Fox Sports World Series broadcaster Joe Buck says he's grown up now

Oct 27 2009 - 9:50pm

Joe Buck knew what America was thinking in 1996, when the most recent Yankees dynasty was young, and so was he -- shockingly so.

"I was 27," he said Tuesday. "I think it's human nature to go, 'Who is this guy? Who is this kid doing the World Series?'

"Add to that I'm Jack Buck's kid and I think most people are going, 'Give me a break. Why is this guy doing it? Where's Vin?"'

Buck was thinking similar thoughts himself.

"That was all going on in my head back then, trust me," he said. "I would have been an idiot to not realize the jury was way out on me. I felt I had to prove myself every time I opened my mouth."

Thirteen years later, the Yankees are back after a six-year hiatus, and in the interim Buck somehow became middle-aged.

He's 40, and Wednesday night he will tie Vin Scully and Curt Gowdy by calling his 12th World Series.

"By no means do I feel like it's old hat or do I feel like I'm in the category with the greats, like certainly my dad or Vin Scully or Ernie Harwell or Al Michaels or all the greats.

"But I don't feel the need to prove how much I know every time I talk. That's a big hurdle to get over. I don't know when I got over it, but I feel like I'm on the other side and can relax and do my job."

That more relaxed approach was evident in his ALCS work for Fox alongside Tim McCarver, who will analyze his record 20th Series.

The smart-alecky streak that has turned off some viewers for years has faded, leaving a play-by-play man whose company wears well over long baseball playoff games and series.

Buck said he has "grown up over the years," and learned to allow humor to come naturally.

"I think it's been an unconscious conscious decision," he said. "It just kind of happened.

"Trust me, if something strikes me as funny I'm not going to not talk about it, but I'm not looking for it as much as I used to."

Part of this is perception. Buck said viewers who have noted a more serious tone in the playoffs might be comparing him more to his regular-season self than his younger self.

Still, there is no doubt his style and image have evolved. They even got an indirect boost this October from Chip Caray's much-maligned work on TBS, which made Buck seem brilliant in comparison.

Buck said he plans to call Caray to commiserate and tell him to "plow ahead."

"It was ingrained in me as a kid that this can be a tough business," he said, "because when you're that age and idolize everything your dad says and does and see even he's in the line of fire, you learn we're all in the same boat."

Buck added this about Caray: "I felt for him. I would just tell him we've all been there. I think he did a great job, and sometimes that stuff kind of takes on a life of its own."

To Buck, the ideal is the kind of easygoing banter he heard recently when YES showed a game from the 1978 World Series that featured Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek, Tom Seaver and Curt Gowdy.

In that era when sports media critics were rare -- Newsday instituted its first such column earlier that year -- Buck heard announcers who were "not measuring every word" to please others.

"All that does," he said, "is squeeze the life out of you."

The balance Buck has struck is avoiding that trap while no longer feeling as if he has to be the life of the party.

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