BOSTON -- Tim McCarver was a little concerned about replacing a sports-broadcasting legend like Howard Cosell back in 1985, when he called his first World Series.
Now McCarver is about to call his record 24th and final Fall Classic starting Wednesday night, when the Red Sox host the Cardinals in Game 1 on FOX (airing at 7:30 ET, with first pitch scheduled for 8:07), and the retiring Hall of Fame broadcaster is a little concerned about people making a big deal out of his swan song.
"I'm going to respectfully ask if I could keep things short along those lines," McCarver said during the annual World Series conference call with media on Monday. "I don't mind answering a couple questions, but the emphasis should be on the Series and the players involved.
"I'm obviously elated that I've lasted this long. I'm tickled to death to be doing this last Series. I've got to say that FOX has just been terrific ... in understanding what I want, and what I want is for the Series to be about the players and the game. But believe me, I'm elated, I'm delighted, and I've made it perfectly clear that the person I'm going to miss the most after things have subsided is Joe Buck.
"We've been together for 18 years, he's one of my best friends, and I've got to tell you, he is the best in the business in a very short time -- starting in 1996, when he was only 26 years old. I'm not trying to embarrass you, Joe."
At that point, Buck, about to broadcast his 16th World Series, stayed true to this broadcast couple's form and said:
"I can't wait for this to be over."
But seriously ...
"I'm probably more sad than he is, to be honest with you," Buck then said. "Everything he said I agree with. With regards to how it's been handled, I don't know if other networks that have gone through this have done it as well. I think that's because that's how Tim wanted it.
"During pregame of the first game this season in Detroit, another analyst from another network came in and was just kind of lurking. After lurking an awkward amount of time, he left, and Tim said, 'Get ready for that, big boy, all year long they're going to be circling like buzzards.
"As great as these games are, we have just as much fun preparing, going to eat, going for a glass of wine and just talking about baseball. I'll miss the time away from the booth as much as in the booth, and that's saying a lot."
FOX Sports president Eric Shanks was on the call as well, and when asked about the timing for any talent hirings for 2014, he said it is too early to speculate.
"Probably before next season," he said dryly. "We just really want to spend time with Tim and finish out the season and make sure first and foremost nothing gets in front of the game itself. Nothing will be in front of this matchup. Clearly we want to take the time after this matchup is finished and talk to Joe and Tim and come up with a game plan."
McCarver, who turned 72 last Wednesday, called his first World Series in 1985. It was the I-70 Series in which Kansas City beat St. Louis in seven games, following an umpiring call that became legend.
"I remember when the Kansas City Royals were trailing [in the Series] 3-1 and came back to win it in the style that they did," McCarver said. "You had the call by [umpire] Don Denkinger, fairly or unfairly, in the eighth inning of Game 6. I remember when I was going to conduct the postgame interview with [Cardinals manager] Whitey Herzog, I was up on the platform, they tore that platform down almost from underneath me when Don made that call that forced KC to come back and win, and then they won big in Game 7."
There was another important thing he remembers about that year.
"The first thing that struck me was, I was taking Howard Cosell's place," McCarver said. "ABC told me 10 days before that I was replacing Howard Cosell, and I would have preferred to have been replacing someone else, I've got to tell you. I replaced Howard, and that was the beginning.
"In the World Series, each takes a different shape. The 2001 World Series was just unbelievable after 9/11 and the Yankees and the Diamondbacks. And Jack Morris in 1991, and the Earthquake Series in '89."
Then he added one more time, with emphasis:
"I would prefer this be the last question about my final World Series, please. I respectfully request that."
TBS televised the Wild Card and Division Series rounds, plus the National League Championship Series. FOX televised the ALCS and now has the Fall Classic, and next year the same will be true, except reversing the LCS assignments. TBS viewers have been accustomed to a three-person booth, while FOX has stayed with these two over recent years. That is sure to be discussed when FOX sets its 2014 coverage.
"I think in practicality, it's harder with three guys," Buck said. "I've done it in the NFL and in MLB. When one [person] is talking and the other analyzing, the other one is usually talking to the truck, looking for what that analyst wants. ... I think [three-person crews] can work, but the golden rule should be put in front of the three people working, listen to each other, stop talking to the truck and listen to each other, and that's when it makes sense."
McCarver said one of the things that has made him proudest of the FOX postseason coverage has been their ability to "let the broadcast breathe." He said it is harder to do that with a third person in the booth. Buck concurred.
"We're as proud of what we haven't said as what we have," Buck said. "You can talk for days, but when a crowd's doing what it did at Fenway the other night, if you think you've got something better than that, you're wrong."
Buck said he doesn't expect McCarver to stray far from the action.
"He's going to be around, and who knows what the future holds," Buck said. "It's been nothing but a treat, and I owe him more than I can express for being the best audience, the best partner. He'd run through a wall for whoever is on his team. That was the case when he was playing, and when he was broadcasting, and I'm proud to say I'm on his team."