Results tagged ‘ Ford C. Frick ’
“I am always ready to learn, though I do not always enjoying being taught,” Churchill said. Hoping to learn, a big-league junkie can despair of being taught. “Baseball fans best know their game,” Jack Buck felt. “Because of that, you can’t teach ‘em much that’s new.”
On Sunday, July 22, one of baseball’s grand teachers will be enshrined at Cooperstown: Fox Television analyst Tim McCarver, the 36th man to receive the Ford C. Frick award for broadcast excellence — in effect, the Hall of Fame’s radio/TV wing. Hearing his induction speech, the audience will learn.
“In football, you have to explain 18 pass routes!” announceer Harry Caray boomed. “Baseball’s in the open. Who cares about whether the pitch is a knuckler or curve? Forget statistics. Boring! Tell stories!” Most analysts miss because they misread the game.
By contrast, McCarver can explain the Uncle Charlie — also why Omaha Beach was gorier than Gold. The 1959-80 catcher is said to talk a lot. Smoking a cigar, turning notes in a loose-leaf pad, or citing Lady MacBeth’s “What’s done cannot be undone,” he has a lot to say.
Shakespeare’s quote, says Tim, applies to baseball. “You prepare, you relax, they you let ‘er rip.” Teach, and learn.
A “FINAL LOVE” PREVAILS
McCarver was born ten days after the 1941 World Series. “A great event,” said the son of a police officer, “but the real pressure is the playoffs. Lose it, and you’re forgotten by Thanksgiving.” He could not forget how fastballs and sliders left the left thumb torn and twisted, “On cold days it hurts — a USS Arizona memorial to the craft. Baseball did to me physically, and for me cerebrally.”
Football was Tim’s first love at Memphis’s Christian Brothers High School. Baseball became “my final love” after his 1959 signing. The Cardinals owned the mid-South, including McCarver’s Shelby County, Tennessee. “I’d hear Harry Caray say certain names: Rip Repulski. Jocko Jablonski. Marvelous.” Gradually, he marveled at how “baseball was central to my life.”
In 1963, St. Louis named Tim, 21, catcher. Next year, the Fall Classic began there. In New York, Mickey Mantle won Game Three. A day later the Yankees led, 3-0, till Ken Boyer’s slam. “Ken neared third as brother Clete got in the baseline, making him run behind him as Kenny whacked him on the ass.” Blood was even thicker than a winning Series share.
McCarver’s tenth-inning whippet carved a Game Five victory. “Those three games in New York are as good as baseball gets.” It got better in Game Seven: St. Louis’s first title since 1946. Tim hit a Classic-high .478. Two years later his 13 triples led the league. ‘Sixty-seven soldered 14 homers, 69 RBI, and career-high .295.
Orlando Cepeda — Cha-Cha — named his team “El Birdos.” Once they boarded the bus. “Everybody on? We’re ready,” manager Red Schoendienst said. “No!” shouted Bob Gibson, pitching. “[1967 N.L. MVP] Cepeda isn’t on, and we’re not leaving until he gets here.”
Thrice Gibbie beat Boston to take the Series. In 1968, he lost Game Seven: McCarver made the final out. Otherwise, Bob beat the world.
FROM ONE CRAFT TO ANOTHER
Tim had met Gibson in spring 1960. “Bob was black, I was from the South, segregation ruled, and it was a terribly hot day.” McCarver gave Gibbie a sip of orange drink, later terming him “the luckiest pitcher I knew. He pitches when the other team gets shut out.” In Gibson’s 34 games, 1968 Nationals scored 49 runs.
Bob worked like an eggtimer, mocking Tim’s plea to slow down. “Go back behind the plate! Only thing you know about pitching is that it’s hard to hit!” The mound became a sanctuary. “What can you teach me?” Gibson bullied pitching coach Barney Schultz. “You were a knuckleballer. I throw fastballs!” Ultimately, McCarver and another pitcher were traded to Philadelphia. They would anchor the same cemetery, he laughed, sixty feet and six inches apart.
“Before a game, Steve’d be in a trance-like state,” Tim said of Carlton. Once he apologized for knocking Lefty’s motion. “That’s okay,” Steve shrugged. “I didn’t pay attention, anyway.” The 1972 Cy Younger led the N.L. in complete games, Ks, innings, ERA, and victories — 27 of Philly’s 59! “Greatest season I ever saw,” said McCarver, peddled that June. In 1975, the sphinx regained his guru. “I spent the next few years catching Steve, pinch-hitting,” and becoming one of seven modern four-decade players.
Spring 1980: the new Phils announcer cuts the cord. “When you retire, you’re an outsider, not player. Broadcast like one,” Tim said. Mike Schmidt got a double after prematurely strutting his home-run trot. Next day McCarver bearded him in the clubhouse. “I hear you ripped me for not hustling,” Mike snapped. Tim asked if he was.
“No,” said Schmidt.
“Did I tell the truth?” said McCarver.
“Yes,” Mike confessed.
By 1983, Tim had hustled to Flushing Meadows.
MCCARVER TAKES THE BIG APPLE
In baseball, like real estate, location matters. McCarver “has received much praise for his work as a broadcaster for the [then-WOR and Sports-Channel] Mets,” The Sporting News soon noted. “This is much better than being lauded in Kansas City or Houston because the networks are in New York, and so are their decision-makers.”
Tim analyzed several 1980 NBC Game[s] of the Week. By 1984, he aired the syndicated Greats of the Game and ABC’s All-Star Game and League Championship Series. A year later McCarver did the Series. John Tudor was “a surgeon. The only difference is that when he takes the heart out of the team, he doesn’t replace it.” Mused Sports Illustrated: “Nobody explicates the game with as much patience and … good humor.”
In Chicago, spotting a rooftop wedding, Tim began a game-long divertissement.
“If the game gets rained out, does the wedding count?” he said.
Said Mets colleague Ralph Kiner: “Only if it goes five innings.”
One inning, Tim praised Stan Musial. Another Missourian, Harry Truman, “threw pitches left- and right-handed.” The Broadway junkie referenced Stephen Sondheim’s The Little Things You Do Together. Tonight, he said, “It was the little things the Mets did together.” How could Tim know so much? Curiosity: “the first, not second, guess.”
Dub baseball a narcotic. “You ask, ‘When do I walk away? Do I?” He couldn’t, vacationing at year’s end. “Otherwise I spend too much time thinking about the game.”
The kicker was the end: McCarver’s got later every year.
ABC VIA FOX TO COOPERSTOWN
Tim called 1986′s N.L. L.C.S. Game Six: “The most tiring thing [Mets vs. Astros] I have been part of as a spectator or player.” 1987: hosted HBO’s Greatest Sports Upsets and an ABC children’s show. 1989: toppled to the TV booth floor on the Earthquake World Series. 1990: joined CBS’s Jack Buck. “The network has exclusivity,” said Broadcasting Magazine. “Much rides on them.” Buck rode out to pasture in 1991. Next fall, Deion Sanders doused McCarver with three buckets of ice water for scoring football “moonlighting.” Nothing changed “the great impression,” wrote USA Today, “that the network doesn’t care [about baseball].”
McCarver did, musing, “You take what they give you.” A viewer took Tim’s insight straight. Many players have “invisible injuries. They’re ducking responsibility.” Bobby Valentine had Mel Rojas face Paul O’Neill. “A mistake,” said McCarver. O’Neill went deep. Behind, 4-3, a Reds runner clung to third on a fly. “This game should be tied, and it’s not.” Tim tied MSG’s The Tim McCarver Show, four books including Oh, Baby, I Love It!, and revived the 1996- Game of the Week. Increasingly, the term analyst brought Fox’s new color man to mind.
In 1999, the Mets axed his $500,000 salary for Tom Seaver: “a decision so small,” wrote Mike Lupica, “it could fit inside a batting glove.” His fit pleased the Yanks. “Tim’s been critical of me,” said George Steinbrenner, “but that makes no difference.” In 2000, New York’s twin tiaras staged the first Subway Series since 1956. Roger Clemens threw a bat barrel at Mike Piazza. Instantly, McCarver recalled Atlanta, 1962. “I was in Triple-A; slammed my bat, and it bounced up into the lap of a 13-year-old.” The father said, kindly and simply, “We understand.”
Tim won his first Emmy as top sports analyst. Stripes coverage then turned to cable. Leaving, he spliced the new (Giants TV) and old (currently, record 29th straight network post-season). Don’t know much about history? Barry Bonds’s bases-full intentional walk evoked Leo Durocher passing Willie McCovey. “Baseball was shocked. But everybody does that with Bonds.” Don’t know much biology? Triples fell due to “guys not running hard out of the box.” How’s this for humanity? Manny Ramirez was “despicable”: less mercurical than psychotic — a most enlightened view.
“The most credible man in baseball broadcasting,” said columnist Tim Kawakami. Not all agreed. A San Francisco Chronicle poll overwhelmingly named him TV’s “most annoying sportscaster.” One e-mailer wrote: “The biggest braying blowhard in baseball blathers on. The baboon is just such a stultifying simpleton, so mindnumbingly awful, so wretchedly moronic, so incredibly incompetent, such a complete and utter abomination in the eyes of man and God.”
Dead-pan, Tim paused: “Guess he’s not a fan.”
McCarver left the Jints exclusively for Fox in December 2002. “I’m not here to please people,” he said. “I’m here to report and have a good time doing it.” Next year, passing Curt Gowdy, he set two World Series TV records: 78th Classic game (topping the Cowboy’s 77) and 13th Series (2012 will mark TIm’s 22nd). On occasion, even an old-guarder sees a gosh, I’ve never seen that play. We hear it from McCarver.
A plaque will hail Cooperstown’s newest broadcast honoree. In part, it should read: “Teach, and learn.”