Sports broadcaster Joe Buck's got a new book out, detailing both him learning at the side of his famous broadcaster father, Jack, and Joe making it on his own in baseball and football (and, for a very brief spell, bass fishing.)
Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV is a fun read.
About halfway through the book, Jack Buck, longtime voice of the St. Louis Cardinals and a local institution, passes away. Joe talks about the letters he received, from the likes of President Clinton and Billy Crystal.
“Whether it’s Vin Scully in Los Angeles or Ernie Harwell in Detroit, local baseball announcers can have that kind of impact on people. This was especially true in the 1970s and 1980s, before there were a million TV channels and the internet, But I think, even among that group, my dad was different. He was not just a voice. He interacted with his listeners all the time. If there was a cause, or there was a chance to raise money for something, and somebody asked him to do it, he’d do it.”
Life with Jack Buck as your dad could be challenging too. First off, you’re sharing him with the entire market. Also, Jack had left his wife and children when he fell in love with the woman who would be Joe Buck’s mother, and there was tension between Jack Buck’s two families.
Joe also depicts some of his father’s adventures at the network level, which didn’t work out as well as the local stuff. He did baseball games for CBS with Tim McCarver. “Tim nitpicked everything my dad did. It seemed clear he didn’t want him there.”
Joe of course worked alongside McCarver for years, and the two got on better than Tim and Joe’s father did.
Joe Buck comes across as pretty likable in the book, quick to make fun of himself and his shortcomings as a broadcaster. He acknowledges that plenty of viewers simply do not like him for a range of reasons. One chapter is actually titled Buck Rhymes With Suck.
“In the 2000s, I was surprised to learn that a lot of viewers have one broadcaster they just can’t stand: Me.”
He continues, “I don’t emote enough for some people’s tastes. People say I seem detached. They say I think I’m above it all.”
It’s not true, says Buck.
Buck offers an interesting look at Fox Sports building its brand as it secured NFL rights, with David Hill hiring Ed Goren, then bringing Pat Summerall and John Madden on board.
Buck had not done football in his career at that point, but describes how his mother passed along a tape of Joe doing baseball to Goren’s wife at the Super Bowl. It was enough to land him an audition at the age of 23, with no agent, which he was able to turn into a job at Fox.
Buck raves about his time at Fox, but not so much his time at HBO, where he hosted Joe Buck Live in 2009, and made the questionable decision to have Artie Lange on the show, alongside Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis. Lange was a way off color guest, causing some serious strife within HBO.
Buck got a peek at how HBO’s leaders handle crises; Richard Plepler has a cameo on this part.
“I was used to working for [Fox Sports] David Hill at Fox, and he would’ve handled it completely differently. David is the kind of a maverick Australian guy. He would have said, 'There you go, folks! There’s the first episode of this live show. Tune in next time! Who knows what you’re gonna see?'”
The show was canceled two episodes later.
The book also shines as Buck details some non-sports stuff in his life, including the dissolution of his marriage and his friendship with Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm dating back to before the actors became famous.
He also depicts his obsession with hair plugs. Buck undergoes a pretty serious vocal chord issue as a result of a hair plug procedure that very much threatens his professional career. On the golf course with Matthew McConaughey at a golf tournament, he tells the actor about his vocal troubles. McConaughey’s assessment was noteworthy:
“So what you’re telling me, buckaroo, is you fixed your video, but you f***ed up your audio.”