Saying that "fairness, accuracy and honesty" have always been his goals, Tim McCarver signed off a baseball broadcast for the final time Wednesday night after Game 6 of the World Series. McCarver's final word: "Ditto."
His partner for the past 18 years, Joe Buck, told McCarver he was "the best to ever do do this."
McCarver is going to be missed — no matter if you liked him or not. Though they only described the action together on Fox TV since 1996, McCarver and Buck always have been a major talking points for fans. Not only have we discussed what David Ortiz or Mariano Rivera or Alex Rodriguez might have done in a game, but we also talked about what McCarver and Buck said, or how they said it. Most fans probably like McCarver and Buck; it's unlikely that Fox would pair them for so long if all of the feedback was all bad, like it seems on social media.
While never reaching the level of popularity given someone like John Madden in football, McCarver often was a divisive figure for similar reasons. With a folksy and friendly style, McCarver tried to simplify the game for viewers. One of his goals, he said, was to teach the fan something he or she didn't know about the game — sometimes to the detriment of the broadcast. But, no matter. The people who like McCarver, like him. Those who don't, love to complain about him. And now he's retiring.
But there was one time when McCarver should have come across as a clear winner to everybody, even if it was by default. The time Deion Sanders came at him four times with buckets of icy water. The "You're a real man, Deion," incident, as McCarver wetly named it at the time.
Sanders had been following in the steps of Bo Jackson as a two-sport athlete, playing for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons, and he actually suited up for an NFL game at Miami and Game 5 of the NLCS at Pittsburgh the same day. McCarver, then working for CBS, had criticized Sanders for leaving the Braves during the major league playoffs. McCarver was being curmudgeonly about it, and he probably was misinformed on some specifics, but he certainly had a reasonable opinion, generally speaking.
Sanders didn't think so, though, and after the Braves clinched by winning Game 7 (the Sid Bream slide game), he set out to get "Prime Time" revenge on McCarver.
It's really pretty awful, what Sanders did. Reporters go into those situations knowing they could get soaked with champagne, beer, gatorade, water, whatever. Usually it's by accident, though sometimes it's on purpose. Once, maybe. A prank. But four times? Sanders was using the opportunity to abuse McCarver. Pretty despicable behavior.
For some background, here's the Los Angeles Times from Oct. 16, 1992:
McCarver said the first time Sanders doused him, he was so shocked that he pulled a muscle in the right side of his back. After it happened a third time--while he was doing interviews--McCarver said he went in search of Sanders in the Braves' clubhouse.
"I didn't know what I would do or say, but as I was going toward the middle of the clubhouse, Sanders was creeping up with another tub of water," McCarver said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. "He said, 'Where's McCarver?' and I said, 'I'm right here.'
"He tried to hit me with another tub that missed me, and I said, 'You know, Deion, you're a real man, you are a real man.' I thought it was a deliberate, cowardly act."
Sanders, in a taped interview with TNT's Ernie Johnson, said: "How can you be a coward for throwing water on someone? The guy just didn't want us to win and we did. He just got a little wetter than anybody else.
"He's flat-out ignorant. He's more of a coward. I never met the man, and I never spoke to him in my life. We were just having a good time."
"We." Looked a lot more like Deion having a good time, though he certainly seemed to be given assent by others in the room. Sanders, it's believed, has never apologized for his behavior that day. Bill White, the National League president, fined Sanders $1,000. Chump change for a chump. Given a chance to address the old news in recent years, he has avoided it, like — as McCarver said in '92 — a coward.
Even though there were other times when he might have been all wet metaphorically because of something silly he said, McCarver never deserved to be drenched for real. For that day to be the notorious apex of a long and successful broadcasting career is unfortunate. No matter what you thought of his work, he still deserves our respect as a person. Happy retirement, Tim McCarver.
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