Fittingly and officially, Jack Buck and Darryl Kile both made their regular-season Cardinals debuts against St. Louis’ biggest rival, the Cubs. Forty-six years apart, Buck witnessed a loss and Kile earned a win.
Members of the United Cardinal Bloggers this week are honoring Buck and Kile with tributes on the 10-year anniversary of their deaths.
Buck, the Cardinals’ popular broadcaster, died June 18, 2002, at 77. Kile, a Cardinals starting pitcher who earned the win in St. Louis’ 7-2 victory over the Angels the night Buck died (Boxscore), passed away four days later, June 22, at 33.
In February 1954, Buck was hired to join Harry Caray on the Cardinals’ broadcast team. Caray was entering his 10th season as play-by-play voice of the Cardinals. In its Feb. 17, 1954, edition, The Sporting News reported:
John F. (Jack) Buck, who broadcast Rochester (International) games last season, will be teamed with Harry Caray in airing Cardinal games this year. Buck replaces Gus Mancuso, former major league catcher, as Caray’s partner. Mancuso now is a Cardinal scout.
Buck had been given a tryout in 1953, broadcasting a Cardinals-Giants regular-season game from New York. In his book, “That’s a Winner” (1997, Sagamore), Buck wrote, “What stood out to me that day was how helpful some people were, like the Giants’ announcer, Russ Hodges. He gave me all the information I needed and offered a lot of encouragement.”
In April 1954, two months after Buck got the offer to join Caray on the broadcast team, Milo Hamilton, who had done television work in the St. Louis area for WTVI of Belleville, Ill., was hired “to handle commercials and color on road broadcasts,” meaning Buck’s work in the booth initially was limited to home games.
Wrote Buck: “(Hamilton) and I split time on the air. Milo went on the road with Caray for the first half of the season. I did the scoring updates and commercials from the studio. We switched at the all-star break, and I went on the road, but didn’t have a lot to do because the broadcasts definitely were Harry’s. I did a couple of innings a game, and that was it.”
Caray didn’t get along with Buck and Hamilton. “It didn’t take me long to realize that Harry and I not only had different styles of announcing, we had different personalities and lifestyles,” Buck wrote. “Our relationship got off badly because he didn’t want me to get the job in the first place. He wanted the Cardinals to hire Chick Hearn, who at the time was a broadcaster in Peoria, Illinois (and eventually would become the voice of the NBA Lakers.)
“Harry didn’t get along with Milo any better than he got along with me at the time,” Buck wrote, “and we knew he wanted to get somebody else on the broadcast with whom he was more friendly. The man he wanted _ and got _ was Joe Garagiola.” (Hamilton was fired after the ’54 season and replaced by Garagiola.)
All three members of the Cardinals’ 1954 broadcast team would receive the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame for their career achievements. (Buck won the award in 1987; Caray in 1989; and Hamilton, 1992.)
Buck’s first regular-season Cardinals broadcast as an official member of the team was the 1954 season opener on April 13 at St. Louis. The Cubs beat the Cardinals, 13-4, behind the hitting of catcher Clyde McCullough (4-for-5, two RBI, two runs, two doubles and a home run) and third baseman Randy Jackson (three RBI). Paul Minner earned a complete-game win for Chicago. Among the Cardinals’ few highlights were solo home runs by center fielder Wally Moon and left fielder Stan Musial. Boxscore
“The most memorable event of my first season in St. Louis came on a Sunday afternoon, May 2, 1954, in a rain-delayed doubleheader against the Giants,” wrote Buck. “Stan Musial hit five home runs, three in the first game, two in the second, and might have had another with the longest ball he hit all day, but it was to straightaway center and was caught by Willie Mays. Caray was on the air for all five homers, and it was just as well. It used to bother him when he wasn’t on the air when something really big happened.” Game 1 and Game 2
Buck still was calling the games when Kile made his regular-season Cardinals debut on April 3, 2000, against the Cubs at St. Louis.
Kile and pitchers Luther Hackman and Dave Veres had been acquired from the Rockies on Nov. 16, 1999, in a trade for pitchers Manny Aybar, Rich Croushore and Jose Jimenez and infielder Brent Butler.
Described by the Associated Press as “a big-bucks bust,” Kile had a 21-30 record and 5.84 ERA in two seasons with the Rockies. His ERA in games at Denver in 1999 was 7.44.
Some said the Rocky Mountain altitude flattened Kile’s curveball, but Kile didn’t make excuses. “You make good pitches, you get outs. You make bad pitches, you don’t, and that holds true no matter where you pitch,” Kile said to the Associated Press.
Before making the trade, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty consulted with others, including former Rockies manager Jim Leyland, who recommended Kile. “His whole approach will change once he gets out of there,” Jocketty said of Kile.
A right-hander, Kile sparkled in his St. Louis debut, holding Chicago to two singles and a run over six innings and earning the win in the Cardinals’ 7-1 victory. A three-run first-inning home run by first baseman Craig Paquette against Kevin Tapani was the key blow for St. Louis. Boxscore
“I was in my own little world out there,” Kile said to St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.
Comfortable in his new environment, Kile posted a 20-9 record in his first Cardinals season and was integral in helping St. Louis win the National League Central title. In three years with St. Louis, Kile was 41-24 with a 3.54 ERA.
Previously: Deal for Woody Williams sparked 2001 Cardinals