McCarver returns to the booth — and St. Louis — tonight on FSMW
ST. LOUIS — By late Monday night, everyone should be convinced about the future of Tim McCarver.
He is not retiring.
McCarver, 72, in fact, is scheduled to work more regular-season games in 2014 than in any recent year. He’ll just be calling them for one team, the Cardinals, on a regional network, FOX Sports Midwest, as opposed to weekly on national FOX.
Instead of sharing a booth with St. Louisan Joe Buck, he’ll be teamed with St. Louisan Dan McLaughlin at Busch Stadium. McCarver’s debut on FOX Sports Midwest on Monday night will be one of 30 Cardinals games he is scheduled to work, including three this week.
"There’s really, from an analytical standpoint, nothing different," McCarver says. "It’s still a baseball game. So it’s a few more games than I normally do, it’s still baseball. It’s not that big a deal. Let’s don’t make too much out of this."
Forgive McCarver if he sounds like he’s downplaying his new gig. He’s not. He’s eager for the chance to analyze games for the club that signed him in 1959 as a 17-year-old out of Memphis and for whom he played 12 of his 21 big-league seasons. It’s just that McCarver has spent the past year trying to set the record straight. When he said last March that 2013 would be his last season on FOX, media reports made it sound like he would be retiring.
"I had a conference call last March and I never mentioned the word retirement. I wanted to do some different things," McCarver says. "But the press put their own spin on it. There’s not a lot I could do other than say, ‘I’m not retiring.’ I’ve wanted to make sure that people got it right. Why they didn’t to begin with, I don’t know."
It’s not like the media had any wrong intentions but when someone steps down who has been around as long and is as well known as McCarver, it is news. In the media’s quest to give him a send-off befitting a Hall of Fame announcer, it might have gotten a little carried away. His own network did little to correct the perception when it bid him farewell at the end of the World Series.
Still, one reason McCarver made the announcement was to let other prospective employers know that he would be on the market for other opportunities. After 34 years of full-time announcing, the past 18 with FOX, he wanted to do something different. When he talked with the Cardinals about a part-time gig, it seemed like the ideal situation.
He had a favorable history with the team, having been the catcher on the 1964 and 1967 World Series champion clubs. He made two All-Star teams while with the Cardinals and finished second in the NL MVP voting in 1967. To return 40 years after playing his last game for St. Louis is "like coming full circle," he says.
To see how popular he remains with Cardinals fans, walk with him as he passes by the stands at Roger Dean Stadium in spring training. He received as many well wishes — and requests for autographs — as any player on the team.
While this will be McCarver’s first "local" job since working for the Giants in 2002, don’t expect McCarver to be any different than he was in his national announcing.
"You still strive for the same thing," he says. "You strive to be right and you strive to tell the truth as you see it."
His quest to be correct is in part why he remains perturbed over the misperceptions of his retiring. He has learned many, many times how misperceptions don’t go away easily. As we talked in the Cardinals’ dugout in Jupiter, two fans approached him for a handshake and an autograph. Both also asked him how he was enjoying the retired life.
McCarver could only shake his head. "Read my lips: I am not retiring," he said, laughing.
So don’t be surprised when you see him working Monday night.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.