Tim McCarver doesn't like to discuss broadcasting farewell tour

Baseball announcer Tim McCarver poses in the press

Baseball announcer Tim McCarver poses in the press box before the start of an American League Division Series game. (Credit: AP, 2003)

Neil Best

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Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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Tim McCarver's friends at Fox are well trained never to utter the r-word, respectful of his insistence that while he is leaving the announcing booth after this season he has too many other interests to consider himself "retired."

But that does not mean McCarver is oblivious to the milestones ahead over the next four months, beginning Tuesday with his record 22nd and final All-Star Game as a TV analyst.

"I don't ever like to include myself as the story; and this is no exception," he said about his reluctance to discuss his farewell tour in detail. It's complicated, though.

"Obviously, there are feelings, some deep feelings, about what I've been doing for the last 55 years. Who wouldn't have those? But to say this is paramount going into the game is just not true. On the other hand, I'd be lying if I said it was just like any other All-Star Game, because it's not."

McCarver's history with the Midsummer Classic began years before he turned to broadcasting, of two memorable appearances as a player. Just as he will work his final All-Star Game in the city most associated with his announcing career, he worked his first in the city most associated with his playing career.

That was in St. Louis in 1966, when he replaced Joe Torre at catcher after seven innings on a 105-degree day.

"Joe had taken 12 salt tablets," McCarver said, referring to a common hot-weather practice at the time. "I'd never heard of that before. If guys took four that was a lot . . . That was the hottest day I ever spent in a very hot town."

It ended well for McCarver. In the bottom of the 10th he singled off Pete Richert, was sacrificed to second by Ron Hunt and scored on a single by Maury Wills, giving the National League a 2-1 victory. McCarver has a picture of the likes of Walter Alston, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays and Gaylord Perry coming out to greet him, a celebration that capped a day that was a "big thrill" from the start.

He recalled the starting outfield for the NL batted 1-2-3 in the order: Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron. Sandy Koufax started on the mound.

The 1967 game in Anaheim proved equally memorable for McCarver, whose career All-Star batting average is 1.000 -- 3-for-3. After Tony Perez gave the NL a 2-1 lead in the top of the 15th, rookie Tom Seaver came in for the save -- the one and only inning McCarver ever caught Seaver.

"He was throwing bullets," McCarver said. "Walking off the field, my hand was swollen and it hurt for about 21/2 weeks after that."

(Seaver told the Daily News this week he considered that 15th inning "the turning point of my career. As I looked down at that rubber I said to myself, 'I can do this!' It was right then, right there, in front of 46,000 people, including my friends and family, I knew I belonged in the big leagues.")

McCarver said his most memorable All-Star moments as an announcer include Barack Obama tossing a ceremonial first pitch in St. Louis while wearing a White Sox jacket in 2009, Nate McLouth's throw to Russell Martin in the 11th inning at Yankee Stadium in 2008 that stopped what would have been the winning run, and the 2002 game in Milwaukee that ended in a 7-7 tie.

In Baltimore in 1993, Ted Williams joined McCarver and Sean McDonough in the booth -- only after Williams had confronted him in their hotel with a long, loud lecture about hitting, disputing something McCarver had said on the air.

"It was a sobering moment," he said, laughing. "I had to just stand there and take it."

For all his memories of long-ago Julys, the 71-year-old McCarver does not fall into the trap of an aging baseball man pining for the old days. He rejected the notion stars shone brighter in past decades.

"I think the game has a way of continuing to regenerate talent and is just as memorable now as it was back in the '60s," he said. "I don't necessarily agree that today's game does not have the same star power."

McCarver said he tries to recall a piece of advice John Madden often shared with colleagues: Stay contemporary.

"It's foolish to say that the game keeps you perpetually young because I'm not perpetually young," he said. "But the game has a way of keeping you younger than you would feel if you were in some other business, I think."

McCarver cited a long talk about strategy he had with the Angels' Mike Trout in Anaheim early this season. The tone was far calmer than Williams' in '93, but the insights were just as impressive.

"That conversation gives you faith in the youth coming into the game and in the process kind of keeps you young," he said. "I left the conversation with my chest out, thinking, man, I wish I could have recorded that. I was so proud of that conversation and just proud to have been involved with it."

Come October, McCarver will work his record 24th World Series, then move on. To what, exactly?

"I don't know what it is yet, but I'll be doing something next year," he said.

“But the major things I will not be doing are the All-Star Game, playoffs and World Series. That’s a big chunk out of my schedule; it needed to be done, because I’m ready. I had no need for anybody to tell me or anything like that. I made the decision, was thinking about it for a couple of years, and that’s it.’’

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