By Randy Mastronicola, Portraits by Monti Smith
When I told a colleague of mine recently that I was writing a cover story for our magazine about Joe Buck, his response was, “You know, that’s cool. His voice is incredible and he really knows his stuff. What’s ‘The Renaissance’ thing about though?”
Joe Buck turned 50 this year. He has one-yearold twin boys. This is his second act.
Like most everyone in the public eye, Joe’s taken his lumps on social media at times. I defy you to find one celebrity who hasn’t been skewered at some point in the vast social media hinterlands nowadays. That said, Joe has recognized that negative energy for the little it’s worth. He doesn’t engage, or harbor any ill will and is unaffected by it.
“Fans get a bit crazy at times when you’re the network guy,” Joe said. “Like the network hates their team, or that guy calling it does. But you really have to remove yourself from all that. Go in and just do your job. Do it to the best of your ability, and then go live your life. That’s what I saw my dad do [broadcaster Jack Buck], and now my perspective is the same.”
Baseball junkies like myself love talking about past greats of the game—players for the ages—as well as who among the current crop of players has a shot to achieve legend status. For example, which pitcher is likely to be the next—or maybe the last—300-game winner?
I’ll throw it out there that it could be Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers or Justin Verlander from the Houston Astros.
It struck me when the ageless broadcasting wonder Bob Costas received the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2018 ( Jack Buck was the award’s recipient in 1987.) I started thinking about some of the great guys in the booth who provided the sports soundtrack of my youth: Howard Cosell, Dick Schaap, Jim McKay, Dick Enberg and Marv Albert.
Who’s next? Who has a shot at being at the top of their game for another decade-plus? Who’s our sports voice for the ages? Joe Buck is the Kershaw and Verlander answer to that question. You sense the sea change. Joe Buck is gaining traction.
I met Joe in St. Louis recently. He’s taller than I expected, and lean. His All-American schoolboyish looks have graduated. There’s a warmth, a kind of handsome character-actor’s face now, and he’s earned the right to look just a touch tough. There’s still a youthful glint in his eyes, however.
Joe Buck hit 50 this year. He’s out there swinging and calling Thursday Night Football, the U.S. Open, the World Series, the Super Bowl—swinging and calling with that oliveoil- smooth baritone that he has. I was happy to listen to him use it when we chatted.
You said a few moments ago: “Life happens.” It’s always a milestone hitting 50. You have this storied announcing career. Where do you go with it now?
I think what’s next is—I feel like I’ve been on this ramp going up. I’d like to go off and gently land. I don’t know when that point is. I get myself in trouble talking about this a lot, but with twin one-year-olds and me now being over 50, at some point, I’m going to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I’m going to just be home. I think the best thing I ever did was say no to different events, and that my older daughters are my best friends. I think that if you interviewed them they’d say, “My dad is my best friend.”
I said to a New York Times writer years ago when I was hosting Fox NFL Sunday, doing the games and doing baseball, “I’m deathly afraid of overexposure on the air, and I’m really more afraid of underexposure at home.” I think at some point with my boys when they’re five, six, or eight—having their own games and whatever—I’ll find something in this business that keeps me really active and keeps my mind going.
Would you ever call a Little League game they might play in?
Oh my God, yes. They can’t afford me, though. [laughs] I’ve called a tee-ball game on the White House lawn. That was one of the great thrills of my life—for the kids of armed services members, men and women that were overseas and their kids were back playing in a tee-ball game right behind the White House. I was like, “Man, this is so cool.” These kids were just pure joy, and some of these kids had just lost a parent in the line of duty. It was just so heavy on one hand and then so beautiful on the other. It was like, “I’m so honored to be sitting here right now.”
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