No amount of words can ever really summarize the impact that a voice like John Francis “Jack” Buck’s had on someone like me, but I can try to give it my best. My memories go way back to visiting my grandparents in central Illinois, and would catch Cardinals games on their old-style radio. If a game was on, and you weren’t interested in tuning in along with him, it was well-advised to not disturb my grandfather. Buck’s play-by-play was one of a number of ways for him and I to have quality bonding time, sitting by that radio.
Fast forward a bit to after I was old enough to start regularly going to games at old Busch with my father. There’s nothing like the experience of watching a baseball game in-person, and it took me years to truly get to the point of taking in the entire atmosphere. Why? Because, like many others, I was no stranger to having a pocket radio of some sort allowing me to listen to KMOX and hear Buck’s call on the game – while I was there. The delay didn’t matter to me, it was just tradition to hear him take the game I loved, played by the team I loved, painted in such a beautiful, distinct way with words.
Over the years, I couldn’t tell you how many “And that’s a winner!” calls I got to hear, but I never got tired of them. His call of the Ozzie Smith homerun against the Dodgers still gives me goosebumps two-plus decades later. Buck was one of those very few who you could put into a broadcast booth all by himself and he’d be able to carry an entire broadcast without having you feel like something was missing or lacking. I have a similar admiration for the great Vin Scully (which is one of the reasons I love having my MLB At-Bat subscription on my android – I can tune in and listen to Vin on the radio), and it’ll be a sad day when his passing finally hits.
The evening of Jack Buck’s passing was a couple of days before I was set to drive out to St. Louis for the weekend to visit my parents (I had moved away from St. Louis two summers prior). 23 years old at the time, my heart dropped when I heard the news, even though it wasn’t a huge surprise by any means. It was still the reality setting in that an era had come to an end, and a landmark of the Cardinal franchise would no longer be available. I wasn’t able to make it out in time for the public service at Busch Stadium, and I still kick myself for that to this day. Those first few games I got to hear on radio after his passing just weren’t the same, and it took a while for me to get adjusted to being able to hear a St. Louis broadcast without hearing his voice.
So here we are, ten years after losing a soul who was much more than a broadcaster. He was one of the best in the business. And for me, he was a soundtrack to bonding, both with my father and my grandfather, that I will forever be grateful for.
Dear Mr. Buck,
With eternal respect and admiration,