A multisport star at Christian Brothers Academy in Memphis, a segregated school, he was recruited by football powerhouses like Notre Dame, Alabama and Tennessee. But he was also pursued by the Cardinals, the Giants and the Yankees, and he decided to play baseball because it offered him the chance to earn money right away.
He signed with the Cards for $75,000 and was just 17 years old when he began his professional career in the low minor leagues, in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1959. That September he played his first big-league games. He started each of the next two seasons in the minors, appearing briefly with the Cardinals in September. By 1963, however, he was the team’s starting catcher.
McCarver married Anne McDaniel, whom he had met in high school, in 1964. The marriage ended in divorce. They had two daughters, Kelly and Kathy, who survive him, as do two grandchildren. His four siblings died before him.
Over the years, McCarver’s prominence offered him other opportunities. Beyond his game-day appearances, he was host of “The Tim McCarver Show,” a long-running program, first on radio and later on television, in which he interviewed athletes and other sports celebrities. He was a co-anchor, with Paula Zahn, of the 1992 Winter Olympics for CBS.
His books, written with co-authors, consisted largely of tales from the locker room and the diamond and instructions to fans about how to watch a ballgame. He was a fine bridge player who was cited in the bridge column of The New York Times. He appeared in a handful of movies, including “Moneyball,” “Fever Pitch” and “The Naked Gun.” And he even recorded an album, “Tim McCarver Sings Songs From the Great American Songbook.”
But those were sidelights. In 2012, McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award, essentially a lifetime achievement citation presented annually to a broadcaster by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for “major contributions to baseball.”
Four years later, he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
“If you’re going to talk about the best baseball analyst in the history of television,” Dick Enberg, himself a Frick Award winner, said on that occasion, “Tim McCarver’s name has to come up immediately.”