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Broadcaster Jack Buck, 77, Dies

June 19, 2002

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ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Jack Buck, who in nearly five decades as a broadcaster became a St. Louis institution and one of the most recognizable voices in sports, died late Tuesday night, his son Joe Buck said.

The Hall of Famer underwent lung cancer surgery Dec. 5, then went back in Barnes-Jewish Hospital Jan. 3 to have an intestinal blockage surgically removed. He never left the hospital. He was 77.

``He had a great life,″ Joe Buck said. ``He didn’t waste one minute of one day. He did everything he could. He packed two lifetimes into one lifetime. He went from poor to wealthy in his lifetime yet he never changed.″

On May 16, Buck underwent another operation to eradicate a series of infections, including pneumonia, that kept recurring, and was placed on kidney dialysis. Joe Buck said his father died at 11:08 p.m., with his family by his side.

``He continued to fight to his last breath,″ Joe Buck said. ``He made us proud every day. He battled for his life. He did it with dignity and with pride.″

Jack Buck started calling Cardinals games on radio in 1954, teaming first with Harry Caray. Nationally, Buck called everything Super Bowls to the World Series to pro bowling for CBS, ABC and NBC.

``I wouldn’t change a thing about my life,″ Buck wrote in a 1997 autobiography. ``My childhood dreams came true.″

Buck’s gravelly voice _ crafted in part, he said, by too many years smoking cigarettes _ described to a national radio audience the indescribable end to Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

``I don’t believe what I just saw!″ he yelled after Los Angeles outfielder Kirk Gibson, barely able to walk, hit a two-run, game-winning homer off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley.

Buck was also behind the microphone for the first telecast of the American Football League and at the NFL championship ``Ice Bowl″ in 1967.

But in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest, it was Buck’s calls of Cardinals games that made him a beloved figure. With each final out of a Cardinals victory, he wrapped things up with his tidy, ``That’s a winner.″

``There only is and always will be just one Jack Buck,″ said former Cardinal Jack Clark. ``He’s a Hall of Fame announcer and a Hall of Fame person. He was in the game when it was at its purest. His calls of Stan Musial, (Bob) Gibson, Ozzie (Smith) and all the way up to Mark McGwire are classics. He was a class man and a class human being.″

It was Buck who told Cardinals fans to ``Go crazy, folks, go crazy!″ when Smith homered _ his first ever left-handed _ to win Game 5 of the 1985 NL Championship Series.

Buck chose to pause _ not speak _ when slugger Mark McGwire tied Roger Maris’ single-season home run record in 1998. Then, he said, ``Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud.″

``It was a thrill just to be interviewed by the man and sit down and talk to him,″ Arizona ace Curt Schilling said. ``He was living baseball history.″

John Francis Buck was born Aug. 21, 1924, in Holyoke, Mass. He left home as a teen-ager to work as a deck hand on the iron ore boats of the Great Lakes and was drafted into the Army at 19 during the height of World War II.

Buck shipped out for Europe in February 1945 and was wounded the next month in Germany. Back home a year later, Buck went to Ohio State and launched his broadcasting career at the school’s radio station.

``When I went on the air to do a sports show at WOSU, I had never done a sports show before,″ Buck wrote in ``That’s a Winner,″ his autobiography. ``When I did a basketball game, it was the first time I ever did play-by-play. The same with football. I didn’t know how to do these things. I just did them.″

In 1954, Buck beat out Chick Hearn _ who went on to become an institution with the Los Angeles Lakers _ for a job with the Cardinals.

Buck left the Cardinals booth for a year in 1960, instead working for ABC. He later had a falling out with the network, which led him to not return a phone call that could have landed him the first play-by-play role on the network’s ``Monday Night Football.″

Instead, he called Monday night games and 17 Super Bowls on CBS radio from 1978-1996.

In 1990, Buck began a two-year stint as lead baseball announcer for CBS. All the while, Buck continued to call Cardinals games. He was joined in the booth by his son, Joe, in 1991. Joe Buck is now the lead baseball and football play-by-play announcer at Fox.

Buck often read his poetry work on the air and, on occasion, to crowds. When baseball resumed last year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Buck, a tear in his eye, read a patriotic poem during a pregame ceremony at Busch Stadium.

Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcaster’s wing in 1987, Buck later became a member of both the Broadcasters’ and Radio halls of fame. He was awarded the Pete Rozelle Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a lifetime achievement Emmy in 2000.

Buck, who had six children with his first wife Alyce, and two with wife Carole, is survived by his second wife; sons Jack Jr., Dan, and Joe; and daughters Beverly, Christine, Bonnie, Betsy and Julie.

A public viewing of Buck’s casket will be held Thursday at Busch Stadium, starting at 7 a.m. A public memorial service will follow at 12:30 p.m., with the Cardinals’ game against the Anaheim Angels pushed back to 3:10 p.m.

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