One of my childhood heroes is dead.
Jack Buck, the man behind the mike for St. Louis Cardinals games for 50 years, passed away Tuesday night after a prolonged bout with. . .well, damn near everything, it seemed.
My grandparents many radios never left KMOX 1120, so most any given afternoon I heard his voice. A little gravel, a little satin, and sometimes a little bourbon — Jack had one of the great voices. He could make you hear his sly smile, he could make you cry at a sad story, he could make you believe a tall tale. And radio being radio, he could even sell you some plumbing so smoothly you never realized you were being sold anything. He loved his Cardinals, and made you love them, too. A mere “radio guy,” he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I never could imitate that voice, although I started trying at age eight or nine. Playing in the backyard, kitchen radio on loud while grandma planted flowers, trying to ape “that guy who does the baseball.” So I couldn’t do Jack Buck. But I found there were a lot of voices I could do. By age 12 I had some dreams of broadcasting someday.
I was lucky enough at 19 to spend a long summer of very late nights interning at KMOX. I had to work a real office job on weekdays, then race down to the riverfront downtown and work nine hours at the station, four nights a week. I worked 90 hours a week that summer, never having a single day off, and rarely getting more than five hours of sleep, and usually less. Jack Buck inspired me to do that. During my own years in radio, I never wanted to do sports — but I always aspired to be as good as he was.
Bob Hamilton mentored me that summer — I never did get to meet Jack. But I’d known his son Joe for a couple years in high school at St. Louis Country Day. Joe and I didn’t get along very well. I don’t think we thought very highly of each other. He’s followed his dad’s broadcasting career, and I’ve become as impressed with Joe now as I thought little of him then.
Joe, it won’t mean much, but my thoughts are with you and yours right now. Your dad was one of the great ones.