KMOX Sports Director Tom Ackerman dropped into Sports Open Line to talk to Chris Hrabe about what Jack Buck means to him and the city of St. Louis, in honor of Buck’s passing on June 18, 2002.
HRABE: It was June 18, and I remember being in high school and hearing about the passing of Jack Buck. I can’t even imagine what it was like in St. Louis. To still see and hear and talk about reminders of him each and every day—he’s always going to be a part of the Cardinals. It’s really a celebration, isn’t it?
ACKERMAN: It is. It’s an opportunity to look back at his life. To know that he was gone was very hard, especially for those of us who worked with him very closely, but really for all Cardinals fans. Whether you met Jack Buck or not, you felt close to him. He was the soundtrack of summer, he was the voice on the radio not only just during Cardinals games, but on talk shows. He was the best emcee the city ever had, so he made countless appearances. He would just get up, leave the house and go speak for a charity and spend some time there. He was one of the most generous, if not the most generous person that I’ve ever met. He has such a lasting impact on this city and on Cardinal nation. When you hear his calls again, you get those same feelings back and you reminisce on the time you’ve spent in your backyard with the barbecue, cleaning out the garage or driving around in your car and hearing the game. He meant everything. And to this day, it’s just great to be able to continue to talk about him and his lasting impact.
HRABE: I can’t even imagine for you to be a young guy and have the opportunity at KMOX to cross paths with all of the greats, but with Jack Buck at the top of that list, too.
ACKERMAN: Certainly, it was inspiring to me as a kid. His style—because he was so smart and had such quick wit, he just had a way of summing things up in a few words. He let the crowd tell the story at times. You heard in certain calls, like Lou Brock breaking records, he would sit there and let the crowd take over the radio, and you’d feel the emotion of the moment. Some of my favorite calls from Jack are certainly the “Go crazy, folks,” the Kirk Gibson home run that he called on national radio, but the emotion that he showed in Lou Brock stealing 105 and the reception from the players coming out—you could hear it in his voice. To me, he and Vin Scully are the best to ever get behind the mic. But if you grew up in St. Louis, Jack Buck was the voice of sports.
HRABE: It seems in life so often we don’t know the right thing to say, and he did in the most pressurized situations, with a microphone in front of him, speaking to the entire country—and the world sometimes. That kind of poise just tells you not only what kind of a professional he was, but what kind of a person he was, too. That’s the thing that people say about him in his personal life—he was the same guy. As you said, he was one of the most gentlemanly guys that you would ever find, and it didn’t matter if he was behind the microphone at Busch Stadium or if he was speaking to a small group somewhere in a back room giving his time.
ACKERMAN: When you’re on the radio and you’re doing your thing, you’re really thinking about one person in their car, and you’re just trying to talk to them. But when you’re emceeing an event and you have all those people out there looking at you, sometimes that can make you anxious. But Jack had a way of disarming the crowd immediately. He would tell jokes, he’d have some fun with them, then he’d step away. He was so good at reading the crowd. The first speaker would talk, and he’d be sitting down and I’d watch him, and he’d be writing down some observations about the crowd on a napkin. Then he’d come up with these zingers and go after people in a playful, fun way that he always got away with. He was just unbelievable. He held audiences in his hand each and every time. It was incredible to watch.
Want more on Jack Buck’s career in St. Louis? Listen to the full talk here.
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