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Buck Won't Stop Here

Versatile Fox announcer will call the World Series and Super Bowl

October 16, 2002|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Joe Buck, tabbed "Mr. October" by Fox, is at a point in sports broadcasting one can only dream about. Not only has he replaced Pat Summerall as Fox's lead play-by-play announcer on the NFL, he'll call his fifth World Series for Fox beginning Saturday.

In January 2005, he'll call Super Bowl XXXIX at Jacksonville, Fla.

That will put him in a class with announcers such as Curt Gowdy and Al Michaels, who have worked a World Series and a Super Bowl.

Not bad for someone only 33.

The first time Buck was in a broadcast booth was not so glamorous.

"I remember sitting in the back of the booth at Busch Stadium," Buck said after flying home to St. Louis from San Francisco on Tuesday. "I was maybe 4, I'm not sure. It's the earliest memory of my life, the earliest memory I have of anything."

Young Joe Buck was there because he had accompanied his father, the legendary Jack Buck, to work.

"I was watching my dad and Mike Shannon call the game," Buck said. "I remember crawling around on a table and I knocked over a coke. It spilled all over my dad and Mike and the engineer and they all turned and glared. Someone yelled, 'What the heck?' Or something like that. And I started to cry.

"I guess if that experience wasn't going to steer me away from sports broadcasting, nothing was."

Buck, who studied broadcasting at Indiana, was announcing games for the triple-A Louisville Redbirds during summer vacations when he was 19.

By the time he was 22, during his senior year of college, he got an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals. The offer was too good to pass up. He quit college with one semester left.

By the time he was 25, he was working for Fox. But his dad didn't get him the job. His mom did.

Carole Buck, Jack Buck's second wife and Joe's mother, ran across Patti Goren at the 1994 Super Bowl in Atlanta. Patti's husband, Ed, had just left CBS to become the No. 2 man at Fox Sports, which was going to begin televising NFL games the following season.

Carole told Goren about Joe and asked her to show a tape of his work to her husband.

The rest is history.

"I don't think Jack would have done what Carole did," said Ed Goren. "Knowing him, he would have thought he was imposing. Only a mother would do that."

Said Joe Buck: "Clearly, my mother has been my best agent."

It didn't take long for Goren, now president of Fox Sports, or David Hill, chairman of Fox Sports, to recognize they had a star on their hands. By 1996, Buck, at 27, was Fox's lead man on baseball.

Tim McCarver, Buck's partner on baseball, puts him in a class with Michaels and others regarded as the best in the business.

"A play-by-play announcer tells the viewer what and where," McCarver said. "An analyst explains why and how. Joe can do all four."

Bob Costas, another network announcer who calls St. Louis home, believes he knows the secret to Buck's success.

"He had a tremendous teacher in his father," Costas said.

Besides Gowdy and Michaels, few announcers have announced the World Series and the Super Bowl to a national audience. Jack Buck was one of them, although mostly on radio.

Joe Buck is indeed going to be joining an elite club.

"As a kid I dreamed of being a professional baseball player," he said. "When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I dreamed of being a broadcaster. I saw first-hand the kind of life my dad led, and I wanted that kind of life."

Jack Buck, who wore many hats in broadcasting, was a Cardinal announcer from 1954 until illness kept him out of the booth this season. He died in June at 77. He left six children -- four from his first marriage and two from his second. Joe has a 30-year-old sister.

Jack Buck was a humble man, kind to everyone. Joe Buck is the same.

"Nothing has ever gone to his head," McCarver said. "He hasn't even taken a first step in that direction."

Michael Weisman, the former executive producer at NBC Sports who is now Fox's coordinating producer of baseball, has worked with many of the biggest names in sports broadcasting.

"Because of his age and the opportunities in front of him, I think when it's all said and done he will have worked more big events than anyone," Weisman said.

Weisman, who heads up the crew that includes Buck and McCarver and will be working the World Series, says Buck is just one of the guys.

"He knows the names of more of the guys on the crew than I do," Weisman said. "He stays in the same hotels as the crew, travels to the games in the same cars."

A high point from a television standpoint during the National League championship series came Monday night, after the San Francisco Giants had eliminated the Cardinals. Fox paid tribute to Jack Buck and Cardinal pitcher Darryl Kile, who died the same week. It was a moving tribute, one Buck handled with class.

"I knew they had footage of my father skydiving, but I purposely didn't look at it beforehand," Buck said. "I wanted to see it the same time as everybody else."

Buck is looking forward to the World Series.

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