Bill's Blog


In 1960 when I was just 8 years old, my father took me to St. Louis where I saw my first major league baseball game.  We saw the St. Louis Cardinals play the Milwaukee Braves in old Sportsman’s Park.  On that memorable day, I saw both Stan the Man Musial and Henry Aaron play ball.  And I became a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.

There was a rookie on the 1960s Cardinal team who became my all-time favorite Cardinal.  His name was Tim McCarver.  He became my favorite player not just because he was a great catcher, but also because he was from Memphis, my hometown.  I was playing Little League ball at the time, and as I followed Tim’s emerging baseball career, I dreamed that I too could someday become a Cardinal.

In 1964 the Cardinals played the New York Yankees in the World Series.  In those days, the Series had no night games.  Every game in the October classic was played in the daytime, often when I was in school.  To follow the games, I would sneak my transistor radio to school, sit in the back of the classroom with the earphones inserted, and listen to the radio broadcast.  When the school bell rang at 3:00 indicating that school was out for the day, I would race back to my house, just two blocks from the school, and turn on the television in our living room in an effort to catch the last couple of innings or so on our black and white Sylvania TV set.  I sometimes had to adjust the rabbit ears on the top of the set to get clearer reception.

And that’s how I saw the end of Game Five of the 1964 World Series.  The game was tied 2-2 and went into extra innings.  In the 10th inning my hero, Tim McCarver came to bat.  He hit a 3-run homer to win the game for the Cardinals.  I remember standing in my living room in front of the TV, jumping up and down, and screaming at the top of my lungs for Tim McCarver.

For years thereafter, I spent summer nights hearing Harry Carey describe Tim’s phenomenal play for the Cardinals both at the plate and behind it.  I watched Tim on TV in the 1967 World Series as he caught strike after strike after strike delivered by the great Bob Gibson. 

And I followed Tim in 1968 when he led the Cardinals to their 3rd National League pennant in five years.

I was devastated when the Cardinals traded Tim to the Phillies in 1969.  Although I remained a Cardinal fan, I cheered for Tim as a Philly even though he was catching pitches from Steve Carlton rather than Bob Gibson. 

When Tim's playing days ended, I followed him as a broadcaster.  Year after year after year I watched Tim as he broadcast the World Series 23 times, doing color commentary with Jack Buck and then Jack’s son, Joe doing the play-by-play.  Tim was the best color commentator in baseball broadcasting history and deserved his spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame as a broadcaster. 

And then a few years ago a wonderful thing happened.  I got to meet my hero, Tim McCarver.  He was introduced to me by my friend Joe Duncan who was Tim’s lawyer and best friend.  Thanks to Joe, I developed my own friendship with Tim.  I enjoyed having dinner with Tim when he was back home in Memphis, and even visited him at his home in Sarasota, Florida. 

On a memorable Spring day in 2019, I sat with Tim at a Cardinals Spring Training game in Jupiter, Florida.  As we watched the game, he regaled me with stories.  He told me that when he was growing up in Memphis his first love was football not baseball.  He was such a phenomenal football player at Christian Brothers High School that he received scholarship offers from Notre Dame and the University of Tennessee.  But the St. Louis Cardinals offered him a chance to play baseball with a signing bonus of $75,000.  Tim told me, “I had to forget football and pursue major league baseball as that signing bonus was more money than my father had made in his entire life.”

Tim told me stories about the great Bob Gibson, and how he would not let Tim have any conferences with him at the pitcher’s mound during games as catchers often do to discuss signs or how to pitch to a particular batter.  “Bob told me,” he recalls, “don’t talk to me about my pitching.  The only thing you know about my pitching is that you can’t hit it!”

But the best story he shared with me was about a game in which he was a broadcaster rather than a player.  It was the 6th game of the 2011 World Series between the Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.  As he did for so many years, Tim was in the broadcast booth providing the color commentary while Joe Buck did the play-by-play. 

The Rangers led the Series 3 games to 2, and were within one game, and at one time, one out of defeating the Cardinals for the World Championship.  The game was tied in the bottom of the 11th inning when David Freese came to the plate.  He blasted a game-winning homer.  Tim recalled that when the ball sailed over the centerfield wall, Joe said, “We will see you tomorrow night.” 

“It was the perfect line,” said Tim, “not just because there was going to be a Game 7, but also because it was a tribute to Joe’s father, Jack Buck.”  Tim explained that in the 6th game of the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves, Joe’s father was broadcasting the game when Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off homerun to win the game and send that Series to a Game 7.  When Puckett hit that homer, Jack Buck said, “We will see you tomorrow night.”

Joe Buck always remembered his father saying that, and he thought it was the best broadcasting line he ever uttered.  He hoped to someday use that line himself, and he got to do so when David Freese hit his epic homer 20 years after Joe’s father told baseball fans that they would see each other the next night for Game 7.

I then shared with Tim my all-time favorite World Series moment.  I told him about how I raced from school during Game 5 of the 1964 Series in time to watch him hit the 3-run homer in the 10th inning to beat the Yankees.  “It was one of the best moments of my life,” I told Tim.

Tim responded, “What a coincidence!  It was one of the best moments of my life, too!”

Tim passed away yesterday at the age of 81. 

I will be thinking about Tim next Saturday when I am sitting in Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter watching the Cardinals play their first spring training game.  I will remember his homerun in the 1964 series and the incredible fact that thanks to my friend, Joe Duncan, I actually met and became a friend of Tim myself.

Rest in peace, Tim.  Thank you for being my hero and my friend.

Posted by Bill Haltom at 14:35