All-Star catcher and Hall of Fame broadcaster Tim McCarver, the favorite catcher of two Hall of Fame pitchers, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, has died at the age of 81.
McCarver debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 at the age of 17, playing in eight games. By 1963 he had become their starting catcher, playing in 127 games while batting .289. He won the first of two World Series Championships with the team and Gibson in 1964, as the Cardinals bested the New York Yankees in seven games. His three-run homer in the tenth inning of the fifth game won it for the Cardinals in a Series in which he batted a whopping .478. Three years later, the Cardinals won the Series again, this time defeating the “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox in seven games. That year, McCarver hit .295 and finished second in MVP voting.
“I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson,” McCarver once joked. “He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was it was hard to hit.”
McCarver later played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1970-72, finishing the 1972 season with the Montreal Expos before returning to the Cardinals in 1973-74 and a few games with the Boston Red Sox at the end of 1974 and the beginning of 1975. Then he was traded to the Phillies again, and this time he teamed up with Carlton, who had played with him on the Cardinals but by the time McCarver joined the Phillies would only pitch to McCarver.
“Behind every successful pitcher, there has to be a very smart catcher, and Tim McCarver is that man,” Carlton, nicknamed “Lefty,” recalled at his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1994. “Timmy forced me pitch inside. Early in my career I was reluctant to pitch inside. Timmy had a way to remedy this. He used to set up behind the hitter. There was just the umpire there; I couldn’t see him (McCarver), so I was forced to pitch inside.”
In 2017, before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his illustrious broadcasting career, including his 18-year partnership with Joe Buck, McCarver referenced the distance between the pitching mound and home plate joking, “When Lefty and I leave this world, they should bury me 60 feet, 6 inches from him.”
“I think there is a natural bridge from being a catcher to talking about the view of the game and the view of the other players,” McCarver — who won six Emmys after he started his broadcast career in 1980 — told the Hall of Fame when he and Buck received the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. “It is translating that for the viewers. One of the hard things about television is staying contemporary and keeping it simple for the viewers.”
“Some broadcasters think that their responsibility is to the team and the team only,” McCarver told The New York Times. “I have never thought that. My No. 1 obligation is to the people who are watching the game. And I’ve always felt that praise without objective criticism ceases to be praise. To me, any intelligent person can figure that out.”
McCarver, who knew as much about baseball as anyone, also authored the books “Baseball for Brain Surgeons & Other Fans” and “Tim McCarver’s Diamond Gems: Favorite Baseball Stories from The Legends of the Game.”