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Tim McCarver: A personal remembrance

On the hard drive of my laptop, in a directory called C:\Word5\Baseball, are 952 documents so old they were done in Word 5.0 for DOS and are files for anyone who played Major League Baseball between 1990 and 1993.

And the reason they exist is because Tim McCarver wanted to know everything about everyone.

After serving as Mets beat reporter for the late WNEW AM 1130, I was working as a stringer during the 1989 season when Tim invited me to lunch at the Regency Hotel on August 16th. We talked about Elvis (the Memphis connection, and it was the anniversary of his death). We talked about the Upper East Side. We talked about the music of Frank Sinatra. And then we talked about an offer – to serve as stage manager for the upcoming broadcasts of CBS’s Game of the Week, and to be his eyes and ears in the Mets clubhouse and in the booth for Channel 9.

I said yes.

First order of business: 14 red notebooks and 12 blue ones arrive in a big box at my house, containing pages laboriously typed on an actual typewriter. I spent the next several months digitizing these player bios and adding information from my own reporting and gathering.

One of five typewritten pages in the file of Pirates outfielder Andy Van Slyke, compiled by Anita Bonita and used by Tim McCarver during the 1993 season

You want to know why Tim McCarver was considered the best analyst in baseball? Because he made sure he had the best possible information at his fingertips – whether it was how Mike Krukow managed to be such a “Met Killer,” or that Jackie McReynolds was about to give birth any day, and maybe that’s why her husband Kevin was in a slump.

So, for every game at Shea, I’d arrive about three hours before first pitch to be on the field during batting practice, to gather whatever information I could. Then, it was doing the same thing in the clubhouse. And finally, bringing my intel upstairs, sharing it with Tim during the broadcast via scrawled notes on scrap paper, and then going back downstairs to the clubhouse to get the post-mortem, as it were.

For games on the road, FedEx was our friend. I’d put together a fact sheet and any update to the printouts for the notebooks and send them to arrive in time for the first game of the series. (I had a computer ... but no one else did. And cellphones were pretty much only a dream at that point.)

So many memories ...

– A handwritten note, passed to me in the booth by Tim, asking me to order tuna fish sandwiches to be delivered to the Regency for after a day game.

– Tim and Ralph Kiner liked their cigars, so I had a little battery-operated fan, shaped like a lemon, to clear the air out so the rest of us could breathe!

– Stage Manager Vinny Sinopoli and I – natives of the City – reminding Tim and Ralph that the train out beyond the parking lot was referred to by New Yorkers not as the “el,” but as the “Numba 7.”

– The joy at a mention in USA Today, when I line I’d given Tim during the remnants of a hurricane was featured in the TV column (“Will we get this game in, or will Hugo be the Victor?”).

– Crossing the Bay Bridge into Oakland, one year after The Earthquake that everyone in the car but me had experienced personally. For that entire span, not a single breath was drawn.

– When Tim and Jack Buck would be decompressing after CBS games by sharing stories, you’d have to hold your sides to keep from being overwhelmed by the laughter.

– The way he’d melt, whenever his wife Anne walked in or his daughters were mentioned. And the genuine affection from former teammates who’d visit the booth – I especially think of Orlando Cepeda, who was practically in tears when he described their days together with the Cardinals.

– His special friendship with legendary high-home cameraman Andrés Hernández, who worked at the opposite corner of the booth. Andy always respectfully referred to Tim as “Don Timoteo.”

– And finally, I think of one day after we’d returned from a CBS road trip, standing in the Channel 9 booth at Shea, looking out. Tim pointed to right field, and said, “That’s where they’ll bury me someday, right out in right field.” I asked him if they’d be burying Steve “Lefty” Carlton out there, too – 60 feet, six inches away. I can still hear his laugh.

Rest easy, Timmy. And send us the analysis from the new game you’re covering.

Anita Bonita covered the Mets and Major League Baseball for local and network radio and TV from 1988 to 1994, as a beat reporter, researcher and stage manager. She is currently a news anchor at the Mets flagship, WCBS 880.

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