It’s not often that I visit with other critics, especially those who work in other fields. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down for lunch yesterday in Napa with baseball analyst Tim McCarver to talk about our national pastime, wine, sports in general and calling them the way you see them.
I’m not sure how sports analysts get along with each other, but wine writers are not a chummy lot. I suppose that has to do with the fact that we’re called upon for opinions, and that staking out one’s territory on one issue or another can become a point of contention, as in, “I can’t believe he rated that wine so high (or low)," or "I can’t believe he didn’t like that wine ... I loved it.”
In one sense, I suppose baseball players are like winemakers, and McCarver, who won three consecutive national Emmy Awards for “Best Sportscaster/Analyst,” is known for his direct – some would say obnoxious – style. In person he’s engaging, articulate, and full of great sports stories and memories. Sitting across from him at lunch was like watching him on TV, whether as the baseball analyst for Fox Sports, or hosting his own TV show.
Most of the time we talked about sports and had a touch of spring fever, with sunny skies in Napa (between rainstorms). McCarver, who caught hall-of-famers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton and faced Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in a career that spanned 21 seasons, remains a keen student of the game.
At one point, we talked about the challenges of trying to provide insight into a game, or wine. We talked about being candid, and knowing that mistakes will be made.
“Players expect you to say everything good about them [on the air],” McCarver said, and then he shifted gears, asking me in a half-serious tone, “Have you ever been dramatically wrong?” to which I replied, “Of course I have. Lots of times.”
“I still go into the clubhouse[s] every day,” McCarver said, “ because I know I can be wrong and that’s the best place to learn about what you might have missed.”
We agreed that it's easy to view a replay, or judge a wine by its reputation, and know what the right call should have been.
Then he shared a funny wine moments, recalling drinking a 1961 Mazis-Chambertin, with Steve Carlton, out of a plastic cup with toothpaste on the lip.
We talked briefly about his TV show, and an interview he conducted with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is a big baseball fan and student of the game, which surprised McCarver. A gentleman seated next to us politely interrupted McCarver at this point to mention that he had gone to high school and played basketball, at Power Memorial, with Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor. The gentleman recalled that Power had only one loss during Alcindor’s high school career.
As we got up to leave, I noticed that seated behind us were Julia Levitan, general manager of Dominus, and Cherise Moueix, owner Christian Moueix’s wife. They were studying baseball calendars. We said hello, Cherise invited him to Dominus, and McCarver looked at their baseball schedule, which was for the 2008 Boston Red Sox home games. Turns out Cherise and Julia are both BoSox fans.
Powell Yang — Napa, — January 8, 2008 5:34pm ET
Stephanie A Hubbell — winter — January 9, 2008 2:34am ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — January 10, 2008 2:10pm ET
Harvey Posert Jr — napa valley — January 14, 2008 1:24pm ET
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