Skip to comments.Jack Buck, 1924 - 2002
Posted on 06/18/2002 10:17:59 PM PDT by MediaMole
By Jared Hoffman
ST. LOUIS -- Hall of Fame and St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck died late Tuesday night at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was 77.
Buck had been hospitalized since Jan. 3 because of surgeries for a cancerous spot on his lung, an intestinal blockage, the effects of Parkinson's disease, kidney failure and a series of infections.
Buck, who broadcast almost every professional sport at one time or another in his career, will be widely remembered as the Voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, the team for whom he broadcast games from 1954-2001, and as one of sports' greatest announcers. He also was considered one of St. Louis' greatest citizens, donating his time and helping to raise money for charities such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and St. Louis Backstoppers, which financially assists families of police officers and firefighters.
He is survived by his first wife, Alyce, and their six children -- Beverely, Jack Jr., Christine, Bonie, Betsy and Danny -- and by his second wife, Carole, and their two children, Joe and Julie.
Buck's signature call -- "That's a winner!" -- after the final out of each Cardinals victory will be remembered fondly by countless Cardinals fans. He had several unforgettable calls for the Cardinals, including Lou Brock's 3,000th hit and record-breaking 938th steal, Bob Gibson's no-hitter and Mark Gwire's 61st home run.
Perhaps his most famous call for the Cardinals was of Ozzie Smith's game-winning home run against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" he shouted.
He often had told people he was immediately convinced that he had messed up the call -- it wasn't until he heard people talking about it that he knew he got it right.
Perhaps his most-famous call wasn't during a Cardinals game, but rather for CBS Radio during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series when a hobbled Kirk Gibson hit an improbable walk-off homer for the Dodgers off Oakland's Denis Eckersley.
"Unbelievable!" Buck shouted as Gibson's homer cleared the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium. "The Dodgers have won the game on a home run by Kirk Gibson. I don't believe what I just saw!"
In 1987, Buck received the Ford C. Frick Award and became the 11th person enshrined in the broadcaster's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Buck, who has been inducted into seven Hall of Fames and received numerous awards, said his induction into Cooperstown was the greatest award he ever received.
"The biggest kick I get is to communicate with those who are exiled from the game -- in hospitals, homes, prisons -- those who have seldom seen a game, who can't travel to a game, those who are blind," Buck said in his induction speech. "And after all of these years, I realize my energy comes from the people at the other end.
"It's such a beautiful sport, with no politics involved, no color, no class. Only as a youngster can you play and as a pro can you win. The game has kept me young, involved and excited and for me to be up here with gems of baseball is a thrill and a joy which I'll never forget."
Buck was born Aug. 21, 1924, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to Earl and Kathleen Buck. He was the third oldest of seven children. At age 15, Buck's family moved to Cleveland, where his father had gotten a job working for the Erie Railroad.
It was there that he developed an early passion for baseball. In his autobiography Jack Buck: That's a Winner, Buck recalled sitting in the bleachers at the 1935 All-Star Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium and watching his idol, Jimmie Foxx, hit a home run. And he recalled being at the stadium on July 17, 1941, when the Indians ended Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.
Buck graduated from Lakewood High School, a suburb just west of Cleveland, in 1942 and then went to work on one of the oar boats on the Great Lakes, where he held a variety of jobs, including porter, night cook, baker, deck hand and painter.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in June 1943 and in March 1945, he was part of the 9th Infantry Division was responsible for preventing the Germans from detonating the bridge in the town of Remagen. On March 15, Buck was hit in the left leg and forearm by shrapnel that narrowly missed striking a hand grenade strapped to his chest. He almost lost his left arm and received the Purple Heart.
After the war, Buck enrolled at Ohio State, where he majored in radio speech and minored in Spanish. He went on the radio airwaves for the first time in 1948, doing a sports show at WOSU, the university radio station. He also got a night job at a Columbus radio station, WCOL, and did play-by-play for Ohio State basketball. He graduated from Ohio State in three years and three months.
In his autobiography, Buck recalled a professor critiquing his work -- "You'd better find something else to do for a living," he told him. Buck ignored the advice.
Much like the baseball players he would cover in his career, Buck worked his way up through the minors. In 1950, he became the broadcaster for the Columbus Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, on WCOL. He got his first television job in 1952 working WBNS-TV in Columbus where one of his co-workers was Jonathan Winters, who would go on to become a well-known comedian.
In 1953, Buck was promoted to the Cardinals other Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, New York, when the Red Wings announcer, Ed Edwards was fired for telling a dirty joke at a banquet.
After the 1953 season, Mr. Buck auditioned for a opening to become part of the St. Louis Cardinals' booth working with Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton.
Buck got the job, but in his autobiography recalled he and Caray's relationship got off to a rocky start. Caray was upset the Cardinals had not hired Chic Hearn, who turned down the job and later became the play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Lakers. Buck also was unhappy that the Cardinals wanted him to imitate Caray's bombastic style -- something Buck knew he couldn't do and never attempted.
Although Hamilton left after the 1954 season, Buck remained third on the broadcast depth chart as Joe Garagiola and then Buddy Blatner were brought in. Neither could work well with Caray, and Buck became the No. 2 man on Cardinals broadcasts in 1961.
The relationship between he and Caray improved and they worked together until Caray was fired by the Cardinals after the 1969 season. Some broadcast historians consider their 16-year partnership the greatest in sports broadcasting history.
It's a notion Mr. Buck didn't disagree with.
"When Harry and I were doing the games together, we were as good as a team as there ever was," Buck said in his autobiography. "His style and mine were so different that it made for a balanced broadcast. The way we approached the job, with the interest and love both of us had for the game, made our work kind of special."
With Caray no longer part of the broadcast crew, Buck became the "Voice of the Cardinals." Former Cardinals player Mike Shannon joined Buck as the color man on broadcasts in 1972 and they worked together for 29 seasons, making their partnership one of the longest-running in broadcast history. Buck also worked with his youngest son, Joe, who is now FOX's No. 1 baseball announcer, starting in 1991.
Buck was part of the Cardinals broadcast team for every season from 1954-2001, with the exceptions of 1960 and 1976, when he did a TV show for NBC, "Grandstand," working with an then-unknown co-host named Bryant Gumbel.
In addition to his broadcasting duties with the Cardinals, he was well known on a national level for baseball and other sports.
Buck broadcast the Major League All-Star Game in 1965 for NBC, was a play-by-play man occasionally for NBC's Game of the Week and also worked ABC's baseball broadcasts in the early 1960s. He broadcast the 1960 Japanese All-Star Game in Tokyo for ABC.
When CBS-TV acquired exclusive baseball broadcasting rights in 1990, he and Tim McCarver were the No. 1 team from 1990-01.
Buck also broadcast several World Series for CBS Radio from 1963-89 and was the lead announcer for the National League playoffs from 1978-82.
While he might be best known as a baseball broadcaster, also is considered a pioneer in football broadcasting.
He did the first televised broadcast of the American Football League in 1960 and worked AFL broadcasts for three seasons. He was behind the mike for CBS's broadcast of one of the most famous football games ever, the 1967 Ice Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. He was the television play-by-play for the 1970 Super Bowl and worked several years doing NFL games for CBS-TV. In 1976, Buck did play-by-play for the first pro football game played outside the United States, a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers played in Japan.
He was the radio voice of Monday Night Football for CBS from 1978-1996, working with former NFL coach Hank Stram. The pair did 16 Super Bowl broadcasts and Buck's total of 17 Super Bowls is the most of any announcer. He received the Pete Rozelle Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
In addition to his baseball and football duties, Buck announced NBA games for the St. Louis Hawks and Rochester Red Wings, handled play-by-play duties for the NHL's St. Louis Blues inaugural season in 1967-68 and worked with Chris Schenkel on ABC's popular broadcasts of the Pro Bowler's Tour.
He had worked at KMOX radio since 1960 and was the original host of "At Your Service," a program credited as the beginning of talk radio. One of his first guests was former First Lady Eleanor D. Roosevelt.
In addition to his enshrinement in Cooperstown and Canton, Mr. Buck is in the Radio Hall of Fame and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He received a lifetime achievement Emmy in 2000. He was selected as St. Louis' Citizen of the Year in 2000 for his contributions to the community.
He was the campaign chairman for the St. Louis chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for more than 30 years and helped raise more than $30 million. He also worked with other organizations, including Matthews-Dickey Boys Club, the American Cancer Society, Boys Town, Boys Hope, St. Louis Backstoppers, the Girl Scouts, Veterans Hospital and the Variety Club.
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
He was the voice of so many great sports moments. He will be missed.
God rest his soul.
I was lucky enough to listen to many of their broadcasts, and somewhere in my parents' house is a great highlight record that Buck amd Carey did to commemorate the Cardinals' championship season of 1967. I listened to it so often I had all of their classic calls memorized.
Buck and Shannon made a great broadcasting team as well.
The Hall of Famer underwent lung cancer surgery Dec. 5, then went back in Barnes-Jewish Hospital Jan. 3 to have an intestinal blockage surgically removed. He never left the hospital. He was 77.
"He had a great life," Joe Buck said. "He didn't waste one minute of one day. He did everything he could. He packed two lifetimes into one lifetime. He went from poor to wealthy in his lifetime yet he never changed."
On May 16, Buck underwent another operation to eradicate a series of infections, including pneumonia, that kept recurring, and was placed on kidney dialysis. Joe Buck said his father died at 11:08 p.m., with his family by his side.
"He continued to fight to his last breath," Joe Buck said. "He made us proud every day. He battled for his life. He did it with dignity and with pride."
Jack Buck started calling Cardinals games on radio in 1954, teaming first with Harry Caray. Nationally, Buck called everything Super Bowls to the World Series to pro bowling for CBS, ABC and NBC.
"I wouldn't change a thing about my life," Buck wrote in a 1997 autobiography. "My childhood dreams came true."
Buck's gravelly voice - crafted in part, he said, by too many years smoking cigarettes - described to a national radio audience the indescribable end to Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
"I don't believe what I just saw!" he yelled after Los Angeles outfielder Kirk Gibson, barely able to walk, hit a two-run, game-winning homer off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley.
Buck was also behind the microphone for the first telecast of the American Football League and at the NFL championship "Ice Bowl" in 1967.
"There only is and always will be just one Jack Buck," said former Cardinal Jack Clark. "He's a Hall of Fame announcer and a Hall of Fame person. He was in the game when it was at its purest. His calls of Stan Musial, (Bob) Gibson, Ozzie (Smith) and all the way up to Mark McGwire are classics. He was a class man and a class human being."
It was Buck who told Cardinals fans to "Go crazy, folks, go crazy!" when Smith homered - his first ever left-handed - to win Game 5 of the 1985 NL Championship Series.
Buck chose to pause - not speak - when slugger Mark McGwire tied Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998. Then, he said, "Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud."
"It was a thrill just to be interviewed by the man and sit down and talk to him," Arizona ace Curt Schilling said. "He was living baseball history."
Buck shipped out for Europe in February 1945 and was wounded the next month in Germany. Back home a year later, Buck went to Ohio State and launched his broadcasting career at the school's radio station.
"When I went on the air to do a sports show at WOSU, I had never done a sports show before," Buck wrote in "That's a Winner," his autobiography. "When I did a basketball game, it was the first time I ever did play-by-play. The same with football. I didn't know how to do these things. I just did them."
In 1954, Buck beat out Chick Hearn - who went on to become an institution with the Los Angeles Lakers - for a job with the Cardinals.
Buck left the Cardinals booth for a year in 1960, instead working for ABC. He later had a falling out with the network, which led him to not return a phone call that could have landed him the first play-by-play role on the network's "Monday Night Football."
In 1990, Buck began a two-year stint as lead baseball announcer for CBS. All the while, Buck continued to call Cardinals games. He was joined in the booth by his son, Joe, in 1991. Joe Buck is now the lead baseball and football play-by-play announcer at Fox.
Buck often read his poetry work on the air and, on occasion, to crowds. When baseball resumed last year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Buck, a tear in his eye, read a patriotic poem during a pregame ceremony at Busch Stadium.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame's broadcaster's wing in 1987, Buck later became a member of both the Broadcasters' and Radio halls of fame. He was awarded the Pete Rozelle Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a lifetime achievement Emmy in 2000.
Buck, who had six children with his first wife Alyce, and two with wife Carole, is survived by his second wife; sons Jack Jr., Dan, and Joe; and daughters Beverly, Christine, Bonnie, Betsy and Julie.
Nice way to talk about a man that earned a Purple Heart and was a Patriot.
Here is his poem he read on Sept. 17th.
My mother is a die-hard Cardinal fan and I'm sure she's mourning Jack's passing. He was like a member of the family.
Wasn't that great? Hold onto it; it's going to be worth a lot of money someday.
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