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Friday, March 29, 2013

Roth: Is Tim McCarver a jerk, or just past his time?

David Roth Sings Selections from The Great American Gongbook.

Since he announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from broadcasting after this year’s World Series, the discussion about Tim McCarver—which was always and already defined by a heavy payload of “ugh, this guy”—split in two. The more generous argument holds that McCarver—a player for 21 years, and a broadcaster for an astonishing 29 postseasons—was once a more generous and less grandiose broadcaster than he is in his prickly, mannered endgame. This argument holds that McCarver was someone who understood and loved the game deeply, and expressed that right up until the moment when he stopped understanding or loving it. Depending on the observer, this could be five or ten or 15 years before McCarver realized that it was time to retire.

At which point this first argument kind of collapses into the second, which is that McCarver was always a vain and pedantic character, unforgivably given to high-fiving himself for his own crummy puns and puddle-deep insights and crustoid prejudices, and never quite interested in what people other than himself—or his notional and unloved audience, rapt as rubes before a traveling magician, albeit the sort of crummy magician whose prestige trick is predicting which pitch would be thrown when—might have taken from a given game.

The first way of seeing McCarver involves viewing him as a brilliant baseball mind who allowed the game to pass him by, more or less on purpose and more or less to prove some cranky and ill-defined point about… well, whatever it was about, you kids should get off his lawn. The second way of seeing McCarver is that he’s just something of a vain jerk, full stop. It says something about McCarver that both of those arguments feel correct enough, to an extent. But neither one of them says quite enough about Tim McCarver, who spent 50 years in baseball without ever quite becoming anything greater or more endearing than himself. It’s funny how much of that last sentence—more or less a condemnation, if read from front to back—looks like praise.

...McCarver played 21 years in the Majors, and was teammates with both Stan Musial and Mike Schmidt; he was the personal catcher for Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. In 1966, McCarver led the National League in triples; he’ll almost certainly be the last catcher to do that. As a member of a St. Louis world championship team the next year, McCarver put up an OPS+ of 136, which was better than Lou Brock, Roger Maris or Curt Flood managed that year, and better in fact than everyone else in the lineup except Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.

It’s a shame, in a way, that McCarver would almost certainly sniff at that latter achievement. He’s as entitled as anyone else to be skeptical or confused by a stat like OPS+—I like the stat and find it telling, but I’m not sure I could calculate it myself if given a supercomputer, some strong coffee and, say, seven years. If McCarver is not quite as flamboyantly, aggressively retrograde as Joe Morgan—his peer during their playing days, and perhaps the only baseball color commentator who evokes a similar revulsion—it often seems as if it’s only because he isn’t quite interested enough. Morgan, who was an advocate of uncontroversial ideas like the value of on-base percentage during his playing days, descended into grouchy self-parody at the end of his ESPN tenure; by the end, he was essentially arguing that bunts, RBI and World Series rings be the only statistics used. McCarver had no real time for stats, but more to the point he didn’t have much interest in them—he knew what he knew and he knew how to express it, and seemed serenely certain, with that certainty only increasing by the year, that this was more than enough.

Repoz Posted: March 29, 2013 at 06:26 PM | 71 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. GEB4000 Posted: March 29, 2013 at 06:49 PM (#4399371)
Both.
   2. Knock on any Iorg Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:27 PM (#4399393)
This is the new steroids meme. It just won't ever go away now.
   3. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:28 PM (#4399395)
Howard Cosell wrote a book called "I never played the game."

The central thesis of the book is that ex-players initially get broadcasting jobs due to their insider views of their sports. They then continue to hold their broadcasting jobs due to familiarity.

The guys ultimately become boring, while "interesting" (as Cosell would have viewed himself) non ex-athletes are denied the opportunity to broadcast games.

It seems like something as obvious as this would have been corrected decades ago. Instead, we have Tim McCarver.

   4. Publius Publicola Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4399397)
Well, Cosell went off the deep end toward the end too. By the time he was let go by the ABC, he was a bitter, blathering old fool.
   5. Greg K Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:46 PM (#4399401)
Broadcasters really seem to inspire heartfelt malice in a lot of fans.

Is commentary really that hard to tune out? Or is it the knowledge that there are good broadcasters out there who augment the experience of watching the game, but we're stuck listening to this guy?
   6. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:46 PM (#4399402)
Well, Cosell went off the deep end toward the end too. By the time he was let go by the networks, he was a bitter, blathering old fool.


That is entirely possible (he was before my time). But he has the only possible explanation for the 29 year broadcasting career of Tim McCarver.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 07:59 PM (#4399410)
I find the insights from ex-players generally trump almost all the other bad they bring to the table. The only real problem is when the ex-athlete stops bringing his insight into the game and starts to rant and rail on stuff outside their legitimate expertise. The defensive attitude towards their job ultimately hurts many analysts(same could be said of other professions especially sports writers).

McCarver lost his ability to be an analyst a long time ago, and never transitioned to a real broadcaster.
   8. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:07 PM (#4399416)
One thing I liked about McCarver: he was a nextdec. A what?

Years ago, on the old rec.sports.baseball board, I identified players I called "nextdecs": they debuted in MLB in the decade following their birth. And McCarver was one of them: born 1941, debuted 1958.

There have been 38 in MLB history:

First Last birth debut

Frank Pearce 1860 1876
Leonidas Lee 1860 1877
John Ward 1860 1878
Rudy Kemmler 1860 1879
Fred Chapman 1872 1887
Amos Rusie 1871 1889
Andy Dunning 1871 1889
Joe Stanley 1881 1897
Sam Crawford 1880 1899
Lefty Herring 1880 1899
Eddie Kolb 1880 1899
Stuffy McInnis 1890 1909
Frank Scanlan 1890 1909
Coonie Blank 1892 1909
Lefty Weinert 1902 1919
Mickey O'Neil 1900 1919
John Cavanaugh 1900 1919
Joe Cicero 1910 1929
Bob Kennedy 1920 1939
Early Wynn 1920 1939
Walt Masterson 1920 1939
Hal Newhouser 1921 1939
Sibby Sisti 1920 1939
Frankie Gustine 1920 1939
Johnny Antonelli 1930 1948
Del Crandall 1930 1949
Jim Baumer 1931 1949
Dave Skaugstad 1940 1957
Rod Miller 1940 1957
Dick Ellsworth 1940 1958
Tim McCarver 1941 1959
Bob Saverine 1941 1959
Bobby Valentine 1950 1969
Bart Johnson 1950 1969
Lloyd Allen 1950 1969
Mike McQueen 1950 1969
Tim Conroy 1960 1978
Wilson Alvarez 1970 1989


That looks awful, I'm sure.

Nextdecs are a dying breed: young Mr. Harper notwithstanding, you just don't see teenaged big leaguers anymore. Conroy and Alvarez are the only two in the last 40+ years.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:16 PM (#4399426)
Were any of those nextdecs also fourdecs besides Timmy and Early?

   10. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:19 PM (#4399427)
The [ex-players] ultimately become boring, while "interesting" (as Cosell would have viewed himself) non ex-athletes are denied the opportunity to broadcast games.
It seems like something as obvious as this would have been corrected decades ago. Instead, we have Tim McCarver.


Er, does anybody remember Cosell doing baseball? I would allow Tim McCarver to be shrunk to ant size and live inside my ear every October before I'd listen to Reanimated Howard Cosell read a starting lineup.
   11. Bruce Markusen Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:21 PM (#4399428)
For what it's worth, I met McCarver for the first time last summer, and he was great. Polite and unassuming, he was easy to talk to, and he seemed genuinely honored by his winning of the Frick Award. He was anything but a jerk, at least in person.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:25 PM (#4399436)

I realize there are now many BBTFers who never heard McCarver in his early broadcasting days, so it's worth repeating: At first, he was unique in his 'backstories' about everything from what gets said on the mound between pitchers and catchers to 'real big leaguer strategy' on possible sac bunts and whether to hold the runner at first.

His biggest critics can stake a claim to him becoming repetitive and useless within 5 years, and his biggest defenders can claim that didn't happen until 5 years ago.

But as the meme goes, there's no question in my mind that he was good at first, but then he went too far.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:28 PM (#4399437)
Nextdecs are a dying breed: young Mr. Harper notwithstanding, you just don't see teenaged big leaguers anymore. Conroy and Alvarez are the only two in the last 40+ years.


I think this is wrong, you see teenagers nearly every year.


Teenage hitters since 2000.
Rk              Player Year Age  Tm
                                   
1         Bryce Harper 2012  19 WSN
2        Manny Machado 2012  19 BAL
3           Mike Trout 2011  19 LAA
4           B
.JUpton 2004  19 TBD
5         Justin Upton 2007  19 ARI
6     Jurickson Profar 2012  19 TEX
7          Dylan Bundy 2012  19 BAL
8    Madison Bumgarner 2009  19 SFG
9      Felix Hernandez 2005  19 SEA
10       Edwin Jackson 2003  19 LAD
11      Wilson Betemit 2001  19 ATL 


Teenage pitchers since 2000
Rk              Player Year Age  Tm
                                   
1      Felix Hernandez 2005  19 SEA
2        Edwin Jackson 2003  19 LAD
3    Madison Bumgarner 2009  19 SFG
4          Dylan Bundy 2012  19 BAL 
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:32 PM (#4399439)
The [ex-players] ultimately become boring, while "interesting" (as Cosell would have viewed himself) non ex-athletes are denied the opportunity to broadcast games.
It seems like something as obvious as this would have been corrected decades ago. Instead, we have Tim McCarver.


Never a Cosell fan to begin with, but couldn't stand it when he did anything other than football or boxing.
   15. I Am Not a Number Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:32 PM (#4399440)
Is commentary really that hard to tune out?

I find that Rick Sutcliffe makes games unwatchable.
   16. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:44 PM (#4399449)
But as the meme goes, there's no question in my mind that he was good at first, but then he went too far.


I remember when people used to say that John Madden was a great announcer before he became "a caricature of himself."

It's possible that this happened to McCarver as well, although I don't know what redeeming qualities that the guy has that he took "too far."

Is it guessing the pitches?
   17. Rough Carrigan Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:52 PM (#4399452)
Anyone who remembers how bad Cosell could be should rent a copy of Woody Allen's movie Sleeper. He plays a health food nut who was cryogenically frozen and wakes up 200 years in the future. There's been some kind of war and the doctors and scientists in the future say they only have bits and pieces of information about our culture today. They ask Woody's character to help him make sense of life in 1973. They show a clip of Cosell at his most excruciatingly overbearing and tell Woody that they couldn't make sense of why anyone would record such a thing but have now come to believe that the recording was used to torture prisoners. Yes, that's exactly what that was, deadpans Woody.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:54 PM (#4399453)
It's possible that this happened to McCarver as well, although I don't know what redeeming qualities that the guy has that he took "too far."


His familiarity with the players and the clubhouse atmosphere. His stories about his playing days. They both used to be pretty good, but they have become more pronounced, repetitive and sanitized. His ability to talk about what was going on in the field etc.

Guessing pitches is not important for an announcer/analyst. I don't think I've ever said "that guy did a good job of guessing which pitches" (although I have said that about pitch outs, so I guess that qualifies a little) McCarver and Fox have hurt each other. In the old days of baseball games, the announcer would say something about the runner, and the tv would show it for a few seconds, then would continue on with the game. In today's game, the announcer says something and then the tv focus's non-stop on whatever it is, getting close ups, multiple angles etc, that what was a minor portion of the story going on the field, instead has become the central theme of the game. The intent to make everything critical has hurt national broadcasts, and it happens that McCarver happens to be at the mic when that is happening.

   19. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 08:55 PM (#4399454)
Yes, that's exactly what that was, deadpans Woody.


I thought making people watch Woody Allen movies was what we use for torture(or listen to country music)
   20. bobm Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:12 PM (#4399461)
[13] Nextdecs are a small segment of teenaged MLB players, and remind me of Jack Morris as the winningest pitcher of the arbitrary 10 year period known as the 1980s

None of these players debuted in the decade following the decade of their birth.

                                
Rk              Player From Born
1     Jurickson Profar 2012 1993
2        Manny Machado 2012 1992
3          Dylan Bundy 2012 1992
4         Bryce Harper 2012 1992
5           Mike Trout 2011 1991
6    Madison Bumgarner 2009 1989
7         Justin Upton 2007 1987
8      Felix Hernandez 2005 1986
9           B.J. Upton 2004 1984
10       Edwin Jackson 2003 1983
11      Wilson Betemit 2001 1981


   21. Ebessan Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:13 PM (#4399462)
I thought making people watch Woody Allen movies was what we use for torture

I mean, if you're an idiot, I guess.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:20 PM (#4399466)
[13] Nextdecs are a small segment of teenaged MLB players, and remind me of Jack Morris as the winningest pitcher of the arbitrary 10 year period known as the 1980s

None of these players debuted in the decade following the decade of their birth.


He wasn't offering those guys as examples of nextdecs. He was offering them to refute RMc's contention that you don't see many teenagers in the big leagues anymore.

And Jack was also the winningest pitcher of five other decades that didn't end in zero. Mark Grace as most hits in a decade is a better example of that arbitrary endpoint phenomenon.

   23. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:39 PM (#4399480)
Well, Cosell went off the deep end toward the end too. By the time he was let go by the ABC, he was a bitter, blathering old fool.


Er, does anybody remember Cosell doing baseball?

Unfortunately, his MNB career lasted for almost 10 years. A very painful 10 years.

I would allow Tim McCarver to be shrunk to ant size and live inside my ear every October before I'd listen to Reanimated Howard Cosell read a starting lineup.

I'd rather listen to repeated outtakes of a joint comedy club audition by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin than ever again have to hear Cosell say "Dandy Don".

OTOH I would take Cosell over Dook Vitale.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:47 PM (#4399489)
None of these players debuted in the decade following the decade of their birth.


That is good, because I don't think anyone was saying that.

I mean, if you're an idiot, I guess.

I was thinking that if you thought comedy movies were supposed to make you laugh. Woody Allen's bit is old after 10 minutes. He's as painful to watch as watching a man in drag with a British Accent. It wasn't funny the first time, isn't going to be funny the tenth time.

   25. Bug Selig Posted: March 29, 2013 at 09:49 PM (#4399490)
I realize there are now many BBTFers who never heard McCarver in his early broadcasting days, so it's worth repeating: At first, he was unique in his 'backstories' about everything from what gets said on the mound between pitchers and catchers to 'real big leaguer strategy' on possible sac bunts and whether to hold the runner at first.


He really used to add to my enjoyment (and I can't abide him now). In particular, he noticed things. I still remember some of the subplots of the '86 Mets/Astros series that he honed in on - the Mets thinking they were great spymasters by hoarding baseballs that they were sure Mike Scott had attacked with a chainsaw; the tactical ramifications of Davey Johnson's willingness to mix and match left/right and offense/defense; the extent to which Gary Carter in particular was completely taken out of the game by the scuffing issue (he complained to the umpire literally while swinging at least twice); and one occasion where he pointed out (overly dramatically, but still) how unbelievably calm Scott appeared in one of the many nail-biting late-game situations featured in that series, juxtaposed against Dykstra's near-seizure behavior.
   26. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:01 PM (#4399503)
personally i think it's both incredibly rude and unjust to use the word 'jerk' with tim mccarver.

unlike so many broadcasters he genuinely loves the game of baseball. just like the fan

shame to the writer and shame to anyone who even begins to nod in agreement

shame
   27. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:14 PM (#4399521)
personally i think it's both incredibly rude and unjust to use the word 'jerk' with tim mccarver.

unlike so many broadcasters he genuinely loves the game of baseball. just like the fan

shame to the writer and shame to anyone who even begins to nod in agreement

shame


No one in this thread has called the man a "jerk."

He's just not as good at doing his job as other people would be.

EDIT: I understand that you're only responding to the title of this article, but no one here is calling the guy a "jerk" or disputing his love for the game of baseball.
   28. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:18 PM (#4399527)
Drexel

read post one

and try again
   29. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:21 PM (#4399530)
Drexel

and as a follow up I follow president Reagan's maxim of speak no evil of a fellow brewer fan

I don't want to fight with you

and yes, I was 98 percent pointing to the author's poor choice of words

but between post 1 and a few other posts I sensed folks agreeing in some manner

and it ticks me off
   30. Tim D Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:35 PM (#4399536)
I lived through the Cosell era. He was an insufferable, self-important, pompous son of ##### who only became a big deal because "educated" New York types thought he was bringing some civilization to the rube sports fans in the sticks. He was almost universally hated anywhere but NY. ABC had great ratings on MNF and thought the "controversy" over Howard was partly responsible. No, ABC, it was a nation mad about football and players like Joe Namath, Mean Joe Greene and Roger Staubach that did it. The fact that Cosell is now considered some kind of star only goes to prove the sentiment of John Huston's line in Chinatown: "Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all become respectable if they last long enough." Add sports journalists. Cosell ad some interesting insights but he was such an a$$hole about it that most people never heard it.

McCarver, meh. Never thought much of him from the get go, although he did get worse as the years went by. I have no clue why Fox has stuck with him as the ratings have tanked. You've got to think there are a thousand or so ex-players who could be as good as him. Plenty that aren't even announcing.

   31. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2013 at 10:43 PM (#4399538)

I lived through the Cosell era. He was an insufferable, self-important, pompous son of ##### who only became a big deal because "educated" New York types thought he was bringing some civilization to the rube sports fans in the sticks. He was almost universally hated anywhere but NY. ABC had great ratings on MNF and thought the "controversy" over Howard was partly responsible. No, ABC, it was a nation mad about football and players like Joe Namath, Mean Joe Greene and Roger Staubach that did it. The fact that Cosell is now considered some kind of star only goes to prove the sentiment of John Huston's line in Chinatown: "Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all become respectable if they last long enough." Add sports journalists. Cosell ad some interesting insights but he was such an a$$hole about it that most people never heard it


I think these guys put it more succinctly.

And I'm with Harvey. And I'd say the actual column is even worse than the headline in that regard. The choice Roth has left us is: Tim McCarver is either a jerk, or just a different kind of jerk.


   32. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 29, 2013 at 11:04 PM (#4399544)
Drexel

and as a follow up I follow president Reagan's maxim of speak no evil of a fellow brewer fan

I don't want to fight with you

and yes, I was 98 percent pointing to the author's poor choice of words

but between post 1 and a few other posts I sensed folks agreeing in some manner

and it ticks me off


Fair enough; I never meant to have been abrasive.


   33. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 29, 2013 at 11:20 PM (#4399550)
He was offering them to refute RMc's contention that you don't see many teenagers in the big leagues anymore.

Not as many, certainly. Of the 804 major leaguers who played their first game before their 20th birthday, only 29 have come in the last 30 years...about one a year, like somebody up there said.

Teenage debuts by decade:

1870s: 65
1880s: 103 (38 in 1884 alone, thanks to the UA)
1890s: 61
1900s: 49
1910s: 116 (18 in both 1914 and 1915, thanks to the FL)
1920s: 48
1930s: 34
1940s: 61 (18 in 1944, thanks to WW2)
1950s: 84
1960s: 115 (23 in 1965, first year of the Amateur Draft)
1970s: 34 (5 in 1978, the last year to date with that many)
1980s: 17
1990s: 8 (Rich Garces, Pudge, Todd Van Poppel, A-Rod, Karim Garcia, Andruw, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre)
2000s: 5 (Betemit, Reyes, King Felix and the Uptons)
2010-12: 4 (Trout, Harper, Profar, Bundy)

Could we be seeing a resurgence here? Last season was the first with three teenage debuts since 1989 (Junior, Juan Gone and Wilson Alvarez).
   34. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:01 AM (#4399574)
I just want to belatedly side with Harvey here. One of McCarver's best attributes is that he loves baseball. That's a little thing but a difference from far too many out there including his long time partner in the booth.
   35. Lassus Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:13 AM (#4399577)
McCarver has never, ever, ever once been as bad as a slew of utter dreck that has come after him. Hudler, Grace, Sutcliffe, others whose names escape me. I'd take another decade of McCarver over an easy half-dozen current broadcasters, if not more.


I was thinking that if you thought comedy movies were supposed to make you laugh. Woody Allen's bit is old after 10 minutes. He's as painful to watch as watching a man in drag with a British Accent. It wasn't funny the first time, isn't going to be funny the tenth time.

Comedies, whatever. Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of the most perfect films ever made.
   36. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:18 AM (#4399597)
Timmy is not good at his job anymore, but he is a different guy when I've heard him on sport talk shows. He brings actual insight, has good sense of humor, and is enjoyable to listen to.

Of course, most interviews only last a few minutes. He might be better in short bursts. Fox's awful treatment of baseball broadcasts may be responsible. Joe Buck might bring him down. Who knows, but if the Tim that shows up on the radio was like that during games, he might be worth listening to.
   37. Tim McCarver's Orange Marmalade Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:57 AM (#4399612)
The orange marmalade has spoiled.
   38. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:16 AM (#4399624)
McCarver has never, ever, ever once been as bad as a slew of utter dreck that has come after him. Hudler, Grace, Sutcliffe, others whose names escape me. I'd take another decade of McCarver over an easy half-dozen current broadcasters, if not more.

This, this and this again. In Canada during the postseason we sometimes get the choice between watching the Fox feed with McCarver and the international feed with Sutcliffe. It is a cautionary experience for anyone cheering McCarver's departure.

(Our problem is compounded by the fact that we also have to choose between listening to Joe Buck or the unexceptional but not terrible Gary Thorne. Last year I found myself choosing the Thorne/Sutcliffe feed over the Buck/McCarver feed more often than not, but it wasn't McCarver's fault).
   39. Moeball Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM (#4399656)
Is commentary really that hard to tune out? Or is it the knowledge that there are good broadcasters out there who augment the experience of watching the game, but we're stuck listening to this guy?


Well, in a lot of fans' viewpoints, this reads as "...Or is it the knowledge that there are good broadcasters out there (like me) who augment the experience of watching the game..."

Announcing is more difficult than it sounds but it is one of those things everyone thinks they could do better than the guy on TV.

BTW, met Dick Enberg a couple of times. I know his "Oh My" trademark got old after a while, but when you meet him he still has a lot of enthusiasm for what he does and is quick to add that he considers himself incredibly lucky to have covered everything from UCLA basketball during the Wooden years to golf and tennis majors, from the Olympics to the World Series and the Super Bowl - and got paid pretty well to be there at events he would have gladly paid to see as a fan!

As for Cosell, he was bad at football, dreadfully bad at baseball.

McCarver had some amusing stories over the years, but when you've heard them a thousand times, of course they lose their charm.

Bob Starr used to call Angels' games several years ago and he was mostly just dull. About the most amusing thing about him - because it was simultaneously annoying - was what we called "Starr math". Here's how it would go: "Grich came into the game batting .270 on the season and, after flying out to left his first time up, he's now hitting .271". Huh?
   40. depletion Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:44 AM (#4399664)
Howard Cosell on baseball - "Baseball helps. It puts me to sleep."
I haven't watched McCarver's telecasts as often as many here the last 5 years or so. I do have fond memories of his work when the Mets first had him, but that may be colored by the team being rather exciting. I don't usual find the announcers to be much of an impediment, or enhancement, to my enjoyment of a telecast, unless I hear blatant homerism.
McCarver had some amusing stories over the years, but when you've heard them a thousand times, of course they lose their charm.

Yes familarity breeds contempt.
   41. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 10:55 AM (#4399666)
"Grich came into the game batting .270 on the season and, after flying out to left his first time up, he's now hitting .271". Huh?

Herb Score: "he's 13 for his last 27--I'm not good at math but even I know that's over .500"
   42. Morty Causa Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:12 AM (#4399670)
was thinking that if you thought comedy movies were supposed to make you laugh. Woody Allen's bit is old after 10 minutes. He's as painful to watch as watching a man in drag with a British Accent. It wasn't funny the first time, isn't going to be funny the tenth time.

Comedies, whatever. Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of the most perfect films ever made.


I still laugh at Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death--the early funny ones, but I would agree that my continuing appreciation has much to with having been there from the beginning.
   43. Morty Causa Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:15 AM (#4399671)
As for Cosell, he was bad at football, dreadfully bad at baseball.


Yes, he was horrible as a baseball commentator. One of the treasured moments I have from his tenure on Monday Night Baseball was Tom Seaver exposing him for the fool he was. "Butcher boy."
   44. Posada Posse Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:24 AM (#4399673)
I haven't watched McCarver's telecasts as often as many here the last 5 years or so. I do have fond memories of his work when the Mets first had him, but that may be colored by the team being rather exciting.


Seconded, I enjoyed his work in the old Mets broadcasts with Ralph Kiner in the 1980's and with ABC during that time.

Of course, that was a looooong time ago.
   45. puck Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4399688)
I would not say McCarver is a jerk. But he has a tendency to explain things as if the audience has never seen a baseball game, and I guess that can come off as arrogant or jerkish.
   46. Cowboy Popup Posted: March 30, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4399694)
Bananas

Cosell was hilarious in Bananas.
   47. Leroy Kincaid Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4399713)
Like some others here, I have fond memories of McCarver on channel 9 with Kiner and Syzbriski(?) 25 - 30 years ago. But that may just be nostalgia.
   48. Morty Causa Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4399719)
Bananas

Cosell was hilarious in Bananas.


I would not have thought at the time that Cosell could make fun of his own pomposity like he did. The interview with the just-assassinated El Presidente as he slowly dies, cursing his overthrow with Cosell commenting as El Presidente succumbs, "Well, yes, it's understandable you would feel that way" (or something like that) is just perfect.
   49. Srul Itza Posted: March 30, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4399727)
I realize there are now many BBTFers who never heard McCarver in his early broadcasting days


I am one who remembers both a large part of his playing career, and his early broadcasting career, particularly calling Mets games. He was a very enjoyable presence when he started and received a lot of praise for his work. I left NY in 1987 (for India, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and finally Honolulu) and really did not see a lot of him until he had morphed into Mr. cranky. So my strongest memories of him are positive.
   50. Srul Itza Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4399732)
Concur with Morty about Woody and Cosell. Cosell made his bones as a boxing announcer and Ali advocate. Beyond that he was pretty painful.

I still remember him calling the Larry Holmes - Randall Cobb fight. Cobb spent pretty much the entire fight artfully blocking Holmes' hard jab with face. Round after round, punch after punch, until Cosell finally asked whether someone realized that they were constructing an argument for the abolition of the sport. I think he got turned off to boxing after that, and so was entirely useless.
   51. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:11 PM (#4399734)
He was an insufferable, self-important, pompous son of ##### who only became a big deal because "educated" New York types thought he was bringing some civilization to the rube sports fans in the sticks. He was almost universally hated anywhere but NY.


I've been watching a lot of old MNF games recently, and Cosell really was not good. He would do things like try to ask "provocative" questions of his broadcast partners, but with such a poor sense of timing that there'd be no opportunity for an answer. Half the time, Gifford or Meredith would just ignore him. He obviously spoke to the coaches before the game and would occasionally have something interesting to add based on those interviews, but otherwise, he brought nothing to the table but his own ego.

Don Meredith, on the other hand, was shockingly good. He'd be all folksy and self-deprecating, but he always watched the games very closely, and would sneak in neat little observations without ever making a big deal out of them. For the couple of years that he was replaced by Alex Karras, the broadcasts really suffered.
   52. Morty Causa Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4399739)
   53. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4399742)
Howard Cosell's big trick was in the lead-in, when he'd say something like (making this example up), "Fran Tarkenton has the arm strength to throw the ball through the top defenses. The only thing he needs to watch out for is making it happen under pressure." Then, when Tarkenton either threw a big completion or an big interception, Cosell could bark, "AS I previously mentioned..."

That said, Cosell was a tremendously important antidote to the Joe Garagiola "ha ha buddy buddy" school of announcing and reporting, which was the norm and then some when he took his much-needed dump in the punchbowl. Viewers actually got mad because Cosell would use "big words."

So his shtick wore thin. And got overexposed, or misapplied to broadcasts like baseball. How many significant media voices don't have a decline phase?
   54. yb125 Posted: March 30, 2013 at 02:28 PM (#4399743)
He's as painful to watch as watching a man in drag with a British Accent.


Hey Eddie Izzard is hilarious. But I too have never found the appeal of Woody Allen movies. Mainly because I not not find him particularly funny or interesting. But to each their own.
   55. Publius Publicola Posted: March 30, 2013 at 03:08 PM (#4399763)
How many significant media voices don't have a decline phase?


The good ones don't. Gowdy was always good. McGuire was always good. Madden was always good. Scully is STILL good. Most and Caray actually got better with age, since they both kept getting daffier and daffier.

I thought Cosell was uniformly awful, but especially with baseball. He used to call Pete Rose "Petey", which annoyed the hell out of me, since it implied they were friends when they were not. Cosell would name drop like that a lot, leveraging his microphone to project a self-stature he did not possess. He was constantly committing the cardinal sin of journalism- making himself the story.

Cosell got famous for attaching himself to Ali's hip and getting a lovely ride. Even Ali got tired of him, even after all the shilling Cosell did for him. Famously, in an dual interview with Frazier on the Dick Cavett show, Ali said of Cosell "Sometimes I wish I was a dog and he was a tree.".
   56. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 03:54 PM (#4399780)
I thought Cosell was uniformly awful, but especially with baseball. He used to call Pete Rose "Petey"

he also called Rozelle "Petey"
   57. asinwreck Posted: March 30, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4399782)
Remembering Howard Cosell announce baseball makes me grateful for Hawk Harrelson. And Chip Caray.

Cosell was tolerable on boxing, Battle of the Network Stars, his two Woody Allen cameos, and exactly nothing else.

Saturday Night Live was called NBC's Saturday Night when it started because ABC had a variety show called Saturday Night Live starring Cosell. Bill Murray was in the cast.
   58. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4399790)
Saturday Night Live was called NBC's Saturday Night when it started because ABC had a variety show called Saturday Night Live starring Cosell. Bill Murray was in the cast.

and his group was called "The Prime Time Players", which is why the NBC ensemble was called...
   59. tfbg9 Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4399827)
Cosell drank. And was fun to imitate. "Mean Joe Greene, the truculent one."

He was awesome in his Odd Couple appearance as well.
   60. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4399839)
Don Meredith's voice appeared in my favorite King of The Hill episode ever: "A Beercan Named Desire."
   61. Bob T Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:07 PM (#4399840)
When I went to the 1980 All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, Cosell was sitting in his limo very soon after the final out. He was in his yellow blazer in a car that a whole bunch of fans passed by. Most of them banged on the vehicle and shouted insults. It looked like Cosell didn't care.

Tim McCarver going on about Derek Jeter's "quiet eyes" still haunts me to this day.

What are "quiet eyes"? Does someone have "loud eyes"?
   62. Justin T is going to crush some tacos Thursday Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:18 PM (#4399849)
Lest we forget Carlos Beltran's "regal carriage."
   63. Dan Evensen Posted: March 30, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4399869)
I don't care much for Cosell's ego, but I still enjoy watching old baseball and MNF games featuring his commentary. There's a sort of "what will he say next" tension in those broadcasts.

I'm too young to remember McCarver's early days with the Mets. However, I do have a large collection of games on DVD, including several Mets games from 1985 and 1986 (as well as the entire 1986 NLCS, which he commented on for ABC, as well as the entire 1985 World Series, which he also did for ABC). I don't see why people are nostalgic for the "old" McCarver. He was always as uninformed and annoying as he is today.

The 1986 NLCS is particularly difficult to watch today, with Keith Jackson doing play-by-play. Why exactly did Jackson do play-by-play on important postseason games for ABC from 1976 to 1988? ABC really couldn't find somebody who actually knew things about baseball (such as, you know, the rules)?

The first two games of the 1985 World Series featured a little bit of tension between McCarver and Palmer, especially when McCarver started interrupting Palmer mid-thought. The NLCS that year (which I've also got on DVD) was so much more refreshing, with Scully and Garagiola covering the games. At least ABC had Al Michaels.

There was a time when I thought baseball could never get a broadcast pair worse than McDonough / McCarver on CBS in 1992/93. I don't know if Buck / McCarver has surpassed those two or not. All I know is that we've had some horrible baseball commentary for the last 20 years.

EDIT: For those wondering if it's "really that hard" to tune out horrible commentary, there's always Berman and Sutcliffe. McDonough was also really that bad -- bad to the point that you almost didn't want to watch. My dad used to mute the television and turn on the radio during the 1992 and 1993 World Series. Of course, Vin Scully was doing the games for CBS radio those years.
   64. Howie Menckel Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:37 PM (#4399914)

"Gowdy was always good. McGuire was always good. Madden was always good."

Gowdy was awful at the end. [Al] McGuire was over the hill, but passable. Madden at the end was pretty bad and a caricature, but had a little life left in the tank.

   65. Shibal Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:11 PM (#4399922)
These Wichita St/Ohio St color guys (Len Elmore and Reggie Miller?) are atrocious, make McCarver look competent.

I feel bad for Kevin Harlan having to do play by play with them.

Can't think of many things where the quality of performance varies so much, especially with so much money behind these TV deals.
   66. china_dave Posted: March 31, 2013 at 11:08 AM (#4400111)
I will forgive McCarver his excesses, and even his "jerk"-y personality, however defined. What I cannot tolerate is his seeming lack of interest in the game of baseball (at least during the past ten years or so). This trait is obviously more pronounced in, and possibly exacerbated by, Joe Buck.

A very large segment of the sports-viewing segment of this country thinks baseball is boring and inferior to football, etc. Fine; to each her own. But for the life of me I cannot understand why I have to have the sport's most important games mediated by such people.
   67. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 31, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4400123)
it defies explanation that two of the most famous sports announcers of all time were terrible at their primary task meaning cosell and berman.

the latter is the very definition of buffoon and his continued popularity is cause to wonder if mankind is getting dumber.
   68. Steve Treder Posted: March 31, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4400168)
the latter is the very definition of buffoon and his continued popularity is cause to wonder if mankind is getting dumber.

If by "cause to wonder if" you mean "definitive proof that," then we agree.
   69. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:58 PM (#4400206)
Funny, I thought McDonough was great. Maybe you have to be a New Englander to like him.
   70. Dan Evensen Posted: March 31, 2013 at 04:48 PM (#4400265)
Gowdy was awful at the end.

I've always found Gowdy boring, particularly in close games. Having said that, his old radio broadcasts are generally good, particularly the 1975 World Series games he did on the radio (he was on television for games 1, 3, 5 and 7 and switched to radio duty for the other three). I'm not surprised that NBC decided to have Garagiola take his place afterwards, however.

Gowdy's radio work in the 1980s was pretty lame. I just finished listening to the 1986 ALCS. Gowdy had absolutely no sense of excitement. His broadcast of Games 4 and 5 of that series were absolutely boring. For fantastic defensive plays, he would say something like "What a great play!" without bothering to actually describe what happened. After dramatic game-tying hits or walk-off hits, he would make a straight, unexcited call -- sort of like Joe Buck, but without the arrogance.

Gowdy, by the way, was criticized when he took over the Game of the Week job back in 1965 (somebody please correct me if I get the dates wrong). Dizzy Dean was much more popular. It looks like Gowdy's critics saw him as a corporate shill, and were upset with the idea of a single announcer for all sports. Honestly, there are a lot of parallels between Joe Buck and Curt Gowdy (except, of course, that Gowdy was actually interested in the game).

By the way, the hardest World Series for me to rewatch is 1968, especially the games in Detroit. George Kell did those games on television with Gowdy. Kell's voice was soft and relaxed. When combined with the black and white film and Gowdy's no-excitement approach, that relaxed style makes it difficult for me to stay awake.
   71. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: March 31, 2013 at 05:06 PM (#4400272)
Radio Days, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, and no one has mentioned Annie Hall. And the others mentioned above were wonderful.

I think his serious stuff is a bit boring. Not awful, most of the time, but, not great, either.


edit...Stardust Memories is a big F.U. to his fans who wish he'd kept making Take the Money and Run over and over again. I still liked it (S.M.).

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