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Buck Treated All Equally Well

June 21, 2002|LARRY STEWART

A lot has been said and written about Jack Buck's broadcasting skills this week. He'll be long remembered for his distinctive voice and an ability to say so much with so few words.

But Buck, who died Tuesday night in St. Louis, will be equally remembered for being a good person.

His son Joe Buck said, "He always emphasized three things--be a good person, be a good father and be a good son."

It was a plus that his son also succeeded in sports broadcasting. Joe Buck is Fox's lead baseball play-by-play announcer and this year will become the network's lead football play-by-play announcer.

Vin Scully summed up Jack Buck this way: "He was a gruff-voiced guy with a big heart."

Tim McCarver said, "Jack Buck had more heart than talent, and he was one of the most talented broadcasters ever in this business. He was the most gallant man I've ever met."

Dan Dierdorf, one of Buck's closest friends, talked about his generosity.

"I remember once we were sitting at the head table at a charity dinner, maybe 20 years ago," Dierdorf said. "There were six waiters taking care of the head table, and he tipped each one $20.

"That's just the way he was. I've never known a better tipper."

Referring to the public service held at Busch Stadium on Thursday, Dierdorf said, "If only the waiters and waitresses Jack has generously tipped over the years showed up, there would still be 50,000 people there."

Also endearing him to the people in St. Louis were his annual Christmas Day radio broadcasts from his home. All kinds of people would stop by to take part. Buck seemingly knew everyone in St. Louis, and certainly everyone knew him.

L.A. sportscaster Scott St. James, who co-hosted a general talk show with Buck at St. Louis' KMOX before coming to Los Angeles in 1979 to go to work for Gene and Jackie Autry at KMPC (710), recalls how Buck could immediately put someone he met at ease.

"He was known wherever he went in St. Louis," St. James said. "But he would always introduce himself. 'Hello, Jack Buck,' he would say as he put out his hand."

At restaurants, when someone would come over to his table to ask for an autograph, he'd get up and go back to that person's table to introduce himself and shake hands with everyone there.

From a reporter's point of view, Buck was always accommodating and gracious.

In 1990, he became the lead baseball play-by-play announcer at CBS after Brent Musburger was fired. I was headed for an assignment in New York and wanted to stop in St. Louis on the way back to Los Angeles to interview Buck.

The Cardinals would be playing a night game on the Saturday that I planned to visit. I called him a week, maybe two, in advance to set up the interview.

"Sure," Buck said. "I'll meet you in the executive lobby at the stadium at 5 o'clock."

That's all there was to it. No "check with the PR department" or anything like that.

And when I got to the lobby, there he was, as promised.

"Come on, I'll show you around," he said.

The tour included introductions to everyone from the receptionists in the office to the elevator operator to Cardinal players to then-manager Whitey Herzog to writers in the press box to an Anheuser-Busch vice president and a Missouri state senator.

Everybody got exactly the same courteous greeting, be it the elevator operator or the state senator. Everyone was the same, as far as Buck was concerned.

After making the rounds, we talked in the press box dining area for about an hour. Then it was time for Buck to go to work. I asked if I should sit in the press box.

Said Buck: "No, no. You're sitting with us."

During the entire game I sat between Buck and his longtime broadcast partner Mike Shannon.

I've thought a lot about that night this week. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a ballgame more.

Broadcasting Pioneer

There was another recent passing of a longtime sports broadcaster. Liz Shanov died June 9 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. She was 49.

Shanov didn't enjoy the stature of Jack Buck, but she toiled in the trenches for 27 years as a radio sports reporter. After graduating from Fordham and starting out at WCBS in New York, she came to Southern California in 1979 and worked as a freelancer for ABC, CBS and Associated Press radio networks.

She was going into men's locker rooms to do postgame interviews long before it became the norm for female reporters. And she always handled the assignment with class.

Shanov produced and hosted a Dodger talk show aimed at kids, "Too Cool Blue," for KXTA (1150) in 1997.

Shanov, a Monrovia resident since 1991, is survived by her husband, Larry Marotta, who heads the television division of the American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

A Salute to Women

ESPN is offering nearly 40 hours of women's sports-related programming during what it is calling "Women and Sports Weekend" today through Sunday in honor of the 30th anniversary of Title IX.

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