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Opinion | Jack Buck was one of a kind

18 years ago, Cardinal Nation lost a prince in Buck, arguably the greatest baseball play-by-play voice of all time. But he was more than just a voice
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE-- Hall-of-fame braodcaster Jack Buck interviews St. Louis Cardinals rookie sensation Albert Pujols at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in this April 2001 file photo. Jack Buck has been battelinga series of illneses for the last several months.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

There will never be another Jack Buck.

How many people can you honestly say that about? The criteria has to be ruthlessly audited. You'd have to choose from the souls that you don't know personally due to the fact that you can only grasp a certain amount of information about them and their aura.

Buck was a gem and 18 years ago Thursday, he passed away. It was arguably the saddest day in Cardinal Nation, at least in my lifetime.

Cardinals baseball hasn't been the same since. While Mike Shannon, John Rooney, and others have done their best to pick up the slack, Buck's voice cut through all the evening's troubles. For an inning or two, inside that car, your attention belonged to him and baseball. He was the gateway to the game for decades, which affected so many voices in the process.

You could put Vin Scully ahead of him when it came to all-time greats behind the mic in baseball, but there would be no others threatening that duo. Buck didn't just call a baseball game. He taught the game to new listeners while keeping the veteran ear sets sharp and ready.

Buck represented the calm before or during the storm. Remember when he urged fans to not throw trash all over the field after Mark McGwire was ejected, an event that occurred deep into the 1998 season during the home run chase. He was the one who took the microphone before the first game back after 9/11, promising us a safer and more united future. We believed him instantly.

"I don't know about you but as for me, the question has already been answered. 'Should we be here?' Yes."

That's because Buck spoke and acted with utter conviction. You bought what he was selling. Whether it was a broken play on the field or an issue off the field, Buck was a trusted voice. Someone who gave his life to the Cardinals for decades. Someone you'll never forget.

I remember how quiet and desolate that press box was the night he passed away. Buck's condition had worsened that afternoon and many believed he wasn't going to survive the night. Joe Buck has told the story about getting to the hospital so he could spend those last few moments with his dad. In essence, I think a lot of Cardinal Nation was there with him that night.

Very few sports broadcasters touch so many generations of fans with their voice. It's hard to accomplish. Buck did more than sustain success over a career; he built himself into the fabric of so many families.

People who would go out for a long drive in a car just so they could listen to Buck call baseball. How many frozen delights have been savored in the Ted Drewes parking lot on Chippewa Street while Buck called a game in the background? The answer is countless sundaes and concretes.

Every time I came into the press box, Buck would be sitting off to the right, smiling and talking to everyone. He'd frequent a popular spot in Brentwood called Carl's Drive-In. Buck would wear that classic Cardinal red jacket while he ate burgers and fries with fellow customers. I'd steal a few words when I went in after classes had ended for the day at Brentwood High down the road. He'd smile, listen, and respond. For a minute, I was as important as McGwire, Ozzie Smith, or Tony La Russa. That was Jack.

He was truly one of a kind.

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