Jack Buck (1924 – 2002)
Jack Buck was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the third of seven children. He grew up rooting for the Boston Red Sox and listened to such radio broadcasting greats as Red Barber and Mel Allen. He even heard games broadcast from Havana, Cuba, at night. When Buck was 15, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. As a teen he worked on iron ore boats on the Great Lakes and variously at other odd jobs. He graduated from Lakewood High in January of 1941 and was drafted into the Army during World War II at age 19. While crossing the Remagen Bridge into Germany in March of 1945, Buck suffered arm and leg injuries and received a Purple Heart.
Buck returned home in 1946 and enrolled at Ohio State University, commencing his broadcasting career at the campus radio station in Columbus. A broadcasting teacher at Ohio State actually told Buck to “find something else to do for a living.”
Buck persisted, however, got minor league assignments, and in 1954 landed a job announcing St. Louis Cardinals games on radio with Harry Caray. Buck’s low-key style blended with that of the boisterous Caray.
At his Baseball Hall of Fame inauguration speech in 1987, Buck was self-effacing, even making fun of his profession. “You golf, swim, and shoot pool during the day, go to the park and b.s. a little before the game, do it, and go home. It’s real tough,” he said.
He left the Cardinals briefly in 1960 to work with ABC when that network carried baseball and the fledgling American Football League. He left ABC after a dispute, and went on to work with CBS radio covering Monday Night Football and 17 Super Bowls from 1978 to 1995. Buck also worked NBA and college basketball games, professional bowling, and was host of At Your Service shows on KMOX in St. Louis, considered one of the first call-in talk shows in the United States. One of his first guests was former First Lady Eleanor D. Roosevelt.
He was best known, however, as the voice of the Cardinals. Some of the fans who listened to Buck as youngsters later interacted with him as players and broadcasters.
Buck’s nearly five decades included several memorable calls. The “Ice Bowl,” the ‘67 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and the Packers, played in a wind-chill factor of about 50º below zero:“Excuse me while I have a bite of my coffee.” Game 1 of the ‘88 World Series: Kirk Gibson, playing on two bad legs, swings, and a fly ball to deep right field. “This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson, and the Dodgers have won the game, 5-4! I don’t believe what I just saw…. I DON’T BELIEVE what I just saw.” Game 5 of the ‘85 National League Championship Series: “Smith corks on into right down the line. It may go! Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!…” Mark McGwire’s 61st home run in ‘98: “Look at there, look at there! McGwire Flight No. 61 to Planet Maris! Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud!”
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.