Ten years ago tonight, the Cardinals took the field and played the Anaheim (as they were then) Angels. At the end of the night, after a victory (appropriately, after events later in the week) by Darryl Kile, the voice of the Cardinals joined the celestial angels, finally at rest.
Jack Buck was more than just a broadcaster to those that follow the team from St. Louis. He was the head of the entire Cardinal Nation, likened to the father or the kindly uncle who you always wanted to hang out with. Depending on your age, his voice was the soundtrack of your summer or your father's summer, calling games with that deep baritone and engaging in repartee with Mike Shannon.
Every week, we start off the UCB Radio Hour with "Go crazy folks, go crazy!" Not just because that was a signature moment in St. Louis history but because it's a way for the new radio medium to pay homage to one of the greats of the old version. Buck's calls were unique, legendary.
"We will see you tomorrow night," so eloquently referenced by his son Joe in this past World Series.
Almost a year to the day before he died, he did an outstanding rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at Wrigley Field. He showed his legendary wit and good humor while playfully teasing the fans of St. Louis's biggest rival.
The highlight calls are great and that's a part of what Jack was, but not the most important part. Jack Buck was summer days with a radio, listening to Cardinal baseball in Iowa or Alabama or Arkansas. It was hearing the daily exploits of Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Ozzie Smith, Terry Pendleton, Jack Clark, Ray Lankford, Mark McGwire, and, for one brief year, Albert Pujols.
Buck was there when Glenn Brummer stole home, which meant those listening on KMOX felt like they were in the ballpark. He was there for the World Series in the '60s, which meant he understood what that drought in the 1970s meant to the organization and how glad he was to proclaim "That's a World Series winner!" after Bruce Sutter struck out Gordon Thomas in '82. Put it simply, Jack Buck was Cardinal baseball.
I feel like I missed out on a lot by coming to Jack Buck late in the game. I don't remember listening to many ballgames after I picked up the passion of the game, though I must have listened to some. Then, by time I got out on my own and had access to the various media, television had expanded to cover most every game. I'd hear Jack and Mike occasionally in the car or other places, but never for a full game. One of the great things about the A&E Greatest Games series is that you can watch the whole Go Crazy game with the audio soundtrack, meaning you can listen to Jack the whole way, not just the famous ending.
Jack Buck left an insanely high standard. Joel Meyers, his fill-in in 2002, never got close. I didn't mind Wayne Hagin, who came next, though he never inspired the fan base. John Rooney, the current broadcaster, comes closest out of the group that has come after and I enjoy listening to his baseball voice, but he's still not close to Jack. No one ever will be.
Which is a problem for his most high-profile offspring. I wonder sometimes if Joe Buck was Joe Green if he'd still get the grief and ridicule that he does. I enjoy listening to Joe and appreciate his dry humor. His style is his own, not his dad's, though obviously he learned from the master. Watching him be able to have that moment last October meant a lot to the Cardinal fans who watched him grow from "Jack's boy" to national broadcaster. He'll never be his dad, but then again, many of us fall short when we are measured with that ruler. I'll never be my dad, either.
Jack was class and dignity, he was good humor and intelligent conversation, he was everything the best baseball town in America should have in its baseball broadcaster. He often ended a game with the same phrase, a phrase that applied just as equally to him.
Jack, you were a winner. And we were winners for knowing you, however indirectly.
For more remembrances of both Jack Buck and Darryl Kile throughout this week, continue to check out the UCB homepage.
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball