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Tim McCarver told you the story of baseball

Former MLB catcher and veteran broadcaster Tim McCarver died of heart failure on Thursday. He was 81 years old.

Prior to his Hall of Fame broadcasting career, McCarver played 21 seasons for the Cardinals, Expos, Phillies, and Red Sox. He won two World Series with St. Louis, in 1964 and 1967. The ’67 season proved a career high for McCarver, who hit .295 and finished second in NL MVP voting.

McCarver then retired and went straight to the broadcast booth, working for all of the major networks at some point. Fans might best remember him alongside Joe Buck in the FOX booth, handling the weekly Saturday games and also the playoffs.

And love him or hate him, McCarver and that Memphis drawl were going to tell you the story of that game. It didn’t matter who was playing. When Tim McCarver was behind the microphone, you were going to learn something new. It could be infield positioning or a simple scouting report. McCarver always made it sound interesting.

Who else but a former MLB catcher could look at Mariano Rivera enter Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and, of all things, focus on how his cutter’s bit against lefties actually helped Arizona? Cut to Luis Gonzalez’s broken-bat bloop single over a drawn-in infield, and the Diamondbacks stunned their way to championship glory.

This is why ex-catchers, McCarver in particular, make great broadcasters. We don’t see it in today’s era of PitchCom and analytics, but it’s true. Back when McCarver was a player, catchers were one and the same with symphony conductors. Just as the maestro knew every instrument, the catcher knew every position on the field and what to expect from everyone on both sides. Every piece of action on the baseball diamond came back to what pitch the catcher called and when.

Next time John Flaherty calls a Yankees game on YES, listen to how he analyzes the pitching matchups. Or Buck Martinez on a Blue Jays broadcast. And who can forget the great Bob Uecker? All former catchers, all students of the game.

McCarver wasn’t the best by a long shot, but he still knew how to make fans listen to a TV broadcast and not just watch. Few will ever match him.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.