Vanity or Common Sense?

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   In the world of sports broadcasting, the late Jack Buck–and son Joe–might best fit the “like father, like son” description.

The former, known as the “Voice of the St. Louis Cardinals,” was revered throughout the nation, winning highest national awards in his career–one that bridged radio and television sports coverage.

Jack, who died at age 77 in 2002, was idolized in St. Louis. A section of Interstate 64 is named for him, and his bronze bust stands at the entrance to Busch Stadium. Fans pause there to remember his greatness. One said, “I never met him before in my life, but his voice was like a best friend.”

Few folks who follow famous fathers are equal to the challenge.

Joe, on pace to do so, could easily have been sidelined by threatening health issues. What irony! Vanity could have cost him both his hair and his voice. (Critics contend arrogance and self-absorption are ongoing issues.)

In his new book scheduled for release soon, Joe admits he greatly feared baldness, realizing a side effect from ongoing hair plug procedures could have rendered him voiceless. He had serious vocal cord issues half a dozen years ago. To regain his voice, he was in rehab for four months.

Upon learning “what might have been” in 2011, the old jokes about broadcasters with “faces made for radio” were no longer funny.

He’s heard them all. Yep, even the one that defends “thinning hair” with, “Who wants fat hair?” Another old “yuck” tells of guys who claim to have “twice-monthly surgeries to have growths remove from their heads.” Finally, this answer for bosses complaining about employees getting their hair cut on company time: “It grew on company time.”

The whole vanity ordeal began when Joe’s head hair inventory started edging downward when he was 24.

   Jack, with striking facial features and silver hair always carefully combed, was a handsome guy.

Joe, matching his dad’s good looks and great voice, might even break several of his elder’s broadcasting records. (Interviews–both broadcast and in print–suggest he may have been absent on the day tact and diplomacy were handed out, however.)

Blessed with continued good health, Joe likely has time to set broadcast records, and hopefully he’ll find time to truly care what other people think.

Now a quarter-century removed from first-noted hair loss, Joe seems to have as much hair as others on TV. Is it “real” or is it Memorex?

He, like his dad, paints beautiful “canvasses of words,” and his voice–described by one writer as a blend of velvet and peanut butter–maybe even smoother.

In fairness to Jack, his frequent yelling probably began in radio, where it provided dramatic effect.

   With a famous father to “show the way,” Joe “soaked up” what was needed to enter broadcasting with considerable “savvy.”

No matter his lineage, pure talent might have taken him just as far, though it would have taken him longer.

Both mastered the “power of the pause,” as did the late Paul Harvey. Pauses were notable when Jack recited a poem he’d penned prior to the first game of the 2011 World Series. It’s worth the “Google” to hear his powerful poem, “Our America.” Jack wrote the piece hours after 9/11, and it boomed throughout the packed stadium in St. Louis. It also warmed the hearts of millions via TV. Coupled with a 21-gun salute, all was in place for the poignant cry of the umpire, “Play ball.”

I’d happily mention the title of Joe’s book, but it includes a tacky word beyond tawdry.

Hopefully, Joe wasn’t in on the title selection, but if he had a say in the matter, shame on him.

Just a guess: Had his dad been around, he would have urged consideration of a different title.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: