Joe Buck couldn’t tell you word for word what he yelled from the booth as he strained his voice to rise above the growing roar at Progressive Field — a crowd sound, he said, so rarely heard when an away team is on the verge of a World Series win.
He had nothing prepared, nothing prewritten. Buck hasn’t scribbled down an idea on his score sheet since Mark McGwire belted his 62nd home run in 1998 (a “cheesy line” he never used, anyway).
So with one out remaining in Game 7, the Fox Sports play-by-play announcer did what he believes is best: “Say what happens and get out of the way.”
Michael Martinez hit a chopper to third, and as Kris Bryant charged the ball, Buck admitted to his national audience: This is gonna be a tough play.
But Bryant was able to deliver, throwing to first in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The Cubs have won the World Series. Bryant makes the play. It’s over! And the Cubs have finally won it all!
In his 19th World Series with the network, Buck was the one providing narration as the Cubs ended a 108-year drought. He was also the voice viewers heard in 2004 as the Red Sox broke an 86-year curse of their own.
Love him or hate him, Buck’s been part of two of the biggest baseball moments to ever be broadcast on TV.
“Being the first broadcaster in the history of television to say the Red Sox are world champions and the same for the Cubs, I’m just happy to be sitting in the right place at the right time and the right year for this stuff,” Buck told the Daily News in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
Still, the 47-year-old wasn’t free of criticism as he called the latest World Series; he never is, it seems. Days after the baseball season ended, the site Awful Announcing posted a story entitled “Is Joe Buck Bad? Or Is He Actually Good?”
“Click bait,” he said.
But Buck’s been in on the joke for a while that some fans believe he’s biased – his Twitter bio even includes the line “I love all teams EXCEPT yours.” He wrote his book, “Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV,” in part, to give people who think they know him an idea of who he really is outside of what they see when he calls MLB and NFL games on television.
As for the criticism, though, Buck said he’s “over all of that.” He doesn’t think about it, the way he doesn’t think about exactly what to say anymore before calling a big game.
Kris Bryant of the Cubs celebrates after making the defensive play to end the 2016 World Series.
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
At one point, he used to.
In 1998, the broadcaster said so many people asked him what his call would be if McGwire hit the historic home run, he went to sleep thinking about it; he woke up thinking about it. Finally, he decided to jot down a line: “McGwire goes around the bases and into the history books.”
But when the Cardinals power hitter homered on Sept. 8, the blast that broke Roger Maris’ record barely made it over the left-field wall at Busch Stadium.
Buck, tracing the shot with his eyes, didn’t have time to glance down at his pre-written call, so he simply reacted: Touch first, Mark, you are the new single season home run king.
“It fit, because he leaped over first base because he was so excited he missed the base,” Buck explained.
It was a good lesson.
“If you’re trying to squeeze a moment into some predetermined line, I think you’re looking for quicksand.”
There are a few of those moments that Buck could call the most important of his career — “It’s really hard to beat the time the Yankees won it all in ’96” — but he described broadcasting Boston’s World Series win in 2004 as the biggest thrill at that point in his life. Buck was “in awe of being in that chair at that time.”
Back to Foulke; Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: the Boston Red Sox are world champions!
Buck said he’s never really discussed that call with anyone except “Fever Pitch” director Peter Farrelly, who lived it with him. He typically doesn’t get much feedback from fans on those final outs: “I kind of like it that way.”
Two years later, Buck fully realized the reach of that moment and its impact on pop culture. His daughters were at home watching ABC’s “Lost,” when Buck heard their excited screams coming from the other room: The show used a clip of that final out during the second episode of its third season.
“As silly as that moment is, I was like, this is a major marker at the very least in American sports history,” Buck said. “Then after that happens my immediate thought is, ‘Thank God I didn’t screw it up.’”
Keith Foulke and Jason Varitek start the party after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.
(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
For his “Lost”-obsessed daughters, it may have been the highlight of Buck’s career. For Buck, a major highlight was the latest World Series.
While the Red Sox had been to the Fall Classic in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, the Cubs hadn’t returned since 1945. On Oct. 27, Buck wrote for SI.com, “I get to do something nobody has ever done before: a TV broadcast of a World Series game at Wrigley Field.”
He also wrote that his late father, Hall of Fame Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, would’ve been “over the moon” about the opportunity to witness history.
During the World Series, Buck didn’t think about his father any more than usual — there simply was too much on his plate — but he saw him in Cleveland every day: A picture of a young, vibrant Jack Buck sporting an overcoat hangs in a hallway at Progressive Field.
“He’s kind of omnipresent,” Buck said.
During hurried trips from the broadcast booth to the restroom, Buck would tap the photograph with his knuckle while at the ballpark hosting Game 7, which he called the greatest baseball game he’s ever seen (although, he said, it’s neck-and-neck with Game 6 of the 2011 World Series).
That deciding game wasn’t in Chicago, but the stands were packed with Cubs fans ready to burst.
“I’ve never done a World Series ender, a last out in a home stadium where the home team lost, and had to be as loud as I had to be,” Buck explained, “because the Cubs fans were going insane.”
As Anthony Rizzo caught the final out, and the Cubs won 8-7, Buck had to yell over the natural crowd sound, which he said only speaks to what it might have been like to call that game at Wrigley.
The Cubs mobbed the mound, but Buck wanted to let the moment breathe and follow his mantra.
“There’s going to be a natural celebration,” he said, “that would be criminal to talk over.”
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News