Legendary sportscaster Jack Buck dies

June 19, 2002 at 3:32 AM

ST. LOUIS, June 19 (UPI) -- Jack Buck, a legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster who had been announcing St. Louis Cardinals games for nearly 50 years, died at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Tuesday night. He was 77.

Buck intended to call every Cardinals home game on KMOX Radio this season, but did not make it back to the booth after being hospitalized on Jan. 3. He underwent surgery for a cancerous spot on his lung and an intestinal blockage. He also was suffering from Parkinson's disease, kidney failure and other health problems.

One of his final public appearances came last September prior to the Cardinals' first home game following the terrorist attacks.

In a speech convincing baseball fans to resume their passion, Buck was visibly shaking and not able to sustain the steady, firm voice that he had made part of the game.

The native of Holyoke, Mass., who majored in radio speech at Ohio State, joined the Cardinals' broadcast team in 1954 and was inducted to the broadcasters' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 as the Ford C. Frick Award winner.

Buck, who was inducted into seven Halls of Fame 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.

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.

The team unveiled a bronze sculpture of him behind a microphone outside Busch Stadium in 1998, and Buck received a lifetime achievement Emmy Award in 2000.

His son, Joe, followed the same path as his father, joining the Cardinals before becoming the national voice of baseball for the All-Star Game and World Series. He worked alongside his father with the Cardinals in some capacity for the last 10 years.

The elder Buck has had a cavalcade of calls, from his trademark "That's a winner!" to perhaps his most lasting imprint, McGwire's 61st homer in September 1998 that tied the single-season home run record held by Roger Maris.

"Lookiethere! Lookiethere! Lookiethere!" exclaimed Buck.

Another of his famous calls came in the 1985 National League Championship Series. When light-hitting Ozzie Smith won Game Five with a home run, Buck shouted, "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!"

Three years later, Buck described Kirk Gibson's improbable pinch homer that won Game One of the World Series by saying, "I don't believe what I just saw."

Buck's broadcasting skills took him into other sports. He handled the first telecast of the American Football League and also was the long-time radio play-by-play man for Monday Night Football. In 1967, he called the famous "Ice Bowl" NFL championship game between Dallas and Green Bay for CBS-TV.

Buck also was known for his terse wit. Bob Costas often tells the story of when he first met Buck at KMOX. When Buck found out Costas was just 22 years old, he cracked, "Kid, I've got ties older than you."

Buck also had a somewhat embarrassing moment at the end of Game Four of the 1991 World Series, where he called a play at the plate an out that actually was the winning run scoring safely.

Two games later, however, he atoned when he followed Kirby Puckett's game-winning homer that forced a seventh game with, "We'll see you all tomorrow night."

Perhaps Buck's most famous pairing was with Harry Caray from 1954-69. Ironically, Caray had wanted the Cardinals to pair him with Chick Hearn instead of Buck. Hearn went on to become the play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Caray was fired in 1969 and former Cardinal Mike Shannon joined Buck three years later. They worked together in some capacity for 29 seasons.

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 "Jack Buck: That's a Winner." "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."

Buck was part of the Cardinals broadcast team for every season from 1954-2001, with the exceptions of 1960 and '76, when he did a TV show for NBC, "Grandstand," working with a then-unknown co-host named Bryant Gumbel.

He also 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.

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.

Among his civic accomplishments was being campaign chairman for the St. Louis chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for more than 30 years. He helped raise more than $30 million for that cause.

Buck 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.

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