Archive for the ‘Broadcasters’ Category

Joe Garagiola, a St. Louis native who began his big-league career with the Cardinals, hit perhaps his most dramatic home run against his hometown team.

joe_garagiola2Pinch-hitting with two outs in the ninth inning of the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader, Garagiola hit a three-run walkoff home run that erased a 3-1 deficit and lifted the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals on May 30, 1952.

Garagiola, who died at age 90 on March 23, 2016, was better known as a broadcaster than as a player. Nonetheless, he had several significant performances during a nine-year playing career in the majors as a catcher with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs and Giants.

Perhaps his most important contribution as a player was his performance for the Cardinals as a 20-year-old rookie against the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series. Garagiola batted .316 (6-for-19), scored twice and had four RBI. He caught 42.2 innings without an error for the Cardinals, who won the championship in seven games.

A left-handed batter, Garagiola hit 42 big-league home runs. In addition to the walkoff home run to beat the Cardinals, he hit two grand slams for St. Louis.

Here is a look at those three home runs:

First base open

The 1952 Pirates were a dreadful team. After the Cardinals beat them, 3-2, in the first game of the May 30, 1952, doubleheader at Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ record was 8-33.

In the second game, starting pitchers Cloyd Boyer of the Cardinals and rookie Ron Kline of the Pirates each pitched eight scoreless innings. Clem Koshorek singled to lead off the bottom of the first for the Pirates. Boyer held Pittsburgh hitless from then through the eighth.

The Cardinals scored three in the top of the ninth, breaking the scoreless tie.

In the bottom of the ninth, Koshorek led off with a bunt single. After Bobby Del Greco popped out, Gus Bell doubled, moving Koshorek to third.

Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky replaced Boyer with Gerry Staley. A starter, Staley was making his first relief appearance of the 1952 season. He issued an intentional walk to the first batter he faced, cleanup hitter Ralph Kiner, loading the bases. A rookie, Brandy Davis, ran for Kiner.

When Jack Merson grounded out, pitcher to first, Koshorek scored, with Bell advancing to third and Davis to second.

Garagiola, who had caught the first game, was sent by manager Billy Meyer to pinch-hit for catcher Clyde McCullough. Meyer wanted a left-handed batter, Garagiola, to face the right-handed Staley.

With two outs and first base open, Stanky could have had Staley issue an intentional walk to Garagiola. On deck was George Strickland, a right-handed batter who hit .177 for the 1952 Pirates.

Instead, the Cardinals pitched to Garagiola, who ended the game with his first home run of the season. Boxscore

Trash talking

Four years earlier, playing in his first game of the season, Garagiola broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning with a grand slam off reliever Harry Gumbert, lifting the Cardinals to a 13-7 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati on April 30, 1948.

Garagiola hit a line drive off Gumbert, 38, a former Cardinal, that carried over the right field screen at Crosley Field, according to the Associated Press.

As he rounded the bases, Garagiola was razzed by players in the Reds dugout. Garagiola challenged one of the Reds on his way to bench, The Sporting News reported.

Said baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, who witnessed the incident: “I told manager Eddie Dyer that he’d better have a talk with Garagiola and see that it didn’t happen again.”

Garagiola was 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and four RBI in the game. His teammate, Stan Musial, was 5-for-6 with three runs scored and four RBI. Boxscore

Sizzling in Cincinnati

Two years later, Garagiola hit the second and last grand slam of his big-league career. Again, it occurred in Cincinnati.

On May 28, 1950, in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Red Schoendienst on third and Enos Slaughter on second, one out, when Reds starter Ewell Blackwell issued an intentional walk to Bill Howerton, loading the bases for Garagiola.

The grand slam hit by Garagiola was his first home run of the season, giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead. Garagiola went 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI in a 7-2 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

Four days later, on June 1, Garagiola separated his shoulder when he tripped over the legs of the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson on a play at first base.

Previously: Think Buster Posey is good? How about Joe Garagiola?

Previously: How Harry Caray got Joe Garagiola in Cardinals booth

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At 29, Joe Garagiola ended a big-league playing career and began a big-league broadcasting career, joining Harry Caray and Jack Buck on the Cardinals radio team. Caray had encouraged Garagiola to make the move, but eventually regretted doing so when the pair had a falling out.

buck_caray_garagiolaIn 1955, KMOX in St. Louis became the exclusive flagship radio station of the Cardinals. The 50,000-watt CBS affiliate signed a deal to broadcast the team’s entire 1955 schedule, including spring training games. KMOX hadn’t broadcast a complete Cardinals schedule in 15 years.

Caray, Buck and Milo Hamilton had broadcast Cardinals games on a rival station, KXOK, in 1954. Caray and Buck were recruited to KMOX in 1955. Hamilton was let go. At the urging of Caray, Garagiola replaced Hamilton.

Recruited by Caray

“Harry didn’t get along with Milo any better than he got along with me at the time and we knew he wanted to get somebody else on the broadcasts with whom he was more friendly,” Buck said in his book “That’s a Winner.”

“The man he wanted _ and got _ was Joe Garagiola. He and Harry had become friends when Garagiola was playing with the Cardinals … Harry kept bending his ear about getting into broadcasting … Harry talked the brewery and advertising people into hiring Joe.”

In his book “Baseball is a Funny Game,” Garagiola said, “I made a real effort to become a talk-for-pay guy. Every day I agitated Harry Caray … about what a soft job he had. His answer was that if I could hit like I could talk I wouldn’t have any worries. The kidding got on the square when he kept encouraging me about a future in broadcasting. Harry was a big help to me as a broadcaster.”

Goodwill ambassador

Garagiola, a St. Louis native, was 20 when he made his big-league playing debut as a catcher with the 1946 Cardinals. He played in the World Series that year, hitting .316 with four RBI in five games against the Red Sox.

The Cardinals traded Garagiola to the Pirates in June 1951.

In 1954, Garagiola played in his final big-league season for the Cubs and Giants. In his book “Holy Cow,” Caray implied the Cardinals knew in 1954 that they wanted Garagiola for their 1955 broadcast team.

“The third spot on the team was being saved for Joe Garagiola … Once he was done playing, Joe was going to join up with me,” Caray said.

Garagiola spent the winter before the 1955 season “traveling the banquet circuit in his new role as sportscaster of the Cardinals games and goodwill ambassador for Anheuser-Busch.”

Odd man out

When it came time for spring training, Caray and Garagiola went to Florida to do the games. Buck was left behind in St. Louis.

“It was difficult for me because Joe became Harry’s right hand and I was the odd man out,” Buck said. “I was all set to go to spring training that year, 1955, and Joe bumped me out of the trip. He talked the brewery into sending him instead. He also became the full-time partner for Harry on the road, leaving me at home in the studio to do the commercials and scoring updates of other games.”

Garagiola’s wife, Audrie, became the Busch Stadium organist. She was as popular as her husband. According to The Sporting News, the “ballpark switchboard received several calls complimenting” the musical skill of the organist, while Joe “has made a favorable impression … as a broadcaster of Redbird games.”

Said Buck: “Nobody at the time knew how well Garagiola was going to do in the broadcast booth … He walked right in and started doing it. It helped that Harry liked him, but I give Joe a lot of credit for working at it.”

Hurt feelings

Caray, Garagiola and Buck formed the Cardinals’ broadcast team from 1955-59. In 1960, Buck departed, leaving Caray and Garagiola as a duo.

“Caray was helping make Garagiola the success he became, but they probably were too much alike to remain partners for long,” Buck said in his 1997 book. “Harry resented the fact that Joe became a national celebrity and never gave Harry credit … The relationship between Harry and Joe fell apart to the point that they’re still not friends today.”

Buck rejoined Caray and Garagiola in 1961 and they remained Cardinals broadcast partners in 1962. Garagiola departed to join NBC on its national broadcasts in 1963 and was replaced in the Cardinals booth by Jerry Gross.

The Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually since 1978 to a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball, has been awarded to Buck (1987), Caray (1989), Garagiola (1991) and Hamilton (1992).

Previously: Jack Buck, Darryl Kile faced same foe in Cardinals debuts

Previously: Think Buster Posey is good? How about Joe Garagiola?

Previously: How Harry Caray survived near-fatal car accident

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In considering a career path for 1972, Mike Shannon could have attempted a comeback as a Cardinals player or accepted a position on manager Red Schoendienst’s coaching staff. He might even have become a minor-league manager. Instead, he became a Cardinals broadcaster.

mike_shannon3More than four decades later, Shannon still is on the job.

On Jan. 13, 2014, the Cardinals announced that Shannon, 74, had signed a three-year contract extension to remain on their broadcasting team through 2016.

Shannon, who helped the Cardinals win three National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1960s as a right fielder and then a third baseman, had his playing career cut short in 1970 because of a kidney disease. After spending the 1971 season as the Cardinals’ assistant director of promotions and sales, Shannon was looking for another role.

In a column for The Sporting News in October 1971, Dick Young wrote that none other than Stan Musial told him that Shannon “will try to make a comeback with the Cardinals” in 1972.

A month later, The Sporting News reported that “Shannon had been in the picture as a coach” for Schoendienst’s 1972 staff.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that Bing Devine, St. Louis’ general manager, had offered Shannon the chance to become manager of the Cardinals’ 1972 Class AAA Tulsa club, replacing Warren Spahn.

So it was somewhat surprising when Shannon was selected in November 1971 to replace Jim Woods on the Cardinals broadcast team for 1972.

Uncommon common sense

“I don’t think I was looking at doing it past one year,” Shannon told Mike Eisenbath of the Post-Dispatch in an Aug. 11, 1996, article that paid tribute to the broadcaster’s 25th anniversary on the job. “I just figured, ‘I think I’ll try this.’ ”

Wrote Eisenbath: “It’s been 25 years since someone had the wild idea to try Shannon in the KMOX broadcast booth. Turned out to be pure inspiration … Shannon has given Cardinals fans 25 years of expertise, laughter, malaprops, insight and frequent doses of uncommon common sense.”

Reflecting on his 1972 debut in the booth alongside Jack Buck, Shannon said, “My big problem was the mechanics of it. It’s like walking into a new home. Where’s the kitchen? Where’s the bathroom?”

Shannon said he tries to assume the role of a teacher in his broadcasts. “I might have the knowledge, but for me to try to get it across to someone _ this is what my job really is all about,” he said. “To teach, to entertain, to report. And I like to have a little fun.”

He never tried to be perfect. “Perfection was hung on a cross a long time ago,” Shannon said.

From player to broadcaster

Shannon’s first year in the Cardinals’ broadcast booth was the second year that his 1964 St. Louis teammate, Bob Uecker, worked as a Brewers broadcaster.

Other former players who joined Shannon and Uecker as team broadcasters in 1972: Jerry Coleman (Padres), Don Drysdale (Rangers), George Kell (Tigers), Phil Rizzuto (Yankees), Bill White (Yankees), Johnny Pesky (Red Sox), Herb Score (Indians), Rocky Colavito (Indians), Lou Boudreau (Cubs), Joe Nuxhall (Reds), Waite Hoyt (Reds), Ralph Kiner (Mets) and Richie Ashburn (Phillies).

The 1972 Cardinals broadcast team was Buck, Shannon and Mike Walden.

Besides Jack Buck, here are others who were Cardinals broadcasters on radio or television during Shannon’s tenure in the booth:

Jay Randolph, Harry Walker, Bob Starr, Dan Kelly, Bob Carpenter, Ken Wilson, Al Hrabosky, Ozzie Smith, Rich Gould, Joe Buck, George Grande, Bob Ramsey, Dan McLaughlin, Joel Meyers, Wayne Hagin, Rick Horton, John Rooney and Mike Claiborne.

Previously: Mike Shannon almost became Cardinals’ coach

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In search of a late-night drink at a venerable St. Louis hotel, longtime Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray nearly was killed when struck by a car.

harry_carayOn Saturday afternoon, Nov. 2, 1968, less than a month after he had called the World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers, Caray did the broadcast of the Oklahoma State vs. Missouri football game at Columbia, Mo.

Afterward, he drove to St. Louis and, on a whim, decided to stop by and watch the NHL game between the Blues and North Stars. During the hockey game, Caray, who was estranged from his second wife at the time, called a friend and arranged to meet for dinner.

After dinner, unwilling to call it a night, Caray headed to the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, a landmark in St. Louis since the 1920s and a venue for music and shows. It was about 1:15 a.m., Sunday morning, Nov. 3, when Caray drove up to the hotel in the rain.

A regular at the Chase Park Plaza, Caray, 51, usually left his car with a parking attendant at the entrance. But, because of the rain, there was a backup of vehicles in the hotel driveway.

Impatient, Caray noticed an empty parking spot along the curb on the other side of the street, directly across from the hotel. He parked, exited the car and started to cross the busy street, Kingshighway.

Sent flying

Midway across, Caray told The Sporting News, “I turned to see if anything was coming from my left. The last thing I remember was, ‘Am I OK out here?'”

A car driven by Michael Poliquin, 21, a Vietnam War veteran from Overland, Mo., struck Caray. Reported The Sporting News: “He was knocked 40 feet in the air. His shoes were found 25 feet south of the hotel and he landed 40 feet north.”

Poliquin, who hours earlier had been engaged to be married, told police he saw a pedestrian step into the street in midblock and wasn’t able to stop on the rain-slickened pavement, the Associated Press reported. Poliquin said Caray saw the car at the last moment and jumped in the direction the vehicle was skidding.

In his book “Holy Cow!” (1989, Villard), Caray wrote, “I was lying in the street … in the pouring rain. People started to gather around. Many recognized me; all were afraid to touch me.

“A Goodwill truck came down Kingshighway. The driver saw a body in the street and … stopped his truck. When he saw I was just lying unattended to in the rain, he pulled a few burlap bags from the back of the truck and covered me with them _ keeping me warm and dry _ then just drove away. I think he saved my life.”

Taken to a hospital, Caray was treated for compound fractures of both legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken nose and facial cuts, the Associated Press reported.

Wrote Caray: “I had almost died on the street when the rainwater and blood nearly congested my lungs … I was extremely fortunate they didn’t have to amputate my left leg during surgery.”

Police cited the driver of the car for failure to display a driver’s license and Caray was cited for crossing a street while not at an intersection, the Associated Press reported.

Party room

Initially, the only visitors permitted in Caray’s hospital room were family members and Robert Hyland, general manager of Cardinals flagship radio station KMOX, according to United Press International.

“We can’t keep Harry from talking,” Hyland said. “He’s full of spirit and already tired of being in the hospital. He’s been pestering the doctors to let him go back to work.”

The doctors informed Caray he would need to remain in the hospital until just before Christmas. Caray convinced hospital staff his recovery would progress if he could have lots of visitors.

“My room became headquarters for off-duty nurses, for kids who wanted to talk baseball, for all my friends,” Caray wrote. “At night they would send martinis down from the restaurant on the top floor, as well as specially prepared meals, so I didn’t have to eat the awful hospital food. After a while, it was like a nightclub in there. It got so I hated to leave.”

Upon Caray’s release, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch offered the broadcaster the use of Busch’s beach house near St. Petersburg, Fla. Caray recuperated there _ under the care of a male nurse, he said _ and was back in the Cardinals’ broadcast booth for the start of the 1969 season.

Previously: An inside look into the last game for Stan Musial

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(Updated July 1, 2016)

In 2012, when Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday launched a mammoth home run into the area of Busch Stadium III known as Big Mac Land, it naturally drew comparisons with the shots hit by former St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire.

Before McGwire, who played for the Cardinals from 1997-2001, another Big Mac, Giants first baseman Willie McCovey, may have hit the longest home run seen in St. Louis.

On July 20, 2012, Holliday crushed a split-fingered fastball from Cubs starter Ryan Dempster that resulted in what Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon called “a king daddy” of a home run. Boxscore

The towering third-inning solo shot near the Big Mac Land section in the upper reaches above left field was reported by several sources, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and MLB.com, to be 469 feet, making it the longest home run at Busch Stadium III since the ballpark opened in 2006. (ESPN calculated the distance at 438 feet.)

“That was the longest one I’ve seen,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said to MLB.com.

(Albert Pujols had held the Busch Stadium III record for longest home run with his 465-foot shot to left field against the Rockies’ Esmil Rogers in the first inning on Aug. 14, 2011, according to a Cardinals media guide. Boxscore)

(On June 30, 2016, Brandon Moss hit a home run at Busch Stadium III off Chris Young of the Royals that was estimated by the Cardinals to have traveled 477 feet. MLB.com measured it at 454 feet.)

Shannon, calling Holliday’s king-sized home run on KMOX radio, immediately thought back to Sept. 4, 1966. On that Sunday afternoon, McCovey hit what Shannon told his listeners was the longest home run he’d witnessed.

Leading off the third inning against Cardinals starter Al Jackson, McCovey hit a ball that landed in the upper deck above the scoreboard in right-center field at Busch Stadium II. (The ballpark opened four months earlier, in May 1966.)

Shannon was playing right field for the Cardinals that day and “had a good look” at McCovey’s home run. Shannon said he later asked McCovey (who had 521 career home runs in the major leagues) whether it was the longest ball he’d hit. “I don’t know if it was the longest,” Shannon said McCovey replied, “but it was the hardest.” Boxscore

The book “Baseball’s Ultimate Power: Ranking the All-Time Greatest Distance Home Run” (2010, Globe Pequot Press) had this description of McCovey’s St. Louis home run: “The ball was struck on a line drive trajectory that resulted in a 515-foot journey.”

Mike Eisenbath, author of “The Cardinals Encyclopedia” (1999, Temple University Press), estimated McCovey’s home run at 450 feet.

The Cardinals’ 2005 Busch Stadium commemorative yearbook had this item on McCovey’s 1966 home run:

By the casual method of the time, an unofficial estimate of more than 450 feet is pronounced.

Years later, more sophisticated methods _ such as estimated baseball trajectories, charts and computers _ will gauge several home runs at greater distances.

Still, many who witness McCovey’s blast will continue to regard it as the longest home run in Busch Stadium (II) history. “That may be the farthest hit anywhere,” remembers Mike Shannon. “I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

(On Sept. 16, 1966, 12 days after his titanic blast in St. Louis, McCovey smacked a 505-foot home run off Mets starter Jack Fisher at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. It’s the longest homer hit at that stadium, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Boxscore)

Until McGwire arrived, Pirates first baseman Willie Stargell came closest to challenging McCovey’s home run for longest hit at Busch Stadium II. On July 4, 1979, Stargell ripped a slider from reliever Darold Knowles 510 feet into right-center field, above and to the right of the scoreboard at Busch Stadium II. Boxscore

“That’s the longest home run I’ve ever seen hit in this ballpark by a left-hander,” Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez said to the Associated Press.

Said Stargell: “When I saw it go out, I saw (Knowles) flinging something like his cap. He was disgusted. It was a ball that Darold, I’m sure, got in an area he didn’t want. It was a nice, easy swing. I had no idea it was going that far.”

Nineteen years after Stargell’s shot, McGwire hit what officially is called the longest home run at Busch Stadium II. (The Cardinals have been measuring home runs since 1988, according to the Associated Press.) The 545-foot home run on May 16, 1998, off the Marlins’ Livan Hernandez hit the Post-Dispatch sign in center field. For the remainder of the season, a giant Band-Aid marked the spot where the ball dented the sign. Boxscore

“It’s the best ball I’ve ever hit,” McGwire said to the Associated Press. “I don’t think I can hit one better than that.”

Previously: No one hit more triples, as many home runs as Stan Musial

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(Updated Dec. 10, 2013)

When Tim McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting, it capped a remarkable career that began more than 50 years ago with the Cardinals.

McCarver was honored on July 21, 2012, at Cooperstown, N.Y. He became the third former Cardinals catcher, joining Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker, to receive the Frick Award.

In December 2013, it was reported that McCarver, 72, would return to the Cardinals as a member of their 2014 broadcast team.

As a youth in his hometown of Memphis, McCarver was influenced early by Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray (who also is a Frick Award winner). In his book, “Oh, Baby, I Love It” (1987, Villard), McCarver wrote:

I got an early start on my announcing career while playing cork ball, imitating Harry Caray on the play-by-play. Harry was something of a hero in our house.

At Christian Brothers High School, McCarver was a standout athlete. He received football scholarship offers from schools such as Notre Dame, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. But professional baseball offered an immediate opportunity to earn an income.

“Money was the deciding factor, plain and simple,” McCarver wrote.

The best baseball offers came from the Yankees, Giants and Cardinals. The scout trying to sign McCarver for the Yankees was Bill Dickey, a Hall of Fame catcher. But St. Louis’ offer of a $75,000 signing bonus and a guaranteed annual salary of $6,000 per year for five years convinced McCarver and his parents he should join the Cardinals.

McCarver signed in June 1959 and was sent to the Cardinals’ Class D minor-league affiliate at Keokuk (Iowa) of the Midwest League. Unfazed by professional pitching, McCarver hit .360 in 65 games. He committed 14 errors.

When Rochester (N.Y.) catcher Dick Rand dislocated a right index finger, McCarver was promoted to the Class AAA International League club to replace him. He hit .357 for Rochester in 17 games and made no errors.

In September, three months after he had graduated from high school, McCarver, 17, was promoted to the Cardinals and joined the team in Milwaukee. Wrote McCarver:

When I arrived at the Cards’ team bus for the first time, I was nervous enough. I didn’t know these guys and I wanted to impress them.

On Sept. 10, his first day in a big-league uniform, McCarver marveled from the dugout at Milwaukee’s County Stadium at being in the presence of two of his boyhood heroes, Stan Musial of the Cardinals and Hank Aaron of the Braves. Wrote McCarver:

So when Hank came to bat for the first time that day, I leaped from my perch in the Cardinals’ dugout and did what I always did when I listened to the Braves play the Cardinals. “Come on, Henry,” I yelled. “Come on, Henry.” The action seemed natural to me, but some of my teammates weren’t amused.

In the ninth inning, with two out, Bill White on second base and the Cardinals trailing by three, manager Solly Hemus sent McCarver to make his major-league debut as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Marshall Bridges. Wrote McCarver:

So there I was, younger than Musial’s own son, picking up a bat and advancing to the plate. As I stepped in to face Don McMahon, a veteran right-handed relief pitcher with a commanding fastball, my knees literally shook with fear.

Quickly, McMahon got two strikes on McCarver. Then the teen swung at a curveball and lifted it to right field, where the game-ending catch was made by none other than Hank Aaron. Boxscore

The next day, Sept. 11, 1959, at Chicago against the Cubs, McCarver got his first big-league start at catcher. Batting in the No. 2 spot, he went 0-for-4 against Bob Anderson. The Cardinals’ starting pitcher was Bob Miller, 20. According to The Sporting News, Miller and McCarver formed the youngest battery in big-league history. Boxscore

To put that into comparative perspective, the combined ages of McCarver and Miller (37) were younger than the individual ages of two of their teammates, Musial (38) and George Crowe (38).

On Sept. 13, McCarver, batting lead-off, opened the game with his first big-league hit, a single against the Cubs’ Glen Hobbie. Boxscore

McCarver played in eight games for the 1959 Cardinals, hitting .167 (4-for-24).

Described by The Sporting News as “one of the finest catching prospects the Cardinals have brought up in many years,” McCarver had stints with St. Louis in 1960 and ’61, then spent all of 1962 in the minor leagues before earning the Cardinals’ starting catcher job in 1963.

After a 21-year big-league playing career, he went into broadcasting and did national work for ABC, CBS and Fox before deciding to return to the Cardinals.

Previously: Tim McCarver: third Cards catcher to be named broadcasting’s best

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