Missouri puts Buck into elite company

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Former Cardinals announcer Jack Buck was inducted as the 25th member of the Hall of Famous Missourians.

JEFFERSON CITY -- A broadcaster from Massachusetts joined the ranks of a former president, two war heroes, the creator of Mickey Mouse and one of the most famous American writers.

Former St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck on Tuesday became the 25th person inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians at a state Capitol ceremony. He joins fellow Cardinals great Stan Musial, who was inducted in 2000.

Buck, who died in 2002, was selected to the hall by Catherine Hanaway, the former House speaker and current U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri. She said honoring Buck was one of the few moments of "pure joy" in her career as a public official.

"Jack Buck reached out through the airwaves and touched people in small towns, he touched people who were shut-ins, he touched people who were kids all they way up to people in nursing homes," she said.

"That voice brought to life in vivid fashion games that many of those people never saw," she said. "Many of those people never had an opportunity to walk into a professional baseball park, but for those people, Jack Buck brought those games to life."

A bust of Buck, sculpted by Harry Weber, captures the broadcaster wearing a suit coat and tie and a wide grin. It will be displayed in the Capitol's third floor rotunda with the busts of other famous Missouri residents.

Buck, born in 1924 in Holyoke, Mass., started calling Cardinals games in 1954 and became the lead announcer in 1969. Besides spending almost 50 years with the Cardinals, he called at least one game for almost every professional sport. In 1987, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He handled the play-by-play duties as Mark McGwire pursued the single-season home run record in 1998 and announced the record-breaking homer by stating: "Pardon me while I stand up and applaud."

But some of his most famous calls came in games when the Cardinals weren't playing. After a visibly injured Kirk Gibson hit a pinch-hit, game-winning home run to help Los Angeles Dodgers beat Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Buck said, "I can't believe what I just saw!"

Tony LaRussa, who managed the Oakland team that gave up the home run to Gibson, said that for as long as he has managed the St. Louis team, Buck was the greatest Cardinal.

LaRussa said the broadcaster deserved the recognition more for his attributes away from the press box.

"He was just the best combination of a person you'd ever want to meet -- sincere, caring, funny, committed," LaRussa said. "I learned so much from him, and just the other day I got a compliment for getting involved in the community. And I learned that from Jack -- give back, give back."

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