Goodbye to the greatest Redbird of them all

Friday, June 21, 2002

Cape Girardeau resident Pat Heckert was among local residents who attended Thursday's public memorial service for Jack Buck at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

By Pat Heckert ~ For the Southeast Missourian

ST. LOUIS -- His family came.

Slowly, in a circle, around a field of green grass -- cut close for baseball like it oughta be -- his family came.

In dark suits and fine dresses. In coveralls and workshirts. Uniforms and red T-shirts.

With caps in hands and hats over hearts, they came -- by ones and twos and thousands.

Out from under the red-and-yellow Casino Queen sign, they made their way past the scoreboard picture of the white-haired man with the sidewise grin. They passed empty seats and JFB initials edged into the bleacher grass. Right past the "62" marker at the 330-pole from that Tuesday night of the historic hit.

And on around the field, his family.

They brought cameras and stopped to snap pictures. Some carried carnations wrapped round in tissue and tied with red ribbons. A small boy offered a red-birded ballon.

One after another, several deep now, they took off sunglasses and put hands up to shade foreheads. They reached for tissues and handkerchiefs, or they fixed chins and set jawlines.

Many crossed hands over chests. Some sobbed.

And they paused a bit, this family, to remember, when they got to the spot, just at the edge of the dirt track and just at the edge of the green grass, right behind the home plate circle.

Jack Buck's picture was there on an easel, by the flags and the spray of white flowers, formed into a baseball with three cardinals on top. A single Clydesdale stood, faithful, with back leg bent and fringed foot lifted. The polished brown wood of the casket shone in the sun.

The Arch stretched up and over on this day, silver beyond. Flags atop the concrete rim of the stadium waved out in the breeze like always.

But this day was not the same at the ballpark.


Violin notes and soft piano rushes on the air: "It is Well with My Soul," "Softly and Tenderly."

Reminiscences spoken softly in the line.

"Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him," sings the lady in white shirt now, along to the music and to those nearby.

"Jack used to come and hear me sing," she says. "At Nick Carter's. The Chase Hotel, when I was with the Buddy Kay Orchestra."

She is Sally Sherman -- Osborn, when she went to school in Cape Girardeau years ago.

Noon in St. Louis. Thursday. June 20.

The temperature sign records a digital 89 F.

People begin to recognize the famous among the faces.

White chairs fill beside the podium at home plate. His wife Carole is there in black jacket and white slacks. His kids, as he called them, with her.

The speakers take turns, then, with important words. Musial. DeWitt. Matheny. Brock. LaRussa. Shannon. Roriaty. Dierdorf.

Twenty-one final cannon salutes.

You always could bring us together, Mr. Buck. Like family. We love you for that.

And now, so long for just awhile.

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