Tim McCarver isn’t always as cranky as he seemed on the phone on Monday. But he clearly didn’t want to talk about himself, even though Fox invited journalists to a conference call by pointing out that this would be McCarver’s 24th time in the broadcast booth for a World Series.
“I’m going to respectfully ask if I could keep things short along those lines,” McCarver said. “I don’t mind answering a couple of questions, but I think the emphasis should be on the series and on the players involved.”
That’s a great attitude, given that so many sportscasters are under the mistaken impression that telecasts are about them, not about the teams and the players.
But, whether he likes it or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that McCarver is a TV baseball institution.
Baseball is a numbers game, and McCarver’s numbers are amazing. He’s been a part of major league baseball for 55 years — 21 years as a player and 34 years as a broadcaster. He’s worked for all four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — and he’s been in the broadcast booth for the playoffs for 29 consecutive seasons.
“I’m obviously elated that I’ve lasted this long,” said the 72-year-old sportscaster. “I’m tickled to death to be doing this last series.”
There’s nothing official, but it seems unlikely McCarver is altogether done broadcasting baseball. He’s retiring from Fox, but he’s leaving his options open. Next season, he may be working part-time for another network. Or a team.
He’s a polarizing figure in baseball sportscasting — lauded by some, vilified by others. I have fond memories of listening to him work Mets games (1983-98) — memories no doubt influenced by the fact that my baseball-obsessed mother is a fan. And there have been times when I’ve been tempted to scream at my TV to tell McCarver to stop repeating himself and analyzing things to death.
But while 2013 has been somewhat of a victory lap for him — Fox announced his retirement from the network back in March — he hasn’t been sentimental about it. Maybe because he’s not altogether retiring; maybe because he genuinely doesn’t want to make himself the center of attention as the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals get set for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
McCarver even tried to make his exit from Fox about his partner, who isn’t going anywhere.
“I’ve made it perfectly clear that the person I’m going to miss most after things have subsided is Joe Buck,” he said. “We’ve been together for 18 years. He’s one of my best friends. And I’ve got to tell you, he is the best in the business.”
In the social-media age in which we live, Buck’s talents are also much debated. But you’ve got to give McCarver credit for passing up an opportunity to talk about himself.
As to who will be sitting next to Buck in the Fox broadcast booth next season, nobody at Fox was giving any clues. The timetable to name McCarver’s successor?
“Well, probably before next season,” said Fox Sports president and executive producer Eric Shanks. “Clearly, we want to take the time after this matchup is finished and … come up with a game plan for next season.”
Whoever it is, it’s almost inconceivable he/she will be there for 24 World Series.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.