Tim McCarver gladly brings it up, unprovoked, and the joy in his laugh is palpable as he speaks of that seminal year, 1968, when he squatted behind home plates all over the country in a Cardinals’ uniform and watched the game of baseball change forever.
“It’s always mentioned, with Bob Gibson and Luis Tiant and the rest,” McCarver said this week, speaking of the Cardinals’ and Indians’ all-time great pitchers who had 1.12 and 1.60 ERAs, respectively, that season. “But I think pitching has been as dominant this year as in 1968.”
That is an extreme statement for someone who was closer to the game than most in pitching’s greatest season, catching most of Gibson’s 34 starts, 28 of them complete games, 13 of those shutouts.
the Yankees at Citi FIeld." title="TRICKY DICKEY:R.A. Dickey has thrown consecutive 1-hitters heading into his Sunday start against the Yankees at Citi FIeld." width="300" height="300" src="/rw/nypost/2012/06/22/sports/web_photos/22.1sxxx.tvcover.C.TA--300x300.jpg" />
TRICKY DICKEY:R.A. Dickey has thrown consecutive 1-hitters heading into his Sunday start against the Yankees at Citi FIeld.
“What a story pitching has been in baseball,” McCarver said of this season. “It’s as dominant now as it was then.”
Forty-four years ago, Gibson’s and Tiant’s ERAs were two of the four best regular-season marks of the modern era, and the Red Sox’s Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with the lowest batting average (.301) ever to lead the league. The result was Major League Baseball’s decision lowering the height of the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10.
This season, there have been five no-hitters thrown through mid-June (six Mariners pitchers combined to throw one), the most in that time frame since 1917.
“I don’t think they can lower the mound any more,” McCarver joked, “or they’d be pitching in a hole.”
One of those no-hitters came on June 1 when Johan Santana threw the first in the Mets’ 50-year history. Adding to the Mets’ pitching success (starting pitching, at least) have been the two consecutive one-hitters thrown by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
It has all led up to tomorrow night at Citi Field, where McCarver will be in the Fox television booth with partner Joe Buck, calling the middle game of the season’s second installment of the Subway Series — and all eyes will be on the pitching.
The nationally televised matchup will feature the Yankees’ young right-hander Ivan Nova — of whom McCarver said, “You could make a case that Nova is one of the best in the AL” — and Mets veteran Chris Young.
Young is one of the pieces the Mets hope they can use to build on the success of Santana and Dickey to establish a deep and formidable rotation, something McCarver has seen happen before.
“I think when you have starting pitching like [the Mets] have had, it becomes competitive after a while,” he said. “We had a competitive situation with the Cardinals. Everybody saw how Gibson performed and they didn’t want to give up a run, either. We had 31 shutouts that year, second all-time from a team standpoint. That’s a type of contagious component.”
Matched with the Yankees’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position this season and the size of Citi Field possibly limiting their home-run power, McCarver seems to be expecting a game echoing a time with faded colors.
“I’ve been around the game a long time,” he said, “and it seems to me at some point in time you have to start giving pitchers credit.”
Tim McCarver, Bob Gibson, Johan Santana, Luis Tiant, the Cardinals, the Cardinals, the Yankees, Major League Baseball, McCarver