Jack Buck, whose gravelly baritone was the voice of the Cardinals
for nearly half a century, often joked about how the news of his
death would be received by his listeners.
"Did you hear Jack Buck died in the booth?" asks the first.
"That's too bad," responds the second. "Did the Cards win or
When Buck, 77, died on June 18 after a lengthy illness, fans were
far more somber. It was a reaction Buck never would have
expected, because self-deprecation was one of his many admirable
traits. At the dedication of a statue in his likeness outside
Busch Stadium in 1998 he quipped, "I've given the Cardinals some
of the best years of my life. Now I'm going to give them some of
Remarks like that were what made him so charming. He was
unquestionably famous, but he didn't revel in the spotlight.
"Jack never turned his back on the idea that you can use
recognition that comes from broadcasting to do something besides
help your career," says Bob Costas, who got his break at KMOX
radio when Buck was the sports director.
To Buck that meant being the emcee at scores of charity events a
year, writing a book of poetry to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis
Foundation or simply brightening the day of a group of his fans
by hanging out with them. So beloved was Buck that his passing
was front-page news in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the paper
ran a 10-page commemorative section on the day he was buried.
Flags flew at half-staff all over the city. A public viewing of
his casket at Busch drew 10,000, the biggest baseball send-off
since Babe Ruth lay in state at Yankee Stadium for two days in
Buck, whose son Joe is the lead baseball announcer for Fox Sports
and a Cardinals announcer, did the radio broadcast of Monday
Night Football for 16 years and spent two seasons as the lead
play-by-play man for CBS's baseball broadcasts in the early
1990s. Most of his work in St. Louis was for KMOX, which has a
nighttime signal that can reach 42 states. For those fans unlucky
enough to live in a city without a major league team in the days
before cable TV, Buck's voice was often the only option--and a
pretty good one, at that.
By the time he had called his final game, last October, it was
hard to find a sports fan in America who couldn't recognize his
voice. In St. Louis they remember the great calls that hailed the
great Cardinals moments. Take your pick between Ozzie Smith's
homer to beat the Dodgers in the 1985 National League
Championship Series ("Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!") and Mark
McGwire's 61st homer in '98 ("Pardon me while I stand and
At services last Friday, Buck's daughter Christine said, "He
never really got it. He never understood what he meant to this
community. He always said, 'I'm a modest man with a lot to be
modest about.' We would beg to differ." --Mark Bechtel