McCarver reflects on a long and rewarding career

ASSOCIATED PRESS Tim McCarver greets the crowd at 2012 Hall of Fame induction day, when he was honored as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Tim McCarver greets the crowd at 2012 Hall of Fame induction day, when he was honored as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Posted: July 19, 2013

HOW WILL you remember Tim McCarver? For his 21 years spent on the baseball diamond or his 34 seasons calling games as a network baseball analyst?

Whatever comes to mind when you think of McCarver, he always will be remembered for his talent behind the plate and a love for the game in the booth as well. For former Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton, McCarver always will be remembered as a close friend and his personal catcher during their time together.

McCarver, 71, informed Fox before the 2013 season that he would not be returning for his 19th season as an analyst with the network. McCarver said he is not tired of baseball, but would like to cut back after 55 seasons in the game as a player and analyst.

"This will be my 24th World Series and 23rd All-Star Game," McCarver said in a recent phone interview. "To be around the game in some of the game's biggest moments, how many people have the opportunity?"

McCarver was the subject of some pop-culture commentary during Tuesday night's All-Star Game. As Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning to his theme song, Metallica's "Enter Sandman," McCarver began reciting the lyrics and adding commentary. That led to people commenting about McCarver on Twitter.

McCarver began his professional baseball career with the Cardinals in 1959. He spent 10 seasons in St. Louis before joining the Phillies in 1970. During his first stint in St. Louis, McCarver earned his two career All-Star appearances, in 1966 and 1967, the same year he finished second in the MVP voting behind teammate Orlando Cepeda.

McCarver enjoyed his best season in 1967, batting .295/.369/.452 with a career-high 14 homers and 69 RBI in 139 games.

In 1965, McCarver began a lifelong friendship with a rookie lefthander.

"I had a marvelous relationship with Steve Carlton in the spring of 1965 in St. Louis," McCarver said of the Hall of Famer who was traded to the Phillies in 1972. "We were more than friendly; I knew him better than anybody and until this day I still know him better than anybody."

As Phillies fans know, Carlton had one of the best sliders in baseball. Throughout multiple bullpen sessions and on the field, McCarver saw something in Carlton that he did not see in many of the other pitchers he caught.

"The one thing I did that nobody else did was that I saw how devastating his slider was," McCarver said. "If I ever got the opportunity to go back to the Phillies, I was going to call for his slider more than any other catcher did. I think Steve and I re-established his slider even when the opposition knew it was probably coming."

In his first go-around with the Phillies, McCarver spent a little more than two seasons with the team before being dealt to the Montreal Expos for catcher John Bateman on June 14, 1972. He finished the 1972 season in Montreal before being dealt back to St. Louis during the offseason.

After 74 games with the Cardinals in 1974, the Red Sox purchased his contract, but he was released by Boston on June 23, 1975. Eight days later, McCarver signed with the Phillies, where he teammed up again with Carlton and also saw time in the outfield and at first base. He remained with the Phillies until his career ended in 1980, when he played in two games.

"I was like most other players, where I thought I could play forever. Obviously you can't at that position," McCarver said. "Catching Carlton and being a part of those great teams in the 1970s was an unbelievable experience. Realistically, I understood it was eventually time to take off the equipment after my playing days were over, and 1980 was the time."

Even before McCarver retired as a player, he had considered a career in broadcasting. He seemed to be a perfect candidate for the profession with 21 years as a professional player and his reputation as a great teammate.

"Tim McCarver is a great friend and was a great teammate," Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt said. "I watched him in the late '60s with the Cardinals as he caught Bob Gibson in the World Series. I admired him a lot. He was a great baseball man as a player, knowing the inner game as well as anybody ever. It translated into broadcasting greatness, as we still watch him on national TV. We all loved him and still do."

Like any broadcaster, McCarver's career did not begin overnight. In the winter of 1976-77, McCarver said he was approached by the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, who were putting together their broadcast team. Despite a 4-year offer to be a Blue Jays broadcaster, McCarver decided to accept the Phillies' offer and remain as a player.

With the encouragement of Bill Giles and many around Philadelphia, McCarver went down the broadcasting path shortly after his playing career ended. McCarver has worked for four major American broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, and most recently Fox. In 1990 and 1991, McCarver worked with the late Jack Buck at CBS and later developed a relationship with his son, Joe Buck.

"I have worked with Joe for 18 years," McCarver said. "He and I are very close friends and to be next to him during those big moments, you learn to lean on each other. I have infinite respect for him."

McCarver called Phillies games from 1980 to '82, working with Harry Kalas, Rich Ashburn, Andy Musser and Chris Wheeler. He also called the local telecasts of the Mets (1983-98), Yankees (1999-2001) and Giants (2002).

One of the biggest moments McCarver was a part of was helping Joe Buck make the final call in Game 5 of the Phillies' 2008 World Series victory.

Like many athletes toward the end of their careers, McCarver said he wanted to step down when he was still capable of doing his job at the highest level. Although he is not completely leaving the game of baseball, he said he will miss many of the game's finest moments from the booth and most of all, he will miss Joe Buck.

"To be delivering the game in its greatest light in some of the most fabulous aspects for the past quarter of a century, I feel privileged and honored, and it's been a remarkable thing for me to be a part of it," McCarver said.

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