year. He joined their major-league team for good in 1963 and played there through 1969, then was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the 1970 season. He played for Philadelphia through the start of the 1972 season, then finished his playing career with stints with the Montreal Expos (1972), Cardinals (1973-74), Boston Red Sox (1974-75), and Phillies again (1975-79, then again in September 1980 after a brief retirement and unretirement).
McCarver’s broadcasting career started even while he was still playing, as he co-hosted the HBO series Race for the Pennant in 1978. He then started as a regular broadcaster for Phillies’ games on WPHL-TV in 1980, working alongside Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. He would work there through 1982.
1980 also saw McCarver start with NBC as a backup game of the week commentator. He’d go on to work for all four major national broadcast networks, following his work at NBC with time at ABC (1984-1989), CBS (1990-1993), The Baseball Network (ABC/NBC/MLB, 1994-95), and Fox (1996-2013), and calling 23 World Series as lead analyst (24 in all, as he worked alongside Al Michaels and Jim Palmer in 1985, but not as lead analyst) and 20 All-Star Games. He also did Winter Olympics work, serving as a freestyle skiing play-by-play voice and correspondent for ABC in 1988 and as a prime-time host (with Paula Zahn) for CBS in 1992. Here’s how he signed off from Fox in 2013 after the World Series:
Ken Rosenthal of Fox and The Athletic reported that McCarver’s former teammate Jim Kaat was with him Wednesday night. Rosenthal also wrote a nice tribute to his former Fox colleague:
Tim McCarver’s good friend and former teammate, Jim Kaat, was with him last night, telling him as if they were still playing, “Remember, 1’s a fastball, 2’s a curve.” Kaat said, “It was an honor to be at his side.” My memorial tribute to Tim: https://t.co/VGnZ81w8UC
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 16, 2023
Fox’s Eric Shanks also offered a tribute:
FOX Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks on the passing of Tim McCarver. pic.twitter.com/JnsjxKXsak
— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) February 16, 2023
On the local broadcasting front, McCarver kept that up for much of his career as well. He called New York Mets’ games locally from 1983-1998, New York Yankees’ games from 1999-2001, and San Francisco Giants’ games in 2002. After he left Fox following the 2013 season, he started calling some Cardinals’ games each year for Fox Sports Midwest through 2019. He skipped the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to COVID-19 concerns, then officially announced his retirement last year.
McCarver won three Emmys for his broadcasting, and, as noted above, received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award in 2012. He was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2016. He was inducted into the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame in 2017, as seen at top. Here’s his speech from that induction:
McCarver received notable criticism over the years, especially towards the end of his national career. But he also received a lot of praise. And his run as a prominent national voice was certainly impressive. Here are a couple quotes on him from his Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame page, including Fox figure David Hill praising McCarver’s called shot of a game-winning broken-bat single in the 2001 World Series:
“Tim’s understanding of the game was so brilliant that he could tell you what was going to happen before it happened,” says David Hill, former president of Fox Sports and 2014 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer. “I’ve seen it happen so many times and heard it happen so many times that it’s not a fluke, it’s not luck. It’s the fact that he is more prepared calling a game of baseball than virtually anyone else.”
…“When he got out of the game as a player and went right into the broadcast booth, I think it was his desire to educate and kind of take you inside the game,” said Joe Buck, McCarver’s Fox Sports broadcast partner with whom he called a record 16 World Series and 15 MLB All-Star Games from 1996 to 2014. “He’s an educator, and that includes the game of baseball and him sitting behind a microphone or with a headset on. He took that very seriously. He thought about it nonstop. I’d get messages during the week about what he’s thinking about for that weekend’s game. It was his life.”
…“Working with Timmy over the years has just been phenomenal,” says [director Bill] Webb, the legendary baseball director and fellow 2016 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer inductee, who sat on the front bench of many of the biggest games that McCarver called for Fox Sports. “We have a feel [for one another] where we don’t even have to say anything. It came down to a situation where I would just click the IFB and I wouldn’t even have to talk to him. I’d just go ‘click, click,’ and he would know a replay is coming. He is as great an announcer as I’ve ever worked with.”
McCarver’s passing has led to a lot of reactions from the baseball world, some of which are collected here. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.
[Image from the Cardinals on YouTube]