Nation says last farewell to Buck

Saturday, June 22, 2002

BALLWIN, Mo. -- Joe Buck, who has somehow shown a knack for avoiding somber tones this week, found another way to lighten the mood at his father's funeral.

Listening to his sister, Christine, pay tribute to Jack Buck with stories of his generosity and humanitarian efforts, Joe figured his speech was just not worthy.

"It's an awful feeling," Buck said, "to realize the eulogy you've written isn't as good as the one you've just heard."

Not true. Both brought to life, one last time, a man who was far more than a voice on the radio -- Christine through his deeds and Joe through his courage.

"The phrase, 'random acts of kindness,' might have been invented for him," Christine Buck said. "If we all do random acts of kindness, we might be able to fill the void just a bit."

Joe Buck recounted how his father, in his later years, refused to allow Parkinson's disease, diabetes and bouts of vertigo to slow him down.

"Let other people worry about the shaking," Joe Buck said his father told him. "As Tony La Russa said, he never went into a slump."

Joe Buck also recalled as a child tagging along with his father to games, and holding his beer while his dad signed autographs.

"I got so close to him so everybody would know that he was my dad," Joe Buck said.

Big names in attendance

Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church was packed with about 1,000 mourners, including former players and colleagues who took red-eye flights from across the country, for the 1 1/2-hour service. Cardinals Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst were on hand.

So was St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, and former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire made his first public appearance in town since retiring last fall, sitting in the fourth row. After the service, words of praise poured from former Cardinals slugger Jack Clark, who played for the team from 1985-87 and has never forgotten how well Buck treated him.

"He was bigger than baseball," Clark said. "You felt comfortable talking to him, just like you would your father or your son."

La Russa, the Cardinals manager, made out his lineup card for Friday's day game in Chicago against the Cubs ahead of time so he and general manager Walt Jocketty could attended the service, then fly a private plane to make it to Wrigley Field in time.

Singer Tony Orlando also took a red-eye flight out of Las Vegas, where he's headlining at the Golden Nugget casino, to be at the funeral. He's been a friend of Buck's for about 20 years.

"He was a man who would have been able to lead in any profession he would have taken on," Orlando said. "The truth is, you go through this lifetime meeting many great men but very few like this man.

"Thank goodness he has a young son who has that genetic genius and can carry it on."

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