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Joe Buck Discusses Torre, Late Night and Jack

November 6, 2007 2:57 PM

Joe Torre looks good in Dodger blue, at least according to the networks.

The warm welcome for the new manager of Los Angeles’ National League team is coming not just from Dodger fans but from the baseball networks’ executives desperately hoping the storied team will regain its prominence. The Los Angeles Dodgers are already a regular staple on national programming lineups, due to the longtime popularity of the team as well as the market size of Los Angeles. However, Mr. Torre is poised to give the Dodgers even more national games next season, according to executives from the networks broadcasting baseball, who would love to strengthen the East Coast vs. West Coast battles.

At the very least, it’s a distraction from Kobe for L.A. sports talk radio.

Today on Pressbox, I had the chance to talk with longtime Fox sportscaster Joe Buck about the effect Torre had on the Dodgers as well as the Yankees, Buck’s potential late-night show and the legacy of his father, legendary sportscaster Jack Buck.

Mr. Buck, a graduate of Indiana, was first hired by Fox in 1994, making him the youngest person ever to announce a national slate of NFL games on TV. Two years later, he was tapped as the lead play-by-play voice for the network’s Major League Baseball games and called his first World Series at the age of 30. Arguably his most famous moment came when he called Mark McGwire’s record-breaking home run in 1998.

TVWeek: What do you make of the big off-season changes we’ve already seen in baseball?
Mr. Buck: First and foremost, it was a mistake by the Yankees to get rid of Torre. Any baseball fan could make pitching changes, but more than anything else these days it takes more than what you do in the clubhouse. The job is about how you shield your players at times from the media, and how you let them go about doing their jobs. Torre is a master at that and was the best fit for that Yankee team.

I honestly don’t know if it’s as important to do that with the Dodgers as it is in New York, but Torre is responsible for creating a team atmosphere in that clubhouse. He picks and chooses his times to lay into the ball club, and is a very good judge on when to step on the gas and when to tap the brakes. I’d even say he’s the best defender in the major leagues.

The Yankees did get a worthy replacement in Joe Girardi, but he is a very different person … meticulous. He is very detail-oriented and a little tighter wound than Torre. The tighter you are wound, the more likely you are to snap, and that’s [Girardi’s] biggest challenge in New York now, separating the games and decisions from everything else that goes on. I wish them both the best.

As for [Alex Rodriguez], it never really panned out for him in New York and he is better off going somewhere else. Although his timing was ridiculous, but he still never seemed like a great fit there, despite the numbers. He would always be in the shadow of [Derek] Jeter.

TVWeek: You were recently tagged as someone Fox is looking to for a late-night show. It’s been said that sports is about drama while late night is about comedy. How do you feel about the comedy aspect and marry that with your sports career?

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Mr. Buck: The late-night show is really in limbo at this point. The pilot is finished and I’m really proud of it, but nobody at Fox has seen it yet, and we haven’t started negotiating. So I really don’t know when anything will get done.
However, we all agree that whether it works for Fox or somewhere else, the show will have no bearing on my sports situation with them. I couldn’t work at a better place, and I am treating the show deal as a separate entity.
With that said, the show is all comedy, and that’s what has me so excited about it. I’ll be exercising different muscles, which I enjoy doing.
The pilot featured a skit with Paul Rudd and David Spade. In addition, I did “man on the street” stuff where I check out what people are listening to on their iPods.
I am deathly afraid of overexposure, but this was an opportunity for me to try something different and find new audiences, and I love that type of challenge.

TVWeek: You are about to call your second Super Bowl. What did you take from your first experience?
Mr. Buck: It’s better the second time around. I know what to expect. Fortunately, I’m not part of the two-week buildup; once they kick off, then I do my job.
It’s really no different from the game I’m doing this Sunday, because that’s what I’m expected to do. But the experience will be better this time because I can look at my notes from the first one and remind myself to relax and calm down, which will be easier this time around.

TVWeek: Do you have a favorite stadium, baseball and football, to call games?
Mr. Buck: My criteria are different from most. As far as football, I want low seats where I don’t have to struggle to see the players’ numbers and close to a bathroom. Chicago has that.
During the Super Bowl we did in Jacksonville, as soon as we got to the booth, Cris Collinsworth turned white as a ghost and started to sweat because he couldn’t see the numbers. We literally went from the booth and bought glasses the day of the Super Bowl.
As far as baseball is concerned, you can’t beat Yankee Stadium; it has the best view of any in baseball and is big so we don’t feel cramped.

TVWeek: Few people have been able to influence the sport of baseball as much as your father, Jack. What did you take from him that you bring to your work ethic?
Mr. Buck: One thing I’ve always enjoyed is that he may have been best known for the Kirk Gibson home run, while I called McGwire’s.
But my father always made certain to be a difference in his community. When someone needed an MC or to raise money, they called him and he never said no. I try to take that with me.
He and I were best buddies, and he hung the moon for me. It’s great that people continue to remember what he brought to the sport and the dent he made on a national level.


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Comments (1)

Ken Fang:

Joe's father Jack was one of the all-time best at baseball play-by-play. I feel Joe has a ways to go to reach his dad, but he's getting there.

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