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VOL. 124 | NO. 189 | Friday, September 25, 2009

McCarver Takes Baseball Success to Music Arena

By Andy Meek

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“I’ve always liked to sing, and I’m fascinated with lyrics. It’s fun. I’ve had a ball with this.”
– Tim McCarver
Position: Baseball TV analyst
Company: Fox Sports
Basics: The Memphis native and former professional baseball player has released a CD of his renditions of classic American tunes he recorded in town backed by Memphis musicians.

Most of the chapters of Tim McCarver’s life story unfold around a baseball diamond.

He’s one of Memphis’ most well-known sons and a graduate of Christian Brothers High School who played for 21 years in the major leagues.

He played in three World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s had a Memphis baseball stadium named after him, and he’s worked as a baseball broadcast analyst for two decades.

But before leaving his Florida home for New York to provide commentary for this weekend’s game between the Red Sox and the Yankees, he spoke with The Daily News about one of his most recent and unlikely projects.

Musical diamond in the rough?

This month marked the release of “Tim McCarver Sings Selections From the Great American Songbook,” a CD of swing and jazz classics the baseball icon recorded at Memphis’ Ardent Studios.

Memphis musician and singer Sid Selvidge produced the record at the behest of a man who up until his death last year was McCarver’s next-door-neighbor in Sarasota, Fla.: Jerry Wexler, the famed recorder, producer and executive at Atlantic Records.

“Jerry encouraged me to stay after this project,” McCarver said. “He said, ‘Don’t ever give up on this thing.’ He kept encouraging me and helped me. In fact, he was the one who called Sid Selvidge and got Sid to produce the record.”

The record is a set of 14 songs that include “There Used to be a Ballpark” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” that McCarver-the-crooner cut with a group of Memphis musicians. The recording was done over nine days about two years ago.

When McCarver came to Memphis for the project, he stayed at the home of friend John Stokes, one of the founding partners of Memphis-based Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. Stokes was another McCarver pal who encouraged him to get into a recording studio.

A deeper urging came from the influence of his father, a Memphis cop who was a fan of Frank Sinatra.

“I think some of that he handed down to me,” McCarver said, carrying that interest with him through such episodes in his life as his time in the 1960s playing baseball in Puerto Rico.

“I was 19 years old playing in the International League,” he said. “There were six of us in this three-bedroom apartment, and every night after the games we’d go up to the roof and take some beer and listen to Sinatra under the stars.”

Personal highlight

McCarver said he’s been exposed to a variety of singers and entertainers in his career via his coast-to-coast travels, encounters that encouraged him to try and slake his musical ambition. And the CD release marks another personal and professional highlight of his year so far, which also has included chatting with President Barack Obama during a recent game broadcast.

Obama joined Fox Sports announcers McCarver and Joe Buck in the broadcast booth during Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in St. Louis in July. Buck at one point quipped about the lack of a bailout plan for the National League, which hasn’t won an All-Star Game in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, Memphis musicians who helped McCarver cut his record include Selvidge, Jim Spake, Tom Lonardo and others.

The most recent customer reviewer who critiqued the CD on Amazon.com began this way: “There used to be two things I brought to every Fourth of July fireworks celebration – the American flag and a slice of my grandma’s apple pie. Next year I’ll add a third item that begins with ‘Tim McCarver’ and ends with ‘American Songbook.’”

McCarver said the recording was some of the hardest work he’s ever done, but he’s proud of the result.

“I’ve always liked to sing, and I’m fascinated with lyrics,” he said. “It’s fun. I’ve had a ball with this.”

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