Run of Bucks Broadcasting Cardinals Games Comes to an End

by Dan Caesar, St. Louis Dispatch

For the first time since 1960, there won't be a Buck in a Cardinals broadcast booth this year.

ASA Lifetime Member Joe Buck, who had been doing the play-by-play for a few Redbirds games on FSN Midwest in recent seasons, has decided not to return in order to enjoy himself at the ballpark in a nonworking capacity.

"It's nothing more than it feels like it's time to make that change and to concentrate on some other things and basically go to Cardinals games as a fan,'' he said Monday night. "I'm a fan, and I love to go down there with my wife and two daughters. The fun of that now is more appealing than anything to me.''

Despite Buck's burgeoning career nationally at the Fox network, for which he is lead baseball and football play-by-play announcer, he had kept his ties to the Redbirds booth — where he got his start in big-league broadcasting in 1991 at age 21.

But he had been cutting back in recent seasons on his Cards workload, going from a busy schedule while filling in on radio while his father, ASA Hall of Famer Jack Buck, was ailing in 2002 to 31 FSN games in 2003 to 10 last season.

His departure ends a lengthy run of Bucks in the booth. His dad joined the club's radio broadcast team in 1954 and was there every year except 1960 until falling ill after the 2001 season and dying the following year.

But Joe Buck said that family streak never was a reason he kept doing Redbirds games.

"I don't think like that,'' he said. "My dad's career stands on its own. It was not a birthright of mine when I went there on a full-time basis in 1991, and it's not a birthright now. There's nothing written in stone that somebody with the last name of Buck has to be sitting in that booth.

"And really, we're only talking about 10 games. ... To do it just to say I'm on the list as one of the announcers is silly to me.''

FSN Midwest general manager Jack Donovan said Buck will be missed.

"We're sorry to see him leave, but we were lucky to have him as long as we did," Donovan said. "Unquestionably, he's the best play-by-play guy in sports.''

Buck said the flexibility of FSN management, which allowed him to pick his schedule, was what had kept him aboard in recent seasons.

"The fact they let me do as many or as few as I felt I needed to do meant a lot to me,'' he said.

He said there was another reason, too.

"I still continue to this day to feel indebted to the Cardinals for all they provided me,'' he said. "I'm (not) the lead voice of the NFL and Major League Baseball on Fox if I don't get that job (with the team), and if I don't get that chance to grow up and learn about the game and learn about broadcasting in the Cardinals' booth. Everything stemmed off that.''

Buck won't be totally gone from Cardinals broadcasts, as he is scheduled to do a couple of their games for Fox. But those have a different tone than local telecasts because they air in the market of the opposing team as well as in St. Louis.

Donovan said Rick Horton, who does the commentary on KSDK (Channel 5) telecasts of Cards games, will help fill the gap created by Buck's departure.

Horton will work with Dan McLaughlin (play-by-play) or Al Hrabosky (analysis) on about 10 FSN Midwest telecasts this season.

Horton also will continue as a regular on FSN Midwest's Cards postgame shows.