If there is anything in World Series broadcasting akin to Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 championship-winning homer, it occurred in Arizona on Nov. 3, 2001.
It was Game 7 of the World Series. The bases were loaded with one out and the score was tied in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera faced the Diamondbacks’ left-handed-swinging Luis Gonzalez.
“The one problem is, Rivera throws inside to left-handers,” McCarver said as Rivera stared down Gonzalez. “Left-handers get a lot of broken bat hits, into shallow outfield, the shallow part of the outfield. That is the danger of bringing the infield in with a guy like Rivera on the mound.”
You know the rest. Rivera threw a nasty cutter. Gonzalez floated a little bloop that Derek Jeter would have caught if he were playing normal depth. And the Diamondbacks were the champions.
“I thought that was the greatest moment I’ve ever heard from an analyst,” Joe Buck, McCarver’s partner on the Fox broadcast, said during a phone interview.
On Thursday, McCarver passed away at the age of 81. He is in the Hall of Fame as the 2012 Ford Frick winner, which is awarded to a broadcaster who made major contributions to baseball.
McCarver deserved it as he is the most prolific national MLB TV analyst in history, and it’s not particularly close. In his prime, basically whoever had the World Series had McCarver in the booth. He called a total of 23 World Series, the majority for Fox.
He was a local guy, too, around these parts. He grew up in Memphis, but he became a part of New York as a Met and Yankee TV analyst. He influenced fans of all types, from older fans to a kid in Miami named Alex Rodriguez, who once went up to McCarver and told him how much he learned from him during Ch. 9 broadcasts.
What made him so appealing and also got him into run-ins was his passion for the game his desire to teach it at the highest level.
“He loved the game,” Fox Sports’ World Series producer, Pete Macheska, said. “He was a manager in the booth. He thought five steps ahead, just like a manager. And he was not afraid to say anything, even if knew it might make those in the dugout mad. He was the best first-guesser of all time.”
As a player, McCarver played in four decades, beginning in 1959 with the Cardinals. He was a catcher and the ace was Bob Gibson, whom McCarver would mention a time or two in his career. He ended his career with the Phillies in 1980, appearing in a smattering of games. He picked up two World Series rings and batted .271 for his career.
“To a generation of fans, Tim will forever be remembered as the champion whose game-winning home run during the 1964 World Series echoes throughout time; to another, his voice will forever be the soundtrack to some of the most memorable moments in the game’s history; to us, he will forever be in our hearts,” Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks said in a statement.
While Yankee fans may not have enjoyed how accurate he was on Gonzalez’s hit, he and Buck were the soundtrack of the Jeter dynasty years. For Met fans, McCarver and Ralph Kiner were the nightly companions for the “Daryl and Doc” Mets. Everyone could have an opinion about McCarver, the analyst, and they did.
For Buck and Macheska, they had a unique view of the man, working so closely with him. McCarver and Joe’s father, Jack, called the World Series for CBS for two years and didn’t see eye to eye. At 27, Joe was named to Fox’s No. 1 team and McCarver took him in.
“Tim was one of those guys that if you were one of his people, he would go to the mat for you,” Buck said. “And whenever I would attempt humor, he was a great audience and he would laugh. You want someone who’s listening and reacting to what you’re saying. And he was the best I’ve ever been around.”
Macheska had the same experience after he succeeded Michael Weisman as Fox Sports’ lead MLB producer. McCarver, Buck and director, the late Bill Webb, made sure Macheska was up to speed. McCarver would call Macheska during the week as he watched a random game.
“He was like a second father that you talked baseball with nightly,” Macheska said.
And when he was at his best, he saw things on the field before the managers and players did.