Tim McCarver: Baseball Savant
He’d call it before you saw it
Tim McCarver was a baseball savant. Whether you liked the way he called a game, or didn’t, he knew his shit.
There was no better proof than what happened during the 2001 World Series. McCarver’s analysis when he described what might happen actually did seconds later.
Tim McCarver was a baseball lifer. He had seen everything that could happen on a diamond. McCarver was the catcher on the Stl Cardinals when Bob Gibson had his best years. Gibson arguably had the best season a pitcher could have in 1967. 22 wins and a 1.12 ERA with 268 strikeouts.
He won the NL Cy Young award for best pitcher and the NL MVP. Pitchers rarely win both. Tim McCarver was his personal catcher, calling all the pitches. McCarver caught Gibson’s Game One start of the 1968 World Series when Bullet Bob struck out 17 on the way to a victory.
McCarver had a way with pitchers that had a mean streak. Gibson was as mercurial as a bad tempered thoroughbred horse. He also knew Steve Carlton to be obstinate as a mule with a personality of a rattlesnake. Tim McCarver got the best performances of their careers out of them. He was the mean whisperer.
He then bounced around for a few years, caught three no-hitters and ended his career as Carlton’s personal catcher. When he finally retired, Tim McCarver had been a part of two world series champions and was one of the few players that appeared in four different decades.
After all that, he began the career that we will most remember him for.
He began with local Phillies broadcasts and also landed a gig as a national broadcaster for NBC. McCarver again bounced around as a color analyst, like he did as a player. He worked for all three networks. There wasn’t a time between the 1980s to 2013 when McCarver was synonymous with baseball on television. He went back to regional games until April 2022, when McCarver’s doctors said he’d had enough.
There was controversy with him. The old school veteran catcher got doused with water from an ice cooler by Deion Sanders when McCarver said Sanders didn’t respect the game after two-sport Sanders played in an NFL game during the day and then caught a flight to play in a World Series that evening.
McCarver called Manny Ramirez despicable after Ramirez dogged it and malingered while playing for the Red Sox and then turned it on after being traded to the Dodgers.
Part of the price for being good at his job, McCarver could annoy as a gnat buzzing in your ear because he had a penchant for over-analysis. One scribe said if you asked McCarver for the time, he’d tell you how the watch worked.
But that was the reason Tim McCarver was an excellent color analyst. When he knew something deeply, he educated the listener with it. That’s why he’s in the MLB Hall of Fame.