VOL. 132 | NO. 70 | Friday, April 7, 2017
Memphian Tim McCarver Still Enjoying Life and Baseball
By Don Wade
On Sept. 10, 1959, at the tender age of 17, Tim McCarver pinch-hit in the ninth inning for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Milwaukee Braves at old County Stadium before a gathering of 1,695 people (he flied out to right field).
Tim McCarver, who was inducted into the broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, will receive the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s Distinguished Citizen Award on June 25.
It turned out to be the start of a lifetime in Major League Baseball that continues to this day. Now 75 years old, McCarver, who starred as a football and baseball player at Christian Brothers High School, has a prolific resume. His 21-year-career as a player, mostly as a catcher, touched four decades, and included All-Star appearances and playing in three World Series with the Cardinals.
In 2012 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcast wing and is the only MLB analyst to have worked for the four major broadcast networks: NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. He is a four-time best-selling author and he has won numerous Emmy Awards for his broadcast work.
And recently he was selected for yet another honor: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s Distinguished Citizen Award. He will receive the award on Sunday, June 25, at the Hilton Memphis hotel. For details on the evening and ticket information, call the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 901-795-7700. All proceeds from live and silent auctions go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
McCarver, who is in his fourth year doing select Cardinals games as an analyst on Fox Sports Midwest broadcasts, spoke to The Daily News about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s sometimes controversial vision for the game and offered some thoughts on this year’s Cardinals team.
TDN: So Rob Manfred recently said he wants to “own the next generation” of sports fans and he’s got some pretty bold ideas about how to do that. What does he mean?
McCarver: When he says something like that, he means pass (the game) on with dignity and imagination. And in every way leave the game in better shape than he received it.
TDN: He primarily wants to speed up pace of play. This year we have intentional walks without pitches having to be thrown. Does it help his objective?
McCarver: Eyewash as far as I’m concerned. To me, the major problem is all the meetings on the mound for no reason whatsoever. You know when I used to go there, Bob Gibson would say – and you’ve heard it – “the only thing you know about pitching is it’s hard to hit.” I’ve been in a lot of mound meetings. The question is always the same: `How do you feel?” The World Baseball Classic was ridiculous. Everybody was at those meetings except the outfielders.
TDN: So it wasn’t always like that?
McCarver: Those Cardinal teams in the ’60s, when we played for Red Schoendienst, Red would say, “Go get ’em” and we managed ourselves on the field. We were an intelligent group of guys trained in the Cardinals’ system. Talk is for in the dugout and before the game. The center of the field is for action.
TDN: The commissioner has even talked about limiting the number of pitching changes per inning. He has basically said the late-inning relievers are too good, prevent comebacks, and take offense out of the game and that’s bad for the next generation of fans.
McCarver: You can’t mess with the strategy of the game. You can’t take that away from a manager. A manager should have the right to changes pitchers whenever he wants.
TDN: Manfred never says it quite this way, but a lot of his ideas seem aimed at putting more offense back into baseball and giving hitters more advantages and pitchers less. Like raising the strike zone so pitchers can’t get low strikes. Is he going too far?
McCarver: Somebody has to defend the pitchers. You’ve already taken the inside pitch away from them and now you talk about raising the strike zone … They already penalized pitchers back in 1968 when they lowered the mound (when Gibson had a 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain won 31 games for Detroit). Hitters have to find more routes to be successful.
TDN: What are some of your general thoughts about this year’s Cardinals after they missed the playoffs by a game last year but were far behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central?
McCarver: There’s a lot of we’ll-have-to-wait-and-see. Kolten Wong. Randal Grichuk. The starting pitching. And starting pitching’s at the core of every winning team. The defense needs to be shored up.
TDN: Let’s talk about Wong; he said in spring training if he wasn’t the everyday second baseman he wanted a trade. That didn’t go over too well.
McCarver: That was frustration talking. But I’ve said for three years Wong holds the bat too low, too many things he has to do with his hands to catch up with a 95 mph fastball.
TDN: The team has expressed confidence in closer Seung Hwan Oh and he had a 1.92 ERA with 19 saves once he got the closer’s job. You think he’s a legit closer for a whole season?
McCarver: Against left-handed hitters he could have a problem. He doesn’t have a pitch for them. He’s tough on right-handed hitters and he’s got guts. But left-handed hitters read him very well.
TDN: You’ve received a lot of awards in your life. You’re also on the Cardinals Hall of Fame ballot. What’s this Distinguished Citizen Award mean to you?
McCarver: It means a lot and it’s different when you get honored where you grew up. I’m very proud of those teams we had at The Brothers in the late 1950s.
TDN: You seem to enjoy being back with the Cardinals, following one team instead of sort of having to try and cover them all doing national broadcasts.
McCarver: In essence, I’ve come full-circle. I signed with the Cardinals in 1959. Now I’m back with them and I’m not going back to the network and I’m not going to another team. This is it for me. As long as they’ll have me and I enjoy it, I’ll do it.
TDN: Your health good?
McCarver: Age has not caught up with me other than my (left) hand bothers me, hurts sometimes. That’s because of Gibson.