by Todd Herges
Hundreds – over a thousand –
the nights spent lying in bed,
sitting in the yard with grownups,
slouched against dusty teammates
in the back seat of a car
on the way home from an out-of-town game.
The nights spent listening to Jack Buck
call games on KMOX –
radio home of the St. Louis Cardinals –
relayed across the air
to seemingly every AM station
in the entire Midwest.
The games broadcast from Busch Stadium,
from Wrigley Field,
from Shea, the Vet, Three Rivers,
and from those long western swings
through Chavez Ravine, the Stick
and Jack Murphy
From whichever hallowed place
he walked right into my room,
sat down in our back yard, by the lake,
squeezed into the coach’s big old car.
The voice pure honey.
The picture crisper than a color TV’s.
Wherever we were, there was Jack.
A hundred sixty-two times each summer
starting April 1st and lasting through September.
(Those who thought summer was just the school break long,
or for ninety days starting June twentieth,
only shorted themselves.)
Of each one sixty-two, I caught at least half
and from first Little League pitch
to the altar fifteen years later
accumulated around 3,000 listening hours.
A Hall of Fame number
if it were base hits or Ks.
As years flew past, value expanded.
As grownup responsibilities crowded in,
the times to just sit listening,
to be there in soul, if not as a ticketed body,
grew rare, thus treasured.
And then in the blink of an eye,
in no more time than it took to say “I do”
and have four children,
the voice was wavery,
graveled with phlegm.
Realization hit like a high hard one
from Andujar, Forsch or Worrell,
only in the gut, not the shoulder:
it wouldn’t last forever.
But please, just ‘til my boys
can hear and understand and enjoy
and gain insight into our glorious national pastime
as presented by the master.
But it was not to be …
The newspaper mentioned it
with unjustifiably small type.
The headline should have been huge
like the impact he had on me
and so many tens of thousands.
Like D-Day, Pearl Harbor, Kennedy in Dallas:
I cried more than one time
upon hearing, upon reading,
upon realizing the awful fact
that my boys, especially Jack,
would miss the privilege
of falling asleep in the 8th with the clock radio low,
the Redbirds holding a solid lead,
the game safe in Buck’s good hands,
And the thrill of letting that voice –
deep and clear over the buzz of cicadas –
generate a kind of adrenal electricity deep inside
as he tells of two in scoring position and Pujols at the plate.
Of the late inning 6-4-3 double play
to snuff out another would-be Cub rally.
Especially my son Jack
with his intense curiosity, his encyclopedic knowledge,
evidenced by questions few 6-year olds ask,
like why’d it take Hack so long
to be voted into the Hall?
He STILL has the season RBI record with 191!
Do you think Helton will make it? Nobody else
has ever hit 35 doubles 10 years straight!
I cried for more than one person upon hearing,
upon realizing the awful fact . . .
that Jack Buck had lost the chance
to see again his surely favorite thing,
the Cardinals winning another game;
that Jack Herges had lost the chance
to ever let Buck’s voice
paint crystalline situations on the canvas of his mind;
that I had lost the chance
to share with all my sons
one of the best parts of growing up in the Midwest.
Published in Fans, Free Verse, History, St. Louis Cardinals, Youth | Link to this poem | 1 Comment