Remembering Tim McCarver

Legendary broadcaster and former All-Star catcher Tim McCarver passed away yesterday at the age of 81. McCarver had a long and distinguished 21-year career as a catcher for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although he was considered a light hitter throughout his career my most searing memory of McCarver occurred in the 1964 World Series when his Cardinals faced off against my Yankees. McCarver was in only his second season as a starter, and among the talented batting order of the NL Champion Cardinals, which included Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, Bill White and of course Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson, outside of the St. Louis area McCarver was a virtual unknown.

With the Series tied at two games apiece, game five was a real nail-biter. After listening to the game on my trusty transistor radio in school, at the bell I like most of my friends, raced home on our bikes to watch the rest of the game. Tied 2-2 after nine innings, the game entered the tenth with Pete Mikkelsen on the mound for New York. Mikkelsen was the Yanks’ top reliever that year and manager Yogi Berra’s favorite. But to me and my brothers, who joined me watching the game, the erratic righty was nothing but agita.

Sure enough, it took Mikkelsen no time to pitch himself into a jam. With Bill White and Dick Groat on base McCarver came to the plate. A left-handed hitter, he had a unique and somewhat weird batting stance, holding his bat close to his body and just behind his left ear.  With virtually no power (he hit only 99 home runs in his two-decade career) McCarver was not considered a threat. But it didn’t take him long to blast a fat Mikkelsen pitch deep into the lower rightfield stands giving the Cards a 5-2 victory. My brothers and I looked at each other in disbelief—thinking who is this guy?

St. Louis would go on to win the Series in seven games with McCarver hitting at scintillating .478. He appeared in two more World Series with the Cards, winning against the Red Sox in 1967 and losing the next year to the Tigers.

McCarver is probably best known for his career as a broadcaster. He and Joe Buck were the voice of the World Series for 24 years and he was elected to the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. But I will never forget that October afternoon so many years ago when that plucky, little known Cardinal catcher ruined my day.

Many thanks to

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