Tim McCarver can play baseball and talk it, too

He is a two-time All-Star and a double World Series winner. He finished second in National League MVP voting in 1967, to Cardinals teammate Orlando Cepeda, and was so highly regarded by Hall of Famer Steve Carlton that he was brought to Philadelphia to be his personal catcher for two of the former Cards pitcher's Cy Young Award-winning seasons there.

But despite all that Tim McCarver accomplished on the baseball field, including being the steadying influence behind the plate when Bob Gibson became a fiercely dominant pitcher in the 1960s, he probably will end up being best remembered for talking about — not playing — the game.

And his remarkable, record-setting career is winding down.

McCarver, who is in his 34th season as a network baseball analyst, still performs at a high level. But now, at age 71, he is rolling through what he says is his final season with Fox, as he is stepping down after the World Series this fall.

And McCarver, whose 21-year big-league playing career began in 1959 when he had a brief stint with the Cardinals, is set to make his final scheduled All-Star Game broadcasting appearance on Tuesday night. He'll work alongside longtime play-by-play partner Joe Buck to call the contest (7:15 p.m. St. Louis time).


Although Fox plans to air a segment with McCarver talking about his favorite All-Star Game memories as a player and broadcaster, don't expect a bunch of personal commentary while the game is in progress. That's not his style. And Buck said it has been business as usual this season as McCarver hasn't been subject to a lot of fanfare.

"He wouldn't want it that way," Buck said. "He's just such a man's man it really never is about him. I think it would be uncomfortable for him" to have a farewell tour. "That wouldn't be him, he's not that way."

McCarver concurred.

"I didn't expect there would be that much difference than years past and it hasn't been," he said. "I do the games. That's my job, it has been for a long time."

Buck said McCarver has had that stance all season.

"He's touched that people care that this is it, but beyond that he brushes it off and goes about doing his job," Buck said, adding that "it may hit me when we're in the World Series and it's winding down."

But probably not yet.

"He's just not into that stuff," Buck said. "He doesn't want confetti, anyone talking about this. We've talked about this a million times — if he and I are walking into a stadium and get hit by a bus, they're still going to play the game and it's still going to be on. He knows the focus is on the field and not in the booth, and I love that about him."


When McCarver signs off after the World Series, he will have called postseason baseball on network television for 29 consecutive years, including having worked 24 World Series and 22 All-Star Games, all records. And last year he received the Ford Frick Award, putting him into the broadcasters' section of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When he wraps it up he will break up the longest-lasting partnership in any network booth in major U.S. pro sports, as he and Buck are headed to their 15th All-Star Game and 16th World Series together.

McCarver continues his straightforward look when asked if he prefers to be remembered most for his many accomplishments on the field or on the air.

"I really haven't looked at it, I just work," he said. "I'm not at that age where I have to look back on my life and say I'm more proud of one over the other."

While his playing career was stellar, his TV role is historic.

He has analyzed baseball for all four major American broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – and was partners with Buck's dad, the late Jack Buck, at CBS in 1990 and '91 and doing it in a sport that is highly demanding of the analyst because of the time to fill between pitches.

"There will never be another one like him," Joe Buck said. "I personally think it's a tougher analyst job than in the NFL, NHL, NBA. Because of that it's the hardest role to fill. He's done it forever, and there's a reason why — it's not that easy" for a hotshot to come along and take his job.



Part of McCarver's job was breaking in Buck when they were paired in 1996, when Buck was just 26.

They worked their first World Series together that fall and have been together ever since. And Buck gives immense credit to McCarver helping him make it big in the business, in which he also is Fox's lead football play-by-play broadcaster.

"I leaned on him more than I've ever leaned on anybody," Buck said. "When you're that young, you're kind of fearful of being exposed as some fraud who shouldn't be doing it. When you're sitting next to him, he's seen it all from the field and from the booth. And the instant credibility he gave me as a kid when I was doing these World Series games, when we had good baseball conversations and he'd hear my point and I'd hear his and we could carry on a discussion, that was invaluable to me and for me. Without that, if he had been picking at me or not accepting my opinion it would have shot me down before I got started."

They grew close.

"He's this crazy combination of like a second dad, a crazy uncle and a best friend," Buck said. "He's one of my closest friends, although we don't do a lot together other than the broadcasts. We'll go to a dinner here and there, but we're not hanging out. When I see him in the truck every Saturday, there's a genuine 'I'm happy to see you' and that's a good feeling because it doesn't have to be that way."

Buck raised some eyebrows, especially in St. Louis, when it was announced in March that this would be McCarver's final Fox season and Buck said he was taught more about broadcasting from his partner than from his father, a legendary Cardinals announcer.

"For a kid that got into this business because of his father, and for somebody that needed everything he could get out of his partner at a young age, he's every bit as important to me as my dad," Buck said then. "I love him like a brother and I'm lucky to have been with him. I've learned more from him than anybody I've ever been around in this business, including my father."

Buck amplified on that.


"When you are doing World Series games, the sport on its biggest stage, you really rely on each other," he said Wednesday. "My dad never was a hands-on 'Here's how you need to do it' guy. I learned from watching him. With Tim, we kind of launch off the ledge together when we start a broadcast. He knows I've got his back and I know he's got mine. It certainly is a comforting feeling for me — and it certainly was when I was 27."

McCarver pooh-poohs that praise when asked if Buck was a work-in-progress at the time.

"Joe's 'work in progress' probably started when he was an infant," McCarver said. "I knew it from that first World Series" that he was going to be a success. "He says he was nervous — I never saw any of that. To me he just didn't get through it, he got through with flying colors and they've gotten brighter every year."


Buck also credits McCarver for toughening him up.

"The one word I associate with Tim is 'tough,"' Buck said. "He was a really tough player, the kind of guy who wouldn't back down to anybody on the field. And he's the same way in the broadcast booth. He says what he feels, he's well-read and well-researched on everything that comes out of his mouth. He has firm ground to stand on. He's not afraid to first-guess or second-guess a manager, he's not afraid of being critical of a player, he's also very positive and has a lot of good things to say."

That translates into deflecting criticism, something that comes with the territory for a guy who is outspoken — and speaks a whole lot. And taking shots has become its own sport in recent years with the explosion of social media.

"He takes it on and is able to put it in its own category and plow ahead," Buck said. "I've learned more from him that way than I've learned from anybody else I've ever been around in this business. This business can wear on you and if you let the social media stuff or the other critical stuff wear you down, you can't function. He's taught me how to deal with that. He gets a lot of it, I get a lot of it, we get a lot of it together. I've learned how to deal with it from him because he's a tough guy."



One of McCarver's best memories of his long broadcasting career involves both Bucks.

As the Cardinals' David Freese cracked a home run in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series to give the Cardinals their miraculous 10-9 victory — after they trailed by two runs in the ninth and 10th innings and twice were down to their last strike to lose the Series — Joe Buck described the play this way on Fox: "Freese hits it into center. WE WILL SEE YOU TOMORROW NIGHT!"

Twenty years and one day earlier, his dad was on CBS when Kirby Puckett homered, also in the 11th of Game 6 and it gave Minnesota a 4-3 victory over Atlanta. Jack Buck, working his last Series on national TV, described it this way: "Into deep left center ... AND WE'LL SEE YOU TOMORROW NIGHT!"

The younger's Buck's call honoring his dad's famous call drew much praise at the time and was a special moment for McCarver, who has worked with some of the biggest names in sportscasting . . . including Dick Enberg, Bob Costas, Keith Jackson and Al Michaels.

"I'll never forget it, one of the classy calls ever," McCarver said of Joe Buck paying tribute to his late dad in a way no one else could. "And I'm very proud to say I worked on both (calls). To be next to both of them, live, in the booth when they both made the calls turned my head around both times. I sat to their right both times, even though sometimes I sit to the left of Joe. The minute both said what they said, I was the closest person to both. I'm kind of proud of that."


McCarver, much like Hank Stram when he was broadcasting "Monday Night Football" on radio with Jack Buck in the 1970s, has the uncanny ability to translate analysis of the game into telling viewers what might (and often will) happen next.


The most notable instance of this was when he set up what turned out to be the final play of the 2001 World Series. The Arizona Diamondbacks had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the score 2-2, and the New York Yankees' infield was pulled in.

McCarver set the scene by saying Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's cut fastball broke inside to lefthanded batters, and that often ends up in broken-bat hits to the shallow outfield.

Presto: On the next pitch, Luis Gonzalez broke his bat on an inside pitch and the ball fell just over the drawn-in infield to drive in the Series-winning run.

"I would submit to you and I would bring it to any committee if they said, 'What's the best example of first-guessing in the history of sports broadcasting?'" Buck said. "I defy anybody to tell any analyst who has ever nailed a moment better than that in a key situation — Game 7 on the last pitch with Mario Rivera blowing a World Series save. That's just not going to happen."

That type of insight is why David Hill, senior executive vice president of Fox parent company News Corporation and who formerly oversaw Fox Sports, is sad to see McCarver leaving.

"He is, quite frankly, one of the best broadcasters I've ever worked with — not only that I have worked with, but that I've listened to," Hill said when it was announced that this would be McCarver's final season with the network. "I've worked in three countries and I've worked with some very, very talented individuals, but I put Tim right at the very top of the tree. (Former Fox Sports president Ed Goren) and I would sit in the truck and look at each other when Tim would say, 'This is going to happen,' and it did. We knew it wasn't guessing because to use the term 'guessing' there's an element of doubt. Tim would know. He is one of those unique individuals that makes you so proud to work in this profession, and he's leaving huge, huge shoes."


McCarver says the decision to leave was not made in haste.

"I thought about it for a long time prior to making the announcement, for two or three years," he said.

But Buck isn't so sure the decision will stick.

"I would not be shocked," if McCarver changes his mind, Buck said. "I don't think it's off the board that I'm doing games with him next year. I think he's at peace, I don't sense any regret. But I just personally don't think it's zero percent" that he won't change his mind.

Hold on, McCarver said.

"I'm not going back on that," he said. "... I've been doing this long enough, it's time."

McCarver is a wine aficionado and has said he wants to go to Italy and also enjoys reading about things other than baseball.

"Will I have pangs of missing it?" he asked. "Perhaps. But I'll stay busy. I have a lot of interests.

"I'm not retiring, I'm just cutting back, I'm not going to be doing this next year, that's all."

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