SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Forty million people watched the seventh game of the World Series this year between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs - the largest audience in a generation. Who won that game anyway? The man who did the play-by-play, as he has for almost every World Series since 1996, was Joe Buck of Fox Sports, who's also done Super Bowls, golf tournaments, bass fishing and motorcycle jumps. Joe Buck has a book, "Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad And The Things I'm Not Allowed To Say On TV." Joe Buck joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
JOE BUCK: The only reason why I wrote this book, Scott, was to hear you say the word bastard.
BUCK: And now it's happened, so we can just take it off the shelves.
SIMON: We can do it. If it's part of the title, I can get away with it.
SIMON: Let me get this out of the way first. Social media platforms...
SIMON: During the World Series, some people said, oh, I can tell Joe Buck is in favor of the Cubs. Or, oh, I can tell Joe Buck - he's such an Indians fan. What do you say to any of that?
BUCK: I get it. You know, in baseball more than football, certainly more than golf, when you do the national play-by-play, it is a no-win situation. And I say that because the NFL doesn't have local television announcers. Baseball's different. Baseball - all season long - 162 games - you get your local guys. And the fans know they're happy when my team wins. They're sad when my team loses. And when we show up, I have to be happy for both sides. And if I'm happy for both sides, fans in each city think, well, that means he likes that team and not mine. It's why my Twitter bio or handle or whatever it's called says, I love every team except yours.
BUCK: And so it's just my tongue-in-cheek way of saying, I can't win.
SIMON: Look, I didn't want to talk about the hair plug surgery because...
BUCK: No, we have to. (Unintelligible). Come on.
SIMON: ...It's been overworked. OK. You had hairplug surgery...
BUCK: I did.
SIMON: ...And nearly lost your voice - did lose your voice, really.
BUCK: Yeah. For the most part, yeah.
SIMON: Which - all I can think of is mighty deep hair plugs. But...
BUCK: They're anchored in my esophagus.
SIMON: Yeah. In any event, that's obviously a traumatic injury, and you you didn't want the people at Fox to know it.
BUCK: Yeah, I lied to him and told him it was a virus. The deal is I had it done six times where they used a local anesthetic.
BUCK: And the surgeon, as I'm awake, and he's basically scalping me, would listen to NPR while I sat there for six hours, and he was doing this procedure. Your voice should actually make me wince in pain...
BUCK: ...If there's any Pavlovian response here whatsoever. But one day this guy comes to me, and he goes, you can do this with a general anesthetic. I was like - what? So I did it with a general anesthetic. There was an issue during the procedure. And I woke up with the laryngeal nerve not firing my left vocal chord, and I couldn't talk right for almost a full year.
SIMON: Yeah. The dad in your title, of course, is your father, the esteemed Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Jack Buck, longtime voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. Were there some challenges being Jack Buck's son?
BUCK: Look, the benefits far outweigh anything on the negative side. I'm smart enough to know. That's why the title of my book is what it is, not just because I am a loose version of a bastard because of my origins, but because I am lucky. I'm lucky that I was born to these parents. I'm lucky that my dad wanted to be around me, that he took me to all these national league cities by the time I was 12. But I think when I was a kid in St. Louis, which is a really small community, I was aware that eyes were on us. And I was aware at an early age that if I screwed up, I was going to be the focus if I was in a group of who did what and who was wrong. And my dad would have to pay some sort of public price for it.
And then when I started - you know, I am the biggest beneficiary of nepotism that I know. I was broadcasting Cardinal baseball in the major leagues at the age of 21, and that only happened because my last name was Buck. At the time, I fought that. Like, I've been gifted by God to do these games. But - so that's great. You get the job, but there's also a little bit more of a sharp knife out there as far as critics are concerned - that you better be as good as the old man or, in some cases, better to be considered a success. And I know I do a decent enough job to keep my job, but I will forever be known to some people as Jack Buck's son. And thank God he and I were best friends, or that would drive me nuts. Instead, I consider it a high compliment.
SIMON: I mean, at the heart of the book is your portrait of your father. He was in his 70s. He was doing Cardinal games and Monday Night Football all the while that he struggled with Parkinson's and diabetes.
BUCK: He was the strongest, toughest guy I knew. He was a Depression-era kid. He was in World War II. He was wounded in Germany. He came back to the States. He only went to college because there was the G.I. Bill. Dirt poor, self-made and was a genuine good man. So when he was sick, and he had diabetes, and he had Parkinson's, and he had a pacemaker and eventually had lung cancer and then infection, which took his life, he didn't let anything slow him down.
And if he was walking in or out of the ballpark, he'd stand there and sign autographs. And when you have severe symptoms of Parkinson's, it's not easy to do anything with your hands, let alone sign a baseball. But he would do it because he felt like he owed that to anybody who wanted it. So, you know, his line was let them worry about me shaking. I'm not worried about it. And it was - it was a great way to see somebody attack life and not let whatever ailments he had stop him from doing what he loved to do. And of all the gifts that He gave me, that is number one - to plow ahead. Whether it was my vocal issue in 2011, going through divorce, as he did, you got to pick yourself up and keep going forward. And I saw him do that. He didn't tell me it. I watched it.
SIMON: Are there people who tell you they hear your father in your voice, and how do you feel about that?
BUCK: Yeah, I think they hear me. I hear me more - I hear my dad more in me now than I ever have. And I don't know if that's because I'm getting a little older, if it's because I went through the vocal issues I went through. But there are times where I hear highlights that I'm a part of, and I think, man, that sounds a lot like my dad. I don't remember thinking that in the mid-'90s. And now that I've been through life, and I've taken on as much secondhand smoke as I have, I think I sound a little - he was more like this. Everybody get up. I'm Jack Buck. And I'm getting there as I get older. So when people say that, it's the greatest compliment I could be given. Again, he and I were best friends. It wasn't...
BUCK: It wasn't as much father-son. We were buddies, and I miss the hell out of him.
SIMON: Joe Buck - "Lucky Bastard" - wait, that's the title of his book.
BUCK: (Laughter) Yeah, it is.
SIMON: Thanks so much for being with us.
BUCK: Scott, thanks. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
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