Tim McCarver, big league catcher and broadcaster, dies at 81

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NEW YORK — Tim McCarver, the All-Star catcher and Hall of Fame broadcaster who during 60 years in baseball won two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals and had a long run as the one of the country’s most recognized, incisive and talkative television commentators, died Thursday. He was 81.

McCarver’s death was announced by baseball’s Hall of Fame, which said he died Thursday morning in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was with his family.

Among the few players to appear in major league games during four different decades, McCarver was a two-time All Star who worked closely with two future Hall of Fame pitchers: The tempestuous Bob Gibson, whom McCarver caught for St. Louis in the 1960s, and the introverted Steve Carlton, McCarver’s fellow Cardinal in the ’60s and a Philadelphia Phillies teammate in the 1970s. He switched to television soon after retiring in 1980 and became best known to national audiences for his 18-year partnership on Fox with play-by-play man Joe Buck.

“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 told the Hall in 2012, the year he and Buck were given 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.”

Six feet tall and solidly built, McCarver was a policeman’s son from Memphis, who got into more than a few fights while growing up but was otherwise playing baseball and football and imitating popular broadcasters, notably the Cards’ Harry Caray. He was signed while still in high school by the Cardinals for $75,000, a generous offer for that time; just 17 when he debuted for them in 1959 and in his early 20s when he became the starting catcher.

McCarver attended segregated schools in Memphis and often spoke of the education he received as a newcomer in St. Louis. His teammates included Gibson and outfielder Curt Flood, Black players who did not hesitate to confront or tease McCarver. When McCarver used racist language against a Black child trying to jump a fence during spring training, Gibson would remember “getting right up in McCarver’s face.” McCarver liked to tell the story about drinking an orange soda during a hot day in spring training and Gibson asking him for some, then laughing when McCarver flinched.

“It was probably Gibby more than any other Black man who helped me to overcome whatever latent prejudices I may have had,” McCarver wrote in his 1987 memoir “Oh, Baby, I Love It!”

Few catchers were strong hitters during the ’60s, but McCarver batted .270 or higher for five consecutive seasons and was fast enough to become the first in his position to lead the league in triples. He had his best year in 1967 when he hit .295 with 14 home runs, finishing second for Most Valuable Player behind teammate Orlando Cepeda as the Cards won their second World Series in four years.

McCarver met Carlton when the left-hander was a rookie in 1965 “with an independent streak wider than the Grand Canyon,” McCarver later wrote. The two initially clashed, even arguing on the mound during games, but became close and were reunited in the 1970s after both were traded to Philadelphia. McCarver became Carlton’s designated catcher even though he admittedly had a below average throwing arm and overall didn’t compare defensively to the Phillies’ regular catcher, Gold Glover Bob Boone.

“Behind every successful pitcher, there has to be a very smart catcher, and Tim McCarver is that man,” Carlton said during 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.”

McCarver liked to joke that he and Carlton were so in synch in the field that when both were dead they would be buried 60 feet, six inches apart, the distance between the rubber on the pitching mound and home plate.

During a 21-year career, when he also played briefly for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, McCarver batted .271 overall and only twice struck out more than 40 times in a single season. In the postseason, he averaged .273 and had his best outing in the 1964 series, when the Cards defeated the New York Yankees in seven games. McCarver finished 11-for-23, with five walks, and his 3-run homer at Yankee Stadium in the 10th inning of Game 5 gave his team a 5-2 victory.

Younger baseball fans first knew him from his work in the broadcast booth, whether local games for the New York Mets and New York Yankees, as Jack Buck’s partner on CBS or with son Joe Buck for Fox from 1996-2013. McCarver won six Emmys and became enough of a brand name to be a punchline on “Family Guy”; write a handful of books, make cameos in “Naked Gun,” “Love Hurts” and other movies and even record an album, “Tim McCarver Sings Songs from the Great American Songbook.”

Knowledge was his trademark. In his spare time, he visited art museums, read books and could recite poetry from memory. At work, he was like a one-man scouting team, versed in the most granular details, and spent hours preparing before each game. At times, he seemed to have psychic powers. In Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, the score was tied at 2 between the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Yankees drew in their infield with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 9th. Relief ace Mariano Rivera was facing Arizona’s Luis Rodriquez.

“Rivera throws inside to left-handers,” McCarver observed. “Lefthanders get a lot of broken-bat hits into shallow outfield, the shallow part of the outfield. That’s the danger of bringing the infield in with a guy like Rivera on the mound.”

Moments later, Gonzalez’s bloop to short center field drove in the winning run.

“When you the consider the pressure of the moment,” ESPN’s Keith Olbermann told The New York Times in 2002, “the time he had to say it and the accuracy, his call was the sports-announcing equivalent of Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the seventh inning to defeat the Yankees in 1960.”

Many found McCarver informative and entertaining. Others thought him infuriating. McCarver did not cut himself short whether explaining baseball strategy or taking on someone’s performance on the field. “When you ask him the time, (he) will tell you how a watch works,” Sports Illustrated’s Norm Chad wrote of him in 1992. The same year his criticism of Deion Sanders for playing two sports on the same day led to the Atlanta Braves outfielder /Atlanta Falcons defensive back’s dumping a bucket of water on his head. In 1999, he was fired by the Mets after 16 seasons on the air.

“Some broadcasters think that their responsibility is to the team and the team only,” McCarver told The New York Times soon after the Mets let him go. “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 and his wife, Anne McDaniel, had homes in Sarasota, Florida, and Napa, California. In recent years, McCarver announced part-time for Fox Sports Midwest and worked the occasional Cards game before sitting out the 2020 season because of concerns about COVID-19. Besides the Frick award, he was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame, in 2017.

“By the time I was 26 I had played in three World Series and I thought, ’Man this is great, almost a World Series every year,” he said during his acceptance speech. “Uh-uh. The game has a way of keeping you honest. I never played in another World Series.”

U.S. routs Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final

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MIAMI — Trea Turner and Paul Goldschmidt and an unrelenting U.S. lineup kept putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard, a dynamic display of the huge gap between an American team of major leaguers and Cubans struggling on the world stage as top players have left the island nation.

Turner homered twice to give him a tournament-leading four, driving in four runs to lead the U.S. to a 14-2 rout Sunday night and advance the defending champion Americans to the World Baseball Classic final.

Goldschmidt also homered and had four RBIs and Cedric Mullins went deep in a game interrupted three times by fans running on the field to display protest signs.

“The team kind of represents the government over there, and people aren’t too happy about it,” U.S. manager Mark DeRosa said.

The U.S. plays Japan or Mexico in Tuesday night’s championship, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nations to win the title twice.

“I think it took us a little bit of time, but now we kind of found our stride a little bit,” Turner said.

Turner has a tournament-leading 10 RBIs. He followed his go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam a night earlier against Venezuela with a solo homer in the second inning off Roenis Elias (0-1) and a three-run drive in the sixth against Elian Leyva.

“I kept saying every time he went deep, who is the idiot that’s hitting him ninth?” DeRosa said.

Cuba went ahead when its first four batters reached off Adam Wainwright (2-0) without getting a ball out of the infield. The 41-year-old right-hander recovered to strand the bases loaded.

“I put myself in that situation in the first place by making horrible PFP plays — or not making PFP plays,” Wainwright said in a reference to pitchers’ fielding practice.

American batters had 14 hits, including eight for extra bases, and seven walks. Goldschmidt hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the first on a 112 mph rocket high over the left-field wall. He added a two-run single in the fifth.

“For me that was one of my favorite home runs I’ve ever hit in my entire life,” Goldschmidt said.

St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado left after he was hit on a hand by a pitch in the fifth inning, briefly raising another injury concern before X-rays came back as negative. Mets closer Edwin Díaz sustained a season-ending knee injury during the celebration that followed Puerto Rico’s win on Wednesday and Houston second baseman Jose Altuve broke a thumb when hit by a pitch while playing for Venezuela on Saturday.

Fans in the sellout crowd of 35,779 at loanDepot Park sounded evenly split between the U.S. and Cuba. Several hundred people gathered before the game outside the ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana section to protest the presence of the Cuban team, whose island nation has been under communist rule since 1959.

Play was briefly interrupted in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings when fans ran onto the field. The first held a banner that read “Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos del 11 de Julio (Freedom for the Cuban Prisoners of July 11)” referring to the date of 2021 demonstrations.

“There were provocations, but we never paid attention to it,” Cuba manager Armando Johnson said.

Cuban fans roared in the early going when their team’s first four batters strung together three infield hits and a bases-loaded walk. Wainwright allowed one run and five hits in four innings. Cardinals teammate Miles Mikolas followed with four innings and Aaron Loup finished.

An Olympic gold medalist in 1992, 1996 and 2004, Cuba’s national team has struggled in recent years as many top players left for MLB. Cuba failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Cuba for the first time this year is using some players under contract to MLB clubs, including Chicago White Sox Gold Glove centerfielder Luis Robert and third baseman Yoán Moncada — who were booed. But many Cuban big leaguers were absent.

“We would like for the other players to join,” Johnson said. “They should think about it and return to Cuba.”


DeRosa on what he did after Saturday night’s come-from-behind quarterfinal win over Venezuela.

“I was reading how horrible a manager I was on social media first,” he said.


In the other semifinal, Japan starts 21-year-old sensation Roki Sasaki against Mexico and the Los Angeles Angels’ Patrick Sandoval on Monday night.


Moncada left after the third baseman collided in the sixth inning with left fielder Roel Santos, who caught Kyle Schwarber’s fly. Moncada was hit on the ribs but is OK, Johnson said.


Arizona RHP Merrill Kelly is likely to start the final.