As pitchers and catchers report to spring training, I have a startling baseball-related confession to make: I’m going to miss recently-retired broadcaster Tim McCarver. (Pause to duck while people throw things at my head.)
Listening to McCarver’s color commentary — like not always changing the radio station when I hear an REO Speedwagon song or occasionally drinking a lemon drop martini that’s been delivered by mistake — is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I realize that puts me in the minority, but I’m okay with that. Think the “popular” opinion is always the right one? Check out the approval ratings of the last two democratically-elected U.S. presidents.
And I understand that for years, critics have been hammering McCarver for his tendency to state the obvious — often in a verbose manner. (“You know, if you pour a glass of water onto your hand, there’s a pretty good chance that that hand, the one you poured water onto, is going to become wet. Because of the fact that water has been poured onto it.”)
Those critics aren’t wrong. But for me, McCarver’s allure has never been about the depth or brevity of his analysis. It’s always been his voice. McCarver’s folksy drawl has always sounded like baseball to me.
Not just baseball — baseball from an altogether different era. An era of baggy, wool uniforms and the non-steroid-using players who wore them. An era of All-Star games whose participants played hard simply because bragging rights were at stake. An era of high leg kicks and pitching that was so damn good that they had to lower the mound.
There’s a reason, of course, that McCarver’s voice sounds like all of those things. He played in the big leagues from 1959-80 , making two All Star teams and serving as a personal catcher for Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, two of the more dominating pitchers of their overlapping eras. Playing on six playoff teams (including two World Series champions) gave McCarver the authority to comment on postseason baseball.
Still, it was probably time for him to go. The longer a sports announcer stays in the business, the more likely he is to turn into a caricature of himself. Harry Caray and John Madden both had long, successful careers, but each one eventually became more shtick than substance. I’m not sure that was the case with McCarver, but by the end, he seemed to have far more detractors than supporters.
So, yes, I realize why it was time for Tim McCarver to retire.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.