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Critics Aside, McCarver Works

November 02, 2001|LARRY STEWART

It's fashionable to rip Tim McCarver. He talks too much, he's boring, he's irritating. Where's the mute button?

McCarver admits that maybe early in his career as a baseball commentator he did talk too much. But he doesn't think it is a valid criticism any more.

"You're always honing your craft," McCarver said Thursday by phone from Yankee Stadium before calling Game 5 of the World Series for Fox. "There was a time when I may have talked too much, but critics who say that now are basing it on 15 years ago.

"They aren't doing their homework, in my view. They're not updating their material, they're not staying current, just as there are broadcasters who don't stay current."

McCarver says he doesn't pay much attention to his critics, nor do they really bother him.

"This is my 22nd year in broadcasting, my 17th on a network level," he said. "It sort of goes with the territory."

McCarver must be doing something right. He has been the top baseball commentator at three networks--ABC, CBS and now Fox.

The key to McCarver's success is that he provides good information, even if he is a little wordy at times. He's a thinking man's analyst, and may be the best first-guesser in the business.

It's easy to second-guess. First-guessing is another matter.

During Game 4, he noted that Curt Schilling was letting the batter know what pitch was coming while shaking off signs from catcher Damian Miller.

With the Yankees' Shane Spencer at the plate in the third inning, McCarver told partner Joe Buck, "He's doing it again. He's verbally telling Miller he wants to throw a fastball."

Spencer hit the next pitch, a fastball, out of the park to the opposite field.

A half-inning later, McCarver told viewers to look for the Diamondbacks' Mark Grace to pull one to right. And he hit a homer to right.

McCarver was at his best in the eighth when the Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez scored from first on a double by Erubiel Durazo. McCarver said Gonzalez may have missed tagging second base, and the Yankees should appeal.

The Yankees did appeal, and the Fox microphones picked up the second base umpire asking shortstop Derek Jeter which runner may have missed the base. "Both," Jeter said, covering all the bases.

The appeal failed, and the Fox replays showed that Gonzalez indeed had tagged the base.

In the fifth inning, Fox got an excellent shot of Yankee catcher Jorge Posada tagging out Tony Womack at the plate. Posada had the ball in his right hand, his non-glove hand, but was still able to make the tag.

McCarver let viewers know exactly what took place, and why it was such a great play.

"I couldn't have done that if we didn't have the shot," McCarver said.

Fox Excelling

Take away those bothersome virtual promos and ads that keep popping up behind home plate--please take them away--and it would be hard to find fault with the way Fox is covering the Series.

The camera work has been nearly flawless, and Buck, 32, is putting his signature on this postseason and establishing himself as maybe the best baseball play-by-play announcer next to Vin Scully.

As with Scully, Buck has the knack of knowing when words are needed and when they're not.

"The bigger the game, the easier it is to let the crowd capture the moment," Buck said after McCarver handed him the phone.

"If it's a Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and you shut up after a homer, you may be able to hear the crickets," Buck said. "Here, the booth was literally shaking [Wednesday night]."

All Buck said after Tino Martinez's dramatic, game-tying homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth was: "The game is tied." And after Jeter's game-winning homer in the 10th, all that was needed was: "It's gone, game over, the Series is tied, 2-2."

He then let the pictures tell the story.

"It was [director] Bill Webb's turn," Buck said. "The crowd can capture the excitement a lot better than I can.

"You have to feel good enough about yourself and have the confidence so that you don't have to prove to anyone why you are sitting there."

Ratings Boon

It wasn't only Yankee fans jumping up and down at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. So were Fox executives.

Fox needed a Yankee victory to push the Series to at least six games. An added plus was the game turned out to be possibly the most dramatic Series game since the Kirk Gibson homer in Game 1 of the 1988 Series.

The result was a 15.8 national rating with a 27 share, 26% higher than the 12.5/21 for Game 4 of last year's Series between the Yankees and New York Mets.

Through four games, Fox is averaging a 14.4/24, up 18% from the 12.2/21 for the first four games last year.

But more important is that this could be Fox's first seven-game World Series.

End of an Era

ESPN has been televising CART Indy car racing since 1981. The network says goodbye to CART Sunday, when it televises the Marlboro 500 from California Speedway in Fontana.

CBS and Fox-owned Speedvision, which is changing its name to Speed Channel, take over next year.

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