McCarver, a great voice for baseball, will be missed
Ford C. Frick Award winner announces '13 to be his last year on FOX
The warning was spoken first, from what I've read and been told, by Bette Davis. And the late Stan Musial, the Man of the Midwest, often repeated it as if we needed convincing. "Gettin' old ain't for sissies," they said.
Ms. Davis and Stash undoubtedly were speaking of the erosion of physical ability, mental capacity and general health. And as my 65th birthday approaches, I am fully aware that climbing a ladder, gathering branches after a hurricane and even recalling which league won the All-Star Game last year are not done so readily as they were when the first digit of my age was a 4. I squint and cup my hand behind my ear more than ever. And dealing with 64-year-old teeth is too often a painful challenge.
All that stuff stinks. But I could better tolerate such erosion if it didn't coincide with the continuing loss of my heroes and personal icons. Time has taken Mickey, Cronkite, Carson, DeBusschere, Orbison and the great Bob Sheppard; Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and the Great One, Mr. Gleason; Ray Charles, Johnny Maestro and Vada Pinson. And Lou Grant, Andy Sipowicz and Big Dan Ingram have retired. There isn't enough Willis Reed and Elgin Baylor to suit me. And now McCarver says he's got one more season in him before he yanks his earpiece for the last time.
In my 5 1/2 decades of obsessive baseball monitoring, I've reached these conclusions about the guys in the booth -- Vin Scully is the most entertaining/knowledgeable color or play-by-play man, and Tim McCarver is No. 2, not far behind. These are not unpopular views.
Scully is the master of anecdote. And what a delivery! You sense that he has watched the game since its inception and can speak with authority about anyone who has played.
McCarver knows and shares more about how the game is played and should be played, as if he tutored McGraw, Mack, La Russa, Mauch, Torre, Cox, Herzog, Stengel, Sparky and Earl. His Memphisonian delivery is so comfortable they may want to mandate a Tennessee upbringing for all future guys behind the mikes. And McCarver's sense of controlled outrage -- when players make foolish decisions -- is genuine, unfiltered and appropriate. I almost root for mistakes when he's working a game. I never tire of his simple sigh of exasperation: "Oh boy!"
And there is this more meaningful salute from the son of Ford C. Frick Award winner Jack Buck: "For a kid who got into this business because of his father, and for somebody who needed everything he could get out of his partner at a young age, he's every bit as important to me as my dad," Joe Buck said Wednesday. "I love him like a brother, and I'm lucky to have been with him. I've learned more from him than anybody I've ever been around in this business, including my father."
But now in the same year Mariano Rivera is preparing to wrap it up, Timmy is too. And how many more times can we count on Scully saying "One more year"? The game will be diminished by the absence of any one of the three. Three of them leaving at one time is likely to cause a baseball sinkhole.
I've never heard enough Scully, though these days, the network folks routinely provide priceless snippets of his genius. McCarver's years working Mets and Yankees games were treasures I was pleased to experience. He was funny, knowledgeable, objective, insightful and passionate, traits that he has brought to his network telecasts and his own syndicated show. Timmy has taken his share of measured swings at the strategies implemented by the men in the dugout. But that's how he sees his job. And so often he is proven prescient. Whoever called him an accomplished first guesser had it right.
After the 2013 season, who's going to tell us when the left fielder is too shallow or why the pending matchup is dangerous for the team in the field? (McCarver said the Roger McDowell-Kirk Gibson confrontation in Game 4 of the 1988 National League Championship Series favored the Dodgers -- low-ball hitter against a low-ball pitcher -- seconds before Gibson's swing beat the Mets.)
Even when he was just funnin' in the booth with Ralph Kiner, he was kind of clairvoyant. McCarver once harped on the positioning of the Giants' middle infielders Robby Thompson and Jose Uribe in a game at Shea Stadium, questioning why they were so far apart. The decisive and final play of the game was a popup behind second that fell uncaught because the two had run into each other.
McCarver loves the quirks of the game and notices more of them than the next guy. Folks criticize him for talking too much. But what he says is about 50 percent of what he knows about the subject. He was a catcher. He had to be aware. And he just wanted the rest of us to be aware too.
If his final public words come in the last game of the next World Series, may they come in the 14th inning of the seventh game after a much-analyzed play has decided the eventual outcome. I always want as much as I can get from him.