Over the course of his 21-year playing career and even longer tenure in the broadcast booth, Tim McCarver has a wealth of stories and opinions. In Oh, Baby, I Love It! Baseball Summers, Hot Pennant Races, Grand Salamis, Jellylegs, El Swervos, Dingers and Dunkers, Etc., Etc., Etc., published in 1987, McCarver covers quite a bit of ground.
He discusses his early days as a 17-year-old rookie with the Cardinals, his relationships with Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, and offers a variety of thoughts about the game before detailing the thoughts he recorded throughout the New York Met’s 1986 World Championship season. After all his years in the broadcast booth, we’ve all gotten to know McCarver’s unique voice, and it really comes through this book.
In the first chapter, he shares the story of his first major-league game against Hank Aaron and the Braves, and says that when Aaron first came up to bat, he cheered for his boyhood hero, drawing glares from his teammates. It’s a cringe-inducing tale, almost too weird to be believed, but it certainly sounds like one of McCarver’s occasionally self-deprecating stories.
He also tells some really good behind-the-scenes tales, such as the way newly installed Cardinals manager Johnny Keane got the attention of the entire clubhouse when he called a team meeting and singled out Mickey McDermott, announcing that the team had checked his room four nights in a row and he hadn’t been there once. In front of the whole team, Keane gave McDermott the pink slip, effectively ending his major-league career.
McCarver also has a great story about the first time he and Carlton worked together during a spring training game (it ended with them shouting at each other in the locker room). McCarver later recounts a game in 1973 when Carlton was with the Phillies and McCarver was with the Cardinals. Carlton struggled and was pulled from the game early, so he sent a clubhouse boy to the Cardinals dugout to get McCarver, who was out of the lineup that day. Carlton then asked his old friend for advice, knowing his former teammate would give it to him straight. They clearly had come a long ways.
There was also the story of Ray Taylor, who celebrated a bit too hard after the 1964 championship. When the rest of the team went to Stan and Biggie’s to celebrate, Taylor never showed up. Concerned, the team sent a security guard back to the clubhouse, where he found Taylor buried under a mound of clothes, contentedly sleeping off his postgame spirits.
The final quarter of the book is all about the Mets’ 1986 season, which is interesting primarily because it looks at Dwight Gooden and the rest of the team without the benefit of the modern perspective.
In all, it’s a good book. McCarver doesn’t attempt to chronicle his career or make it a collection of opinions from a baseball lifer. Instead, he bounces around a bit, interspersing his opinions with stories that back up his point. It makes for a light, fast read from a guy who caught some of the best pitchers and played for some of the best teams in Cardinals history.
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