Tim McCarver has a knack for seeing what’s coming. Like a champion chess player, his knowledge of the game he loved is so comprehensive that he typically can see four, five moves ahead of anyone else in the ballpark.
Nowhere was this more evident than in one of the most dramatic games in modern baseball history: Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, Arizona Diamondbacks great Luis Gonzalez batted with one out and the bases loaded against legendary closer Mariano Rivera. The Yankees pulled the infield in, prompting a comment from McCarver.
“One problem is,” he said just prior to a 2-2 pitch, “Rivera throws inside to lefthanders. 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.”
You know what comes next — and, if you don’t, you can probably guess. Gonzalez smacked a broken-bat floater over the head of Derek Jeter (right to where he likely would have been standing) that dropped in for the Series-winning hit. For an on-air analyst, it was the equivalent of Babe Ruth’s calling his shot.
“Tim’s understanding of the game was so brilliant that he could tell you what was going to happen before it happened,” says David Hill, former president of Fox Sports and 2014 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer. “I’ve seen it happen so many times and heard it happen so many times that it’s not a fluke, it’s not luck. It’s the fact that he is more prepared calling a game of baseball than virtually anyone else.”
McCarver is one of the most accomplished baseball broadcasters of all time. He has called 24 World Series, enjoyed a stretch of 29 consecutive MLB Postseasons, and is the only baseball analyst in history to work for all four major television networks. Over the course of his 34-year career, he developed a reputation as a sort-of professor of the game, taking every opportunity to teach the audience about the finer points of baseball.
“When he got out of the game as a player and went right into the broadcast booth, I think it was his desire to educate and kind of take you inside the game,” said Joe Buck, McCarver’s Fox Sports broadcast partner with whom he called a record 16 World Series and 15 MLB All-Star Games from 1996 to 2014. “He’s an educator, and that includes the game of baseball and him sitting behind a microphone or with a headset on. He took that very seriously. He thought about it nonstop. I’d get messages during the week about what he’s thinking about for that weekend’s game. It was his life.”
Following a successful playing career — which included two All-Star appearances and two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s — McCarver made the swift transition to the broadcast booth following his final season playing with the Philadelphia Phillies. He began broadcasting with WPHL-TV Philadelphia, calling Phillies games alongside Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas, and quickly made an impact on the national scene, co-hosting a series on HBO and serving as a backup commentator on the Game of the Week for NBC in 1980.
McCarver got his first break when he was called in to the 1985 World Series as a last-minute replacement after Howard Cosell was dropped from the lineup following controversy surrounding a book he had written. His spot in the broadcast booth at the Fall Classic was one that he wouldn’t relinquish until his retirement from national broadcasting in 2014.
In 1996, McCarver moved to Fox Sports after the network shocked the baseball world by picking up rights to MLB Postseason, which included rotation into the World Series. He was teamed with Joe Buck, son of one of his former broadcast partners, Jack Buck, and with producer Pete Macheska and director Bill Webb.
“Working with Timmy over the years has just been phenomenal,” says Webb, the legendary baseball director and fellow 2016 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer inductee, who sat on the front bench of many of the biggest games that McCarver called for Fox Sports. “We have a feel [for one another] where we don’t even have to say anything. It came down to a situation where I would just click the IFB and I wouldn’t even have to talk to him. I’d just go ‘click, click,’ and he would know a replay is coming. He is as great an announcer as I’ve ever worked with.”
McCarver was so skilled that he broke through the barriers imposed by being a “baseball announcer” and co-hosted coverage of the 1992 Winter Olympics for CBS Sports. He has won three Emmy Awards and, in July 2012, was elected to the broadcaster’s wing in the Baseball Hall of Fame.