“It’s a five-letter word: S-T-R-I-K-E.”
With that statement, Tim McCarver set off a cascade of sarcastic tweets from Twitter users who love to revel in the mistakes of others. One tweeter wrote, “I have a six-letter word for you: R-E-T-I-R-E.” Baseball fans love to bash Tim McCarver.
In his long career, he has been critical of players, teams, organizations, and fans, so of course, he’s going to take his share of criticism in return. Some of it is legitimate.
However, he took excessive criticism for two things he said during Game 1 of the World Series last night. First, his above math error. He appeared on the Dan Patrick show this morning, and Patrick actually opened his interview with a question (Granted, it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek) about how many letters are in the word “strike.” McCarver joked about it, saying that’s why he’s bad at Scrabble. McCarver is 70 years old. He’s still sharp, energetic, and, for the most part, still on his game. So he can be forgiven for saying a word has fewer letters than it actually does.
The second most-criticized McCarver comment of the night was when he explained what pitching around a hitter means. Talking about the basics of a sport during a game in which new viewers are expected to watch is nothing new. And it’s not the fault of the announcer – every producer tells their announcers to make the game more accessible to those who may be watching the sport for the first time. For instance, during every NHL postseason, we are treated to another explanation of what offside and icing mean. During the Super Bowl, we learn – again – that a receiver has to have two feet in bounds in order for the catch to be complete.
McCarver did what he was told to do, not just this year, but throughout his 30-year broadcasting career. It’s been ingrained in him that this is a good practice in the field of broadcasting.
When McCarver began working for the Mets in 1983, he was a breath of fresh air. He explained hitting, pitching, and fielding techniques in an understandable way. He was able to explain the game from the perspective of a recently retired ballplayer. He had the guts to criticize the team he worked for, sometimes upsetting the players (i.e. Darryl Strawberry). He also had great chemistry with Ralph Kiner. He showed proper respect to Ralph, and valued his opinion.
As his career has gone on, McCarver has rubbed everyone the wrong way at one time or another, and maybe his style has gone stale. But he’s always been honest about his opinion. And when his career is over, he will not simply be remembered as Steve Carlton’s caddy (as one tweeter suggested), but as a hall-of-fame baseball announcer.