Revered Sports Broadcaster, Lakewood High Alumnus Jack Buck Dies At 77

By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Jack Buck, the gravelly voiced broadcaster who in nearly five decades behind the microphone became a St. Louis institution and made some of the most memorable calls in sports history, has died. He was 77.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster died Tuesday night after a lengthy stay at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said his son, broadcaster Joe Buck.

Buck, who graduated from Lakewood High School before heading to college at Ohio State University, underwent lung cancer surgery late last year and had been in the hospital since Jan. 3, recently having an operation to eradicate a series of recurring infections, including pneumonia.

"He had a great life," said Joe Buck, who joined his father in the booth in 1991. "He didn't waste one minute of one day. He packed two lifetimes into one lifetime. He went from poor to wealthy in his lifetime, yet he never changed."

Buck (pictured, above) was one of the most revered figures in St. Louis, calling Cardinals baseball games on AM powerhouse KMOX starting in 1954.

Nationally, Buck called everything from pro bowling to Super Bowls to the World Series 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 distinctive voice -- crafted in part, he said, by too many years smoking Camel 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 said after hobbled Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson, barely able to walk, hit a two-run, game-winning homer.

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."

He was behind the microphone at the historic 1967 "Ice Bowl," in which the Green Bay Packers won the NFL championship on a frigid January day.

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."

John Francis Buck was born Aug. 21, 1924, in Holyoke, Mass. He left home as a teenager 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 promptly wounded the next month in Germany. Back home a year later, he bumped into an old friend who needed a roommate at Ohio State. Buck obliged 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 1990, Buck began a two-year stint as lead baseball announcer for CBS. All the while, Buck continued to call Cardinals games.

An amateur poet, Buck often read his work on KMOX and, on occasion, to crowds. When major league baseball resumed days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Buck, a tear in his eye, read a patriotic poem during a pre-game ceremony at Busch Stadium.

Fans, many waving American flags, showered Buck with huge cheers.

Suffering from heart trouble and Parkinson's disease, Buck in recent years had mostly called Cardinals home games only.

Buck, who had six children with his first wife Alyce, and two with wife Carole, is survived by his second wife; three sons and five daughters.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)