This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Hall of Famer, Jack Buck. The gravely golden voice of Mr. Buck will always be the “voice” of the Cardinals. The sound of his voice coming from the radio speakers was as natural of a sound as the chirping of the crickets on those hot St. Louis summer nights. It was a common household occurrence for the faithful followers of Cardinal Nation to turn down the sound on the television and turn Jack up on the radio. Even if the Birds were not playing consistent, Jack Buck was.
Born August 21, 1924, he was the third of seven children. He spent his teen years working as a deck hand on the boats of the Great lakes. As many of the youth of that era Buck was drafted in to the US Army. In March 1945, he sustained wounds to his leg and arm by shrapnel. He was later awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries. Upon his discharge he attended Ohio State University. It was there he began to develop and hone his broadcasting skills. During this time and the following few years he did play by play for just about anything he could announce.
In 1954, he joined Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton in the KMOX broadcast booth for the Cardinals. He would remain there until 1959 when he was released to make room for another announcer. He was then rehired in 1961. He would remain there for over the next four decades. It is hard to imagine the sound of Cardinal baseball without him. Buck had the gift of making the game and the team personal to each listener. His voice was the voice that so many fans had grown up with. He allowed the fans to “see” the game through their ears.
Some of the greatest moments in Cardinal history were called by him. There was “Go crazy folks! Go crazy” after the Wizard, Ozzie Smith hit first ever left handed homerun in game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. (Thank you Tom Niedenfuer). “Adios! Goodbye! And maybe that’s a winner”, 2 days later when Jack Clark hit a three run homer in game 6 (Again, thank you Tom Niedenfuer). The call when Mark McGwire tied the single season homerun record in 1998, “Pardon me while I stand applaud.”
He also called Stan Musial’s five homeruns in a doubleheader, Bob Gibson’s no hitter and Lou Brock’s single season stolen base record. He not only made the calls that probably every Cardinal loyalist can recite by heart, but he also called some of baseball’s most historic calls.
Another moment was the “I don’t believe what I just saw” call as he accounted Kirk Gibson’s walk off homerun in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Baseball fans were treated in game 6 of the 2011 World Series as David Freese connected for the late inning walk off for the Redbirds. It was Jack’s son Joe who paid homage to his father by repeating Jack’s famous call of Kirby Puckett’s walk off homerun in game 6 of the 1991 World Series, “and we’ll see you tomorrow night.” I wondered listening to Joe Buck make the call, how many people had realized what he had just said.
Not only was Jack Buck loved for his play by play of the Cardinals, he was loved for who he was outside of the booth. His generosity and community service are legendary. Outside Busch Stadium, in 1998, the Cardinal organization erected a bronze statue of Jack Buck, placing him among the statues of other Cardinal legends. Upon the wall where the retired numbers are displayed there is a microphone.
Mr. Buck made one of his final public appearances on September 17, 2001. This was the night baseball resumed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He read a patriotic poem that he had written and he let everyone know that we should be there.
On June 18 2002, Mr. Buck passed away from complications of a multitude of ailments. He was surrounded by family. His son Joe had just finished announcing a Cardinal’s game and made it to his bedside, minutes before he passed.
For those of us who are old enough to remember, lucky enough to have heard many of those famous calls, we truly experienced history.
Jack Buck, now “that’s a winner’.