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Joe Buck's considerable talent runs in the family

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2002

It's impossible to keep these Buck guys out of the booth. Take the legendary Jack Buck, who for nearly a decade has been in decline with Parkinson's disease and suffers from various other ailments.

The 77-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster expects to be back on the radio calling his 48th season with the St. Louis Cardinals this year. He can't stay away, even though he has been hospitalized for 11 weeks and just last week had brain surgery aimed at controlling the Parkinson's surgery that his son Joe called remarkably successful.

Joe Buck shares both his dad's talent and his love of the craft. The 32-year-old Emmy winner isn't satisfied just being Fox's No. 1 baseball announcer and calling the World Series alongside Tim McCarver. Last season he called NFL games for the first time in four years, and he is on the verge of being named the network's No. 1 NFL announcer, succeeding Pat Summerall.

Nothing is official yet, but Fox rumors tend to be true since the brass is more or less incapable of keeping secrets. The biggest question seems to be whether Cris Collinsworth or Troy Aikman, or both, will join Buck in the NFL booth.

In anticipation of a heavier NFL schedule, Buck has lightened his baseball load. He usually works full schedules for both Fox and the Cardinals, but only plans about 25 TV games with St. Louis in order to spend more time at home with wife Ann and their two young daughters.

In this way, Buck differs from his dad. Born in St. Petersburg (then the Cards' spring training site) in 1969, Joe jokes his father never picked him up until he was 5. Jack was too busy hustling from one game to another to spend much time with his children.

"I don't want to be gone all the time," Joe Buck said. "I was a part of this on the other end, with my dad gone a lot and trying to earn money where he could . . ."

Later, though, Buck got to tag along, watching admiringly as his father called not just baseball games but Monday Night Football alongside Hank Stram.

By now, baseball is second nature to Buck, who began his career in 1989 as an Indiana University undergrad calling minor league games in Louisville. Football requires far more preparation, tough to do when you're calling playoff and World Series games for three solid weeks.

But the NFL presents a challenge Buck can't resist. What a surprise.

"I think I can do (both sports) a long time," Buck said. "Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm trying to bite off more than I can chew. At the same time, I think you kind of fall into a rhythm. If you prepare yourself, I think you can do any of this stuff."

ON DECK: Tony Gwynn is a rookie again. The future Hall of Fame slugger has joined ESPN as an analyst, both for games and Baseball Tonight. The network also has added former journeyman relief pitcher Jeff Brantley as an analyst, and veteran announcer Dave O'Brien, the voice of the Marlins from 1993 to 2001.

LINEUP SHIFT: The sale of Fox Family to Disney that created ABC Family also gave ESPN the opportunity to air more baseball. Last season's game packages on FX and Fox Family now are controlled by Disney. Those games will air Monday nights and Wednesday afternoons and be split between ESPN and ESPN2. ABC Family will air the divisional series playoff games in the package.

HOO RAYS: Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, the father of Rays pregame reporter Todd Kalas, will be given the Ford C. Frick broadcasting award this summer for his contributions to baseball. He will receive the award at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July in Cooperstown, N.Y. . . . Fox Sports Net Florida returns Rays on Deck, Kalas' 30-minute pregame show that airs before road broadcasts. Rays Magazine, hosted by Dave Wirth, airs Sundays at 9:30 a.m. beginning April 7.

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