Monday, March 23, 2009

Boog Makes It Big

It was about 20 years ago that TigerBlog rode with Tom McCarthy one Friday night to see Trenton State College open the football season against Southern Connecticut (Trenton State wiped SCSU out). TigerBlog was covering the game for the Trenton Times, and McCarthy was doing the radio for a small Mercer County station.

It was a few years later, when McCarthy was Princeton's football and men's basketball play-by-play man, that TigerBlog brought an out-of-town scoreboard up the rickety old press box steps in Palmer Stadium to the radio/TV booths on the second level and overheard this comment from McCarthy to then-color commentator and now-Philadelphia Channel 6 reporter Walter Perez: "Washington up the middle; gain of three; and Walt, don't even think about eating my cookie."

Then there was Friday, when TB was driving along and put on Westwood One radio's coverage of the first round of the NCAA tournament. And who was the play-by-play man from Miami? Tom McCarthy, of course.

TigerBlog called McCarthy Saturday afternoon, and McCarthy had to cut the conversation short because the Phillies' game was about to start and he had to get on TV, his "day job," as it were.

McCarthy - nicknamed "Boog" a hundred years ago for his resemblence to former Baltimore Oriole first baseman Boog Powell - is on top of the broadcasting world these days. He does the Phils on TV (and is about to receive his World Series ring) and college football and basketball on CBS College Sports. He has previously done radio on WFAN for the New York Mets, a job he left to move to the Phils' TV booth just in time to see the team win its second-ever World Championship.

McCarthy is familiar to Princeton fans for men's basketball and football work for a decade, including two famous calls from 1996: "Gabe Lewullis, off the glass, and the Tigers lead 43-41" and "Bailey sizes up the shot ... his shot is no good, and there will be a new champion in the NCAA."

The Ivy League is unique in many ways, and one of them is a geographical one. Because of the proximity of the schools, no league trip in any sport is done by air. Instead, it's a series of long rides, in the four-six hour range, to and from venues.

TigerBlog spent literally hundreds of hours traveling with McCarthy on Ivy League road trips, not to mention flying all over the country to tournaments in locales including Fresno; Charlotte; El Paso, Texas; Green Bay and Milwaukee (two trips); Ames, Iowa (twice); Bloomington, Ind.; and many others. There was the time when Princeton played at Kansas that then-Jayhawk coach Roy Williams put his arm around McCarthy when his batteries in his tape recorder died during a pregame interview and said "Tom, we've all been there." There was also the time in Honolulu when McCarthy stopped on Waikiki beach and said "hey, that's where the Brady Bunch stayed."

Two months after 9/11, Princeton played at Florida International in Miami. While waiting for the flight in Philadelphia, another passenger went to security to say that a bag had been left unattended. It turned out to be McCarthy's; he was subsequently taken to a special security room before being allowed onboard the plane.

The Ivy League trips usually involved leaving on Friday morning, driving to the site of Friday's game, leaving after the game for the site of the next game, staying over there and leaving Saturday after the game to get home at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or later.

One night, on the way back from Dartmouth, McCarthy ordered a 20-piece McNugget and McDonaldland cookies, and there were none left upon arriving in Princeton. Another time, McCarthy asked the waitress at Friendly's if there were free refills on the ice cream sundaes.

Then, when his weight peaked at 340 pounds, he did something about. Today, he weighs in the neighborhood of a very healthy 180 pounds, and it's remarkable to see him now versus what he used to look like. With his health, career and wife Meg and four kids, it's all going well for the one known by so many as Boog.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

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