- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Tim McCarver, the All-Star catcher whose cerebral approach behind the plate over four decades led to a Hall of Fame career as a baseball broadcaster, has died. He was 81.
McCarver died Thursday in Memphis, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced. The cause of death was heart failure.
McCarver broke into the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 at age 17 and took his final swings for the 1980 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies. Blessed with a good eye and a disciplined approach in the batter’s box, he compiled a .271 batting average over 21 seasons and pushed the Cardinals to titles in 1964 and ’67.
The Memphis native, who also played for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, developed a strong rapport with Hall of Fame pitchers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, earning two All-Star appearances and a spot in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
In 2012, McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, saluting his 35-year career in the booth as an analyst. He and play-by-play man Joe Buck worked 18 World Series together for Fox before McCarver signed off at the conclusion of the 2013 Fall Classic.
“Fairness, accuracy and honesty have always been my goals, along with teaching you something you may not have known about this great game,” McCarver told viewers after Boston defeated St. Louis in Game 6 to clinch the title. “I hope I’ve achieved those things.”
Buck, son of Cardinals broadcasting legend Jack Buck, responded to his longtime partner: “All those goals you’ve had, you’ve achieved them. You’re the best to ever do this in this sport. I love you like a brother.”
A month later, McCarver was hired as a part-time analyst for the Cardinals on Fox Sports Midwest, teaming with Dan McLaughlin.
In between broadcasting assignments, he found time to host The Tim McCarver Show, a syndicated interview series that ran from 2003-16.
On the big screen, McCarver appeared in the booth alongside Curt Gowdy, Jim Palmer, Dick Vitale, Mel Allen, Dick Enberg and — here’s the punch line — Dr. Joyce Brothers in The Naked Gun (1988) and also did work in Love Hurts (1990), BASEketball (1998), Fever Pitch (2005) and Moneyball (2011).
Born in Memphis on Oct. 16, 1941, McCarver was the son of a police officer who starred in baseball and football at Christian Brothers High School before signing with the Cardinals in 1959. He was dispatched to the Midwest League and Keokuk, Iowa, where future Hall of Fame broadcaster Brent Musburger served as home plate umpire in his first game as a pro.
McCarver hit well enough at Keokuk and in Rochester, New York, in the International League to merit a late-season promotion to the Cardinals, batting .167 in 24 at-bats. He continued to toil in the minors until 1963, when he joined the majors for good and cemented himself as a standout catcher.
In 1964, when the Cardinals advanced to the World Series against the Yankees, McCarver hit .478 against New York, with his 10th-inning home run lifting St. Louis to a Game 5 victory. The Cardinals won in seven games, and in 1967, when McCarver finished second in National League MVP voting to teammate Orlando Cepeda, St. Louis beat Boston in another Series that went the distance. Gibson pitched all nine innings in Game 7 against the Red Sox, then embraced McCarver after the final out.
“What made Tim special was that after maybe an inning, he and I were pretty much on the same path,” said Gibson, the most feared pitcher of his generation.
“I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson,” McCarver said. “He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was it was hard to hit.”
He was named to the NL All-Star team in 1966 and 1967. He led the league with 13 triples in ’66, a rare feat for a catcher, and developed a keen eye at the plate, ranking among the top 10 in the NL five times in fewest strikeouts per at-bat.
McCarver’s best years came with the Cardinals. Although Detroit rallied to beat St. Louis in the 1968 World Series, McCarver batted .333 against the Tigers.
He was traded to Philadelphia after the 1969 season, but a broken finger limited him to only 44 games. He played well in 1971, but the Phillies shipped McCarver the following season to Montreal, where he also played third base and the outfield. He returned to St. Louis in 1973 and was sold to the Red Sox the next year.
After Boston released him, he rejoined the Phillies in 1976 for the remainder of his playing career.
Philadelphia owner Bill Giles assured McCarver that he had a job in the broadcast booth following his retirement. He worked with Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas on Phillies broadcasts and as a backup commentator for NBC’s Game of the Week in 1980. Then it was on to ABC, teaming with Palmer and Al Michaels, before a stint with CBS.
From 1996-2013, McCarver was paired with Buck on Fox. His first World Series job had come in 1985, when ABC brought him in as a last-minute replacement for Howard Cosell, who had ripped the network in his book I Never Played the Game. (He worked the Winter Olympics in 1988 for ABC and in 1992 for CBS as well.)
McCarver also served as a local announcer for the New York Mets and Yankees and San Francisco Giants. Some critics complained that he focused too intently on the nuances of the game, making it difficult for the average baseball fan to understand his technical focus.
In that regard, one of McCarver’s five books is titled, Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans.
His most controversial moment as a broadcaster came during the 1992 NL Championship Series when he criticized flashy cornerback-outfielder Deion Sanders for playing for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and baseball’s Atlanta Braves on the same day.
When the Braves won the pennant and McCarver entered the clubhouse as a CBS analyst, Sanders dumped a bucket of water on McCarver’s head. “You are a real man, Deion, I’ll say that,” said the drenched announcer.
Years later, Sanders gave his side of the story to Dan Patrick. “My mama called me and she said, ‘This guy is talking about you like a dog — what is wrong with him?'” Sanders recalled. “Where I’m from, if you make somebody’s mama mad, you got to handle it, and I handled it. … I had to cool him off a little bit because he was speaking out of turn.”
Survivors include his wife, Anne (they married in 1964); daughters Kathy and Kelly; and two grandchildren.
When he was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2017, McCarver said he had come full circle.
“I was a fan of the Cardinals when I was a kid,” he said. “I started playing pro ball in St. Louis with the Cardinals. I ended up announcing with the Mets and all four networks, and then I’ve come back and worked for the Cardinals again. St. Louis adopted me, and I adopted it.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day