|Friday, June 21
McGwire, Musial, others remember Buck
BALLWIN, Mo. -- Joe Buck, who has somehow shown a knack for avoiding somber tones this week, found another way to lighten the mood at the funeral for his father, Jack Buck.
Listening to his sister, Christine, pay tribute to their famous broadcasting father with stories of his generosity and humanitarian efforts, Joe figured his speech was just not worthy.
"It's an awful feeling,'' Joe 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 said. "If we all do random acts of kindness, we might be able to fill the void just a bit.''
Joe 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 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.
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 1½-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 flew on 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 and sang "God Bless America'' at Busch Stadium last fall.
"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.''
Several fans also attended the service. One man sat in the balcony with his toddler son, who held a tiny baseball glove.
Buck, the voice of the Cardinals for nearly a half-century, died Tuesday after 5½ months in the hospital. He was 77.
The funeral was a lavish affair that Buck probably would have appreciated, with a 14-piece mini-orchestra, 62-member choir and operatic-style duet. The voice of the Rev. Rodney Stortz, who borrowed Buck's signature signoff when he told him, "Jack, so long for just a while,'' was carried on speakers outside the church for construction workers who paused at their work sites, and fans who lined the motorcade route to hear.
Buck became an amateur poet in later life, and Stortz read two of his poems at the service.
"I've never attended anything like that,'' said Dan Dierdorf, a longtime broadcasting cohort of Buck's. "What a magnificent service. It was worthy of Jack.''
It was the last of many tributes to Buck, whose casket sat near home plate at Busch Stadium for 4½ hours on Thursday in baseball's biggest send-off since Babe Ruth died in 1948. Buck also received a 21-blast firework salute at the end of a memorial service that pushed back the start of the Cardinals' game against the Angels about 2½ hours.
Ballparks across the country have been observing a moment of silence this week.