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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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This Is The Game That Tim Built

We look forward to the ballgame, though we would have done that without Tim McCarver’s help. Well, I shouldn’t speak for everybody. There’s a generation of Mets fans who were welcomed to Mets baseball by Tim McCarver the way I was welcomed to Mets baseball by Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson on radio and television every single time there was Mets baseball. I don’t know that I would look forward to the ballgame as I do without those three having narrated my origin story. So OK, if you came to baseball and the Mets sometime between 1983 and 1998, there’s a very good chance you look forward to the ballgame in great part because the voice of Tim McCarver read off the list of participating sponsors on (W)WOR-TV or set the scene on SportsChannel.

If you had already matriculated as a student of Mets baseball prior to 1983, especially if your trio of instructors had been Kiner, Murphy and Nelson, you found yourself enrolled in grad school under Prof. McCarver. It was a whole new ballgame when Tim, accompanied by straight man Steve Zabriskie, showed up at Shea, sat next to Ralph, and started telling us what we were about to see. Never mind the sponsors. Here came the substance.

We look forward to the ballgame the way we look forward to the ballgame, and we consume baseball the way we consume baseball, I sincerely believe, because Tim McCarver made us look forward to the ballgame in a way no announcer before him did, and sixteen years of him guiding us through New York Mets games left us consuming baseball as we would forever more. He made us look for elements of a ballgame. He made us pay attention to every discipline: pitching, hitting, fielding, throwing, catching. He knew from catching. He’d been an All-Star receiver and the primary handler of a couple of first-ballot Hall of Famers in a career that spanned the end of the 1950s to the beginning of the 1980s. He surely knew his craft. But he knew so much more.

And he knew how to tell it and share it and bring us into the game, inviting us inside in a way that nobody who spoke to us to that point ever had. What was the meaning of a two-two count? Why was a middle infielder shading this way or that with a runner on first? Why, oh why, wasn’t the right fielder moving in if the batter wasn’t a power threat? McCarver’s trademark recurring criticism of Darryl Strawberry’s stubbornly deep defensive positioning notwithstanding, it occurs to me Darryl simply might have been showing his respect for an announcer who himself never came across as shallow.

Tim McCarver talked to us, and we listened. Tim McCarver talked to Ralph, and Ralph perked up. Ralph’s original on-air partnership with Bob and Lindsey was over by 1983. Nelson had moved on to San Francisco in 1979. Frank Cashen separated Murphy and Kiner like a teacher who didn’t want old pals sitting together in the back of the classroom. No more shifting hither and yon between audiences. One dedicated radio anchor, Murphy. One familiar voice tethered to TV, Kiner. Plus whoever happened to join them. In Ralph’s case, “whoever” didn’t work out well in 1982, his first season wholly detached from Bob. Ralph’s career, like the broadcasts in which he represented the vital tissue that connected past and present, needed a transfusion of future-facing blood.

Enter McCarver, the convivial, sophisticated retired player of recent vintage. Tim, quite clearly, adored Ralph. Ralph, quite clearly, took a shine to Tim. You could easily imagine them ordering a nightcap at their “libraries and museums” of choice during road trips. Steve, low-key amid two high-wattage personalities, played well off both of them. It was a booth on the rise ready to match the team it was about to have the pleasure of describing, and that we would have the privilege, as Mets fans, of experiencing — as if this was what Mets baseball was supposed to be all along.

Straw and Doc.
Mex and Kid.
Mookie and Lenny.
Knight and Hojo.
Wally and Teufel.
Ronnie and Bobby O.
Aggie and El Sid.
Jesse and Roger.
Davey and confidence.
Wins and more wins.
Ralph and Tim and Steve, with Bill Webb calling the shots.
Plus Murph and Thorne on the radio side.

It was the best of times. It was the best of sounds. On TV, especially when it was a Channel 9 night, it was baseball’s version of the Friars Club. A couple of all-time greats smoking cigars, holding court, spinning stories, laughing it up, and spreading the news that these Mets were the dominant team in this game. Kiner had us covered for the ’40s and ’50s and the Casey-Gil days and growing up in California before the war and his brushes with Hollywood glamour. McCarver’s insights stemmed from the ’60s in St. Louis, the ’70s in Philadelphia, coming of age in Memphis, keen eyes and wits suited for 1980s New York.

If we as fans tend to first-guess and analyze virtually everything before it happens, we learned that from Tim when Tim commenced doing that for our benefit…though Tim probably compiled a better guess-to-outcome ratio than the rest of us. If we as fans zero in on and articulate what was once widely considered little more than minutiae, we likely picked that up from Tim, too. (Viewers unquestioningly watched pitchers reach first base and don a jacket to protect their pitching arm from getting cold until Tim protested that, c’mon, it’s the middle of summer!) If we’re not shy about blending our view of life with our view of baseball, that’s also a Timmy trait that lives on. Staying on top of the action before Tim McCarver brought us Mets baseball meant knowing what the score was. Staying on top of the action after Tim McCarver brought us Mets baseball means heightened awareness of everything that touches this game we love and love to think about.

It’s Tim McCarver’s ballgame, and we’ve been reveling in it for forty years. Even with him now gone, we continue to look forward to the next game he’s brought us.

17 comments to This Is The Game That Tim Built

  • eric1973

    If only they’d given Lorn Brown one more season…

  • Ken

    A beautiful appreciation which makes me full recall just what a treat it was to learn what was really going on down on the field, and why. For him, “Inside Baseball” wasn’t a cliche, it was what he loved and was eager to share. RIP.

  • Greg, you summed it all up. I was lucky to hear and watch them all from the beginning in ’62. And then fortunate to meet them and be immersed in all the glory in ’86. Tim & Jack Buck did the 1991 World Series on CBS TV. And I was in the next booth with Vin Scully and Johnny Bench on CBS Radio. “We’ll see you tomorrow night” RIP Tim.

  • Adam Smith

    Thank you, Greg. I too grew up with Lindsay, Murph, and Ralph, and you’ve articulated the flow of those eras beautifully. I was a senior in HS, and a baseball junkie in ‘84, and was both ready and deeply appreciative of Tim’s awareness and appreciation of everything that was happening on the field. I’m sadder than I’d have thought I’d be at his passing, but I shouldn’t be surprised. His memory is so deeply connected to that time, those friends, some of whom are also gone, and this damn team. Rest well, Timmy.

  • Bob Kurpiel

    Spot on, as usual. I learned my baseball from the “Boys” at first, mainly Ralph Kiner. It takes an insider, one who has played the game, to fully appreciate it and explain it to others who are novices. Dimagio used to say he played the way he did because there might be one new fan who had never seen him before and wanted to show his excellence for that person . Tim was the same way in explaining the game for someone who had never experienced the game of baseball before. Some said he was too analytic but the game can be quite complicated and needs to be broken down for the novice. Seaver was superb at doing this for his profession, the pitcher. McCarver’s best stories was when he would at first, go to the mound when Gibson was pitching and leave with his tail between you know what. At least if there is baseball in heaven, all angels will get a great accounting of the game.

  • open the gates

    I remember listening to Tim McCarver and thinking, man, this guy just flat-out knows the game of baseball. Not just the game itself, but all the nuances. And he had a great gift for sharing the nuances with his viewers. You really felt like you were getting an insider’s perspective every game he called. And he was never a “homer” – he called it like he saw it, and if he had to criticize the Mets, he went ahead and did it. Not so common back then. He will definitely be missed. RIP.

  • Bob

    I was at Jack Murphy rooting for Mets when this happened..

    RIP in Baseball Heaven, Tim.

  • Andrew


    Won’t ever forget that call. 4/24/86, HoJo vs. Cardinals

  • Seth

    A beautiful tribute to the voice of the 80’s. Let’s not forget he was in the booth with Keith Jackson for the epic game 6 of the 86 NLCS. Among my most treasured DVDs…

  • DGW

    Thank you Greg. As usual, you hit the nail on the proverbial head.

  • eric1973

    I will always remember hating Tim McCarver back in 1973 when he got into a brawl with Felix Millan in early September after barrelling into Felix at 2nd base with a forearm to his stomach.

    I saved the photos from the Daily News. Still have them, as a matter of fact.

    The Mets lost that game, and the caption said “dimming pennant hopes.” Ha!

  • Cobra Joe

    I remember a Mets game at Shea Stadium in the early 1980s, possibly 1983. It was Met Seat Cushion Night at the Big Shea. The Mets were playing the Phillies and Mike Torrez was getting bombed by a score of 7 to 0 in the fifth evening. Met announcers Tim McCarver and Steve Zabriskie were hard pressed to maintain interest and enthusiasm as the Mets were being bombed.

    Finally, in the seventh inning, the Mets managed to scratch out a lone run. Along with the mock cheers from the few members of the Shea faithful in attendance, one disgusted Met fan decided to toss his (or her) Met seat cushion out towards the pitcher’s mound as if the seat cushion were a frisbee. Soon, several more Met seat cushions started floating through the air, all aimed at the pitcher’s mound. All of a sudden, the Met infield was inundated with literally hundreds of Met seat cushions, soaring through the air and landing on the pitcher’s mound.

    Let me tell you, Tim McCarver and Steve Zabriskie literally lost it, laughing hysterically as the Met seat cushions dropped on the pitcher’s mound as expertly as the members of the 82nd Airborne Division had parachuted onto their landing sites in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 In Normandy, France! The sight of the late Pete Flynn and his ground crew, trying futilely to pick-up all of those Met seat cushions only increased the absolute sense of zaniness to the proceedings.

    Steve Zabriskie quipped to Tim McCarver that the Mets would have enough seat cushions left over to hold Met Seat Cushion Day the very next day on Sunday afternoon. I think that was the funniest thing I have ever seen at a Mets game at Shea Stadium. Of course, having a great sense of humor to go along with his great knowledge of baseball, were two attributes Mr. McCarver always displayed in his fifteen years as a New York Mets announcer.

    Requiem aeternam, Mr. McCarver.

    • Mets-Reds, Saturday night, May 7, 1983, Darryl’s second big league game, a 7-5 loss.Torrez did pitch. Game had to be interrupted in the eighth and ninth as Mets (sort of) rallied and fans saluted their surge. And yes, the booth was in hysterics. I’d been home from college for about a week and was just getting introduced to McCarver and Zabriskie. “I like these guys,” I thought,

  • Cobra Joe

    Ah, yes, May of 1983, it only seems like yesterday. I remembered that the opposing team wore red uniforms; I just couldn’t remember if it was the Phillies, the Reds or the Cardinals for that matter. I wish that game was available on YouTube. No doubt, Mets fans from all generations would get a big kick out of seeing that classic Mets game.

  • eric1973

    Always hilarious, I guess, when fans throw stuff on the field that could potentially kill someone.

    If it was Bat Day, I guess it would have even been funnier.

  • Cobra Joe

    Oh, yes, when the Mets held Mo Vaughn Bobble Head Doll Night, they had the presence of mind to hand out the bobble head dolls of the Met first baseman AFTER the game was over. Considering the rough time Mo was having as a Met, that was a very wise decision on the part of Mets management.

    With those Met seat cushions, there wasn’t much chance of anyone getting injured by a carelessly tossed seat cushion. (I’ll bet that Big Mo would have liked to have had a couple of those Met seat cushions to park his caboose on in the Mets dugout.)