The two Bucks are sitting in the Phillies' media dining room before an autumnal Sunday doubleheader. Of all the fathers and sons, they are the only two who work together regularly. Jack also has two daughters in TV news, one in St. Louis and one in Chicago, but as he says, "I have five kids who didn't go into the business, and I'm just as proud of them."
Jack has been doing the Cardinals off and on since 1954. He is a man of surpassing intelligence and urbane wit—the best sports dinner speaker in the business—but even though he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has never really gotten his due. CBS used him as the play-by-play man for the first two years of its sporadic coverage of major league baseball, then replaced him this year with another broadcaster's son, Sean McDonough.
Back when Jack started in broadcasting in 1950, there weren't that many jobs, and the competition was fierce. "I was sitting in the office of WOSU, the station at Ohio State, typing away on something, when I overheard this guy talking about an opening at the station in Columbus. I really didn't pay attention to what he was saying until he warned me, 'You didn't hear that.' Well, that piqued my interest, so that night I called the radio station's manager from the gas station where I was pumping gas. He asked me what time I could come in the next day; I asked what time he got in; he said 8 a.m.; I said I'd be there; and the next night I was on the air. Who knows what would have happened to me if that guy hadn't tried to warn me off?"
Jack made things a little easier for Joe, but what's a father for if he can't help out his son? Joe was pretty much handed a job with the Louisville Redbirds while he was still attending Indiana University, and when Jack couldn't do the Cardinals, the club often called on Joe to substitute for him. Two years ago KMOX sports director Jack Buck hired Joe Buck full-time.
If any broadcaster deserves to be bitter about his fate, it's Jim Kelch. He has been the Louisville Redbirds' No. 1 announcer for four years, but in the last two years he has seen two sons of broadcasters, Joe Buck and Todd Kalas, pass him by on their way to the majors.
"I'm not bitter," says Kelch. "Joe and Todd are friends whom I respect as broadcasters. If they weren't good, I might be bitter. Maybe if my last name were Buck or Kalas, I'd be in the majors. But I know I'm good, and my time will come." To give Kelch a boost, Jack Buck called on him to do Cardinal play-by-play for a few games this summer.
Now here it is, the second-to-last Sunday of the season, and the Bucks have a doubleheader to do. Try as they might, neither Jack, who works the first three innings with Shannon, nor Joe, who comes on in the fourth, can brighten up the rather dreary first game between the Phils and the Cards. Then, in the eighth, Jack sits down next to Joe, and as if on cue, the sun comes out. Phillie outfielder Stan Javier, son of the old Cardinal infielder Julian Javier, steps up to bat, and Jack says, "Stan had a good day at the plate yesterday," and Joe says, without pause, "But he's having a bad day in the field today."
Just below the booth, a Phil lie fan starts screaming something. Jack tells his listeners, "As you can probably hear, a leather-lunged old-timer is having a quarrel with himself. Apparently, something happened to him along the line."
Joe throws Jack a smile and says, " 'Something happened to him along the line.' I like that."
These guys are good. Pass it on.