When it was announced in December that Tim McCarver, seemingly fresh off of the conclusion of a three-and-a-half decade career as a baseball broadcaster, would be working as a color commentator for thirty St. Louis Cardinals games in 2014 on Fox Sports Midwest, I was less than ecstatic. The first World Series I can actively remember watching was in 1998: With the exception of 1999, during which commentary was provided by legendary broadcaster Joe Morgan, Tim McCarver has been a constant presence throughout the most important baseball games of every season of my baseball fandom. And when I heard that Tim McCarver would now be broadcasting games in a capacity which would actually increase my own exposure to him, I felt a bit like Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.
But in a shocking turn of events, Tim McCarver has grown on me.
Now, let me be very clear about something: I am not claiming that Tim McCarver is a great announcer. But after hearing him broadcast on FSM, rather than during significant nationally televised games, it seems as though McCarver has, at 72, found his niche.
A big part of my evolution on McCarver is the context of the games which he is calling. Which is to say he is not being tasked with calling World Series games, during which malapropisms about alleged doubles that are actually triples are aggravating. And fans who criticized McCarver’s verbal flubs in this case were justified—it’s well within reason to expect a higher level of analysis (or in this case, simply accurate analysis) if you are watching a vitally important playoff game. But in the earlier stages of the season, it has been less of a problem. Not that I particularly enjoy the mistakes, but I can live with them, because it means that McCarver’s strengths are able to shine.
Even his most ardent critics can concede one thing about Tim McCarver—he is an overwhelmingly likable person. Even if you detest his broadcasting, it is not as though you have some kind of personal vendetta against him. It takes a man very comfortable in his own skin, a man with some sort of perspective on life, to release an album of standards while in the midst of a high-profile career broadcasting baseball. And as much as we all may love the baseball season, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who did not find it to be at least somewhat interminable.
You cannot, as a fan, treat every game with the passion of a playoff game. You wouldn’t be able to survive. In the NFL, you can pull it off—the worst team in league history lost 16 games. The best team in MLB history under the current schedule format lost 46 games. A little bit of serenity isn’t just preferable—it’s necessary. And Tim McCarver offers a fresh set of anecdotes to sprinkle throughout these dog days of summer. It is an inherent thing working against Rick Horton and Al Hrabosky: All of their best stories have already been told on FSM airwaves over the years. And rather than simply citing an accomplished Major League Baseball career as an open-and-shut case for why you should listen to what he has to say, McCarver is self-deprecating and authentic. He is of the Bob Uecker School of Ex-Jock Broadcasting—which is ironic, since he was actually an accomplished player who put up nearly six wins above replacement for a World Series champion.
The era of uniformly beloved broadcasters is nearly over. There’s Vin Scully and that’s it. Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Curt Gowdy, Harry Caray, and Harry Kalas are all gone. That Tim McCarver is not an immortally great announcer is an excessive grievance. All we can ask is that, for three hours during a long baseball season, a broadcaster allows us to enjoy ourselves. And so far, FSM’s rookie broadcaster has done just fine.