John Francis Buck (August 21, 1924 – June 18, 2002), born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was an American sportscaster, best known for his work announcing Major League Baseball games of the St. Louis Cardinals. Buck received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.
Buck was recognizable by his deep, gravelly voice (acquired through years of the heavy smoking which eventually lead to his death) and his distinctive play-by-play calls. Among these were Buck's descriptions of Kirk Gibson's dramatic game-winning pinch hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series ("I don't believe what I just saw!"), Ozzie Smith's walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series ("Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!"), Jack Clark's three-run home run two days later in Game 6 ("Adios! Goodbye! And maybe that's a winner!"), Kirby Puckett's game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series ("And we'll see you tomorrow night!"), and Mark McGwire's single season record-tying home run in 1998 ("Pardon me while I stand up, and applaud."). On Cardinals broadcasts, he routinely punctuated St. Louis victories with the expression, "That's a winner!"
Buck's two longtime partners on Cardinals games were fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray and former Cardinal Mike Shannon. Buck started broadcasting Cardinals games for KMOX radio in 1954 but he wasn't the team's lead announcer until 1969 when Caray was fired. Oddly enough, 1969 was also the year that Jack Buck divorced his first wife Alyce Larson (whom he married in 1948 and had six children with), and married his second wife, Carole Lintzenich, for whom gave birth to their son Joe in the same year. Incidentally, Buck beat out legendary Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn for the Cardinals announcing job.
A possibly interesting sidebar to the Caray situation is that Caray was an employee of the Cardinals, while Buck was paid by KMOX. In addition to his play-by-play chores, Buck had a regular radio show (called At Your Service) on KMOX for some years. Another interesting sidebar about Jack Buck himself, is that many Cardinals fans in retrospect, were taken aback by the contrast in Buck's voice in the 1982 World Championship season to final years of his career. Buck's voice sounded considerably lower in the latter part of his broadcasting career.
Jack Buck was the third of seven children by Kathleen and Earle Buck, who was a railroad accountant who commuted weekly to New Jersey. In spite of his association with the St. Louis Cardinals, Jack grew up a Boston Red Sox fan and idolized Jimmie Foxx. When Jack was 15, his father got a job in Cleveland with the Erie Railroad. A year later, Earle Buck died at the age of 49 due to high blood pressure.
As a teenager, Jack worked as a deck hand on the iron ore boats of the Great Lakes. He was soon drafted into the Army where he served in World War II. In 1943, Buck became a corporal and instructor with K Company, 47th Reginment, 9th Infantry Division. On March 15, 1945, Buck was wounded in his left leg and forearm by shrapnel while crossing the last (Remagen) bridge into Germany. Buck was ultimately awarded a Purple Heart after spending time in a Paris hospital.
Prior to his broadcasting career, Buck attended Ohio State University where he majored in radio speech and minored in Spanish. Buck paid for college by working at an all night gas station. Buck crafted his play-by-play skills broadcasting Ohio State basketball games.
Jack Buck was also a legendary football broadcaster, serving as the CBS Radio voice of Monday Night Football (teaming with Hank Stram) for nearly two decades (1978-1995 to be exact). Buck also called the famous Ice Bowl and Super Bowl IV for CBS television, and numerous regular-season and postseason baseball contests on CBS radio and television. On August 16, 1976, Buck called the first ever pro football game outside of the United States. The game was played in Japan between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. Prior to calling National Football League games for CBS television beginning in 1963, Jack Buck spent three years calling games for the American Football League for ABC. He was also the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals football team during the 1970s and 1980s. The Pro Football Hall of Fame presented Buck with its Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 1996.
CBS baseball career
From 1983-1989, Buck teamed with the likes of Sparky Anderson, Bill White, and Johnny Bench for World Series radio broadcasts. Buck, along with CBS Radio colleagues Johnny Bench and John Rooney, was on hand at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. After the earthquake hit, Buck told the listening audience "I must say about Johnny Bench folks, if he moved that fast when he played, he would have never hit into a double play. I never saw anybody move that fast in my life."
An interesting tidbit about Jack Buck's television work for CBS was the fact that he originally wasn't intended to be their main play-by-play announcer for baseball telecasts. Buck was promoted at practically the last minute after Brent Musburger was fired on April Fools Day of 1990.
After two years of calling baseball telecasts (including the All-Star Game, National League Championship Series, and World Series), Buck was dismissed by CBS. The official reasoning behind Buck's ouster was that he simply had poor chemistry with lead analyst Tim McCarver. Buck was soon replaced by Boston Red Sox announcer Sean McDonough. Buck later rued that "CBS never got that baseball play-by-play draws word-pictures. All they knew was that football stars analysts. So they said, 'Let McCarver run the show.'" Buck was also criticized by some for his supposed habit of predicting plays on air. One such example came during the conclusion of Game 4 of the 1991 World Series. Buck had called Atlanta Braves second baseman Mark Lemke out mere seconds before the umpire signaled that Lemke was actually safe (thus scoring the game winning run).
Jack Buck didn't help his cause when he made controversial statements about singer Bobby Vinton during the 1991 National League Championship Series. After Vinton sung an off-key rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, in his home town of Pittsburgh, Buck lightly referenced Vinton's Polish heritige. Buck soon got death threats from Pittsburgh Pirate fans, who even went as far as leaving a footprint on Buck's hotel pillow. The next day, CBS Sports director Ted Shaker spotted Buck in the hotel lobby and simply told Buck that he was in trouble. The final baseball play that Jack Buck narrated for CBS television was Gene Larkin's game winning bloop single in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series ("The Twins are going to win the World Series! The Twins have won it! It's a base hit! It's a 1-0 10th inning victory!").
Over the course of the 1990s, Buck decided to cut down his schedule to calling only Cardinals home games (or 81 games a year unless there was a "special occurrence"). Health concerns obviously could have played a factor in this as Buck suffered from such ailments as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, a pacemaker, cataracts, sciatica, and vertigo. Buck once joked "I wish I'd get Alzheimer's, then I could forget I've got all the other stuff." In 1997, Buck published his autobiography which was aptly titled That's a Winner! In 1998, the Cardinals dedicated a bust of Buck that showed him smiling with a hand cupping his left ear.
One of Jack Buck's final public appearances was on September 17, 2001 in Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was the first night that Major League Baseball resumed after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Although looking rather frail (Buck at the time was sick with lung cancer) and struggling to maintain his composure (Buck was obviously showing the signs of Parkinson's disease by this point), Buck stirred emotions with a patriotic themed poem that he read during the pre-game ceremonies. He concluded by silencing critics who thought baseball had come back too soon, "I don't know about you, but as for me, the question has already been answered: Should we be here? Yes!"
Jack Buck died on June 18, 2002 at the age of 77 in Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis from a combined series of illnesses. He had stayed in the hospital for all but the first two days of January 2002. He was in the hospital to undergo treatment for lung cancer, Parkinson's disease, and to correct an intestinal blockage. Buck died just four days before Cardinal pitcher Darryl Kile, who passed away at the age of 33. Buck was interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Buck's spot on the KMOX Cardinals broadcasts was subsequently filled by former Colorado Rockies announcer Wayne Hagin.
Buck's youngest son, Joe Buck (Jack had eight children in all; five daughters and three sons), is currently the lead play-by-play announcer for both MLB and the NFL on the Fox network and does occasional local telecasts for the Cardinals. During postseason telecasts, Joe often pays homage to his late father by signing off with "We'll see you tomorrow night!"