MEETING MY HERO, TIM McCARVER
On an October afternoon in 1964, I sat impatiently in the back of Mrs. Evans’ 7th grade history class at Frayser Junior High School. I had the small plastic earpiece of my Japanese transistor radio in my right ear so I could listen to the 5th game of the World Series between the evil New York Yankees and my beloved St. Louis Cardinals.
I slumped in my chair in the hopes that Mrs. Evans would not notice that I was listening to baseball rather than hear her talk about the founding fathers.
As I listened to the radio broadcast in my right ear, I could hardly contain my excitement. The game was tied 2-2 and was about to go into extra innings.
Mercifully, at that point, 3:00 p.m. Central Standard time, the school bell rang indicating that classes were over for the day.
I ran out of the classroom and through the front door of the school and raced toward my home just two blocks away. I ran like Lou Brock that day. It was literally a home run.
When I got home, I immediately dashed into our family living room and turned on our Sylvania T.V., adjusting the rabbit ears on top of the old set to make sure I got a clear black and white picture of the telecast of the extra innings from Yankee Stadium.
And then something absolutely wonderful happened, something I will remember for the rest of my life. My hometown hero, Tim McCarver of Memphis, Tennessee came to the plate with Cardinals teammates Bill White on 3rd and Dick Groat on 1st.
Pete Mikkelson was pitching for the Yankees.
Curt Gowdy called the play on NBC television, as my hero Tim McCarver blasted the ball 350 feet over the right centerfield wall as the legendary Mickey Mantle watched helplessly.
I screamed as loud as Harry Carey and ran around the “bases” in my house yelling, “He did it! He did it!” My hero Tim’s three run homer won game 5 in New York, and the Cardinals went on to beat the Yankees in a seven-game series. I will remember the October, 1964 Fall Classic for the rest of my life, and I’ll particularly remember the moment when Tim hit that epic home run.
Over a half-century has passed since that wonderful October day of my childhood. During that time, I have continued to follow the extraordinary career of my hero, Tim, as he played in the 1967 World Series, the 1968 World Series, and for many years thereafter, first with the Cardinals and ultimately with the Philadelphia Phillies.
And then I continued to watch Tim on television when he made the transition from playing the game to broadcasting it. He became a Hall of Fame broadcaster, recognized as the greatest baseball color commentator of all time.
I particularly enjoyed many October nights when Tim and Joe Buck would broadcast the World Series into my den. I enjoyed every moment, and I was particularly thrilled on a memorable night in 2013 when David Freese of the Cardinals hit a game-winning home run in Game 6 of the World Series, and Joe (quoting his late father, Jack) exclaimed, “We’ll see you tomorrow night!”
Yes, I knew that Tim and Joe and I would be together the following night for Game 7.
Last weekend, my hero Tim was in Memphis to accept the Autozone Liberty Bowl Distinguished Citizen Award, and this led to the most memorable night of my long “friendship” with Tim. While I had spent many summer nights and October days with Tim through radio or television, I had never met him. But last Saturday night, my dear friends Joe and Lee Duncan invited Claudia and me to join them for dinner with their long-time, dear friend Tim.
When they introduced me to him, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. As I shook his hand, Tim no doubt noticed that my hands were shaking. I was a 65 year old gushing kid who was thrilled to be meeting his hero.
I thanked Tim for that home run in the 5th inning of the 1964 series. I thanked him for all those wonderful games he caught for the legendary Bob Gibson.
I thanked him and Joe Buck for all the nights they came into my home and shared with me so many October classics.
Tim showed me his 1964 World Series ring and shared with me hilarious stories about his old Cardinals teammate, Bob Uecker.
We all need heroes. And last Saturday night, I got to meet mine.