In the Opening Day 2011 issue of Memories and Dreams, the official magazine of the baseball hall of fame, the back page article is “Cardinal Rule,” by Joe Buck. The entire issue of the magazine is devoted to the radio broadcasters who bring baseball to millions of fans across the country. The “final word” was given to Joe and he wrote about KMOX and his father Jack. I don’t think the article is available online, but I will share some good excerpts here.
After commenting that there is no “better marriage” than the one between St. Louis and KMOX, Joe wrote,
The hub of that frenzied love for one of baseball’s most storied franchises was KMOX-AM, a CBS affiliate in downtown St. Louis that boomed 50,000 watts every night with one story line — how the Birds did from April until October.
Did you know that on many nights the broadcast of the Cardinals reached the western shores of Africa? Jack Buck received a letter once from someone who became a Cards fan because he could pick up the broadcast in Sierra Leone.
People generally consider Cardinals fans as some of the most respectful in the game. Sure, those in the park love it when Albert Pujols goes deep, but if someone on the visiting nine makes a rally-killing play, they will stand and applaud that as well.
He explains his theory on why that’s true,
In my opinion, that didn’t happen by accident. For the longest time, fans west of the Mississippi latched onto the team because it was the franchise furthest west. It was instant love, not just because of the men in uniform winning games, but also because of the men who were describing the action. They were some of the greatest the game has ever known. … They understood strategy, celebrated excellence, talked rules of the game and made it fun. Over those years, they told Cardinals fans about the heroics of Medwick, Musial, Brock, Gibson, Ozzie, and now Pujols — not a bad roster either.
Finally, he shares an excerpt of how powerful his dad’s voice was.
In 1998 when Mark McGwire was on his famous home run chase, an umpire ejected him from a home game for arguing a called third strike. It seemed like a riot in the stands was sure to follow. Later in that game, and again in the following day’s pregame broadcast, my dad urged the fans to act like Cardinals fans and not boo the umpire when he emerged from his dressing room to accept the lineup card at home plate. When the umpires came out for the game — accompanied by police protection — they were stunned by a standing ovation. What a proud moment, what a powerful combination.
I remember fondly listening to Jack Buck call the games on my little AM radio as I fell asleep in grade school. I even remember the treat it was to hear Jack and Joe call a game together on the radio. Joe’s elegance is much more evident in his writing than it is when he speaks opposite his TV counterpart, Tim McCarver. I’m looking forward to the day when Joe can return home, ditch the thick McCarver, and paint pictures with words like his dad did, on KMOX, on the radio, where Bucks, Birds, and Baseball belong.
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