What will end up as the Sunday Father’s Day feature column:
It’s was 13 years ago today — June 18, 2002 — when Jack Buck passed away at age 77.
In the New York Times obituary, it was noted that “Buck was among a shrinking fraternity of baseball announcers, including Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ernie Harwell of the Detroit Tigers and Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy of the Mets, who have been identified with their teams for decades.”
Since that obit, Harwell, (2010), Kiner (2014) and Murphy (2004) have also died.
On that day, Joe Buck called the St. Louis Cardinals’ home game against the Angels, then got over to the hospital afterward in time to say his final goodbye to his dad.
Today is the first of four straight days that Joe Buck says hello to a new challenge: Hosting Fox’s coverage of the 115th U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay in Washington with Greg Norman.
Joe will have enough on his mind, on the air from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. between FS1 and Fox Channel 11, to let it wander too far away from what’s in front of him to remember this date.
Is that Cole Hammer about to tee off or Cole Hamels? (“I’m going to do that at least four times today,” Buck said during today’s early broadcast).
When it comes to getting his head around his father’s passing — even on this anniversary — Joe Buck says that’s not necessarily that difficult any more.
“It’s funny, that’s hard for me to believe in some respect, but in others, it’s almost like he’s been gone forever,” he said late Wednesday as he left the Chambers Bay course following Fox’s last day of rehearsals and headed back to his hotel. “A lot has happened over the last 13 years in my life. A lot has been good — some things I certainly didn’t expect. The first few years he passed away, I found myself reaching for the phone at the end of a broadcast wanting to bounce questions off him or get his temperature on something I had just done. That’s not even in my mind any more.
“I have friends and family who mark those dates when somebody died and they’re aware of all that. I just don’t think like that. I don’t know. I’m so aware of him pretty much every day of my life, I have someone bring his name up or tell me a story maybe five, six, seven times a week — still — that he’s in some ways still with me.
“He died never seeing the Boston Red Sox were World Champions. It’s been that long ago. I just don’t get that wistful or emotional about it. I’ve had my emotion on it. Maybe because when he died I went into MC mode and was the master of ceremonies at his wake, which is just crazy to think about at Busch Stadium. I gave the eulogy at his funeral. I had to grieve in public. I don’t know if that turned off that emotion for me. Maybe I’ll have to spend an hour with Dr. Phil and figure that out.”
Jack Buck will be with Joe Buck in spirit, especially during Sunday’s Father’s Day conclusion of the event (unless there’s a Monday playoff).
But Joe Buck’s two daughters from his first marriage — 16-year-old Trudy and 19-year-old Natalie — will physically be near him this weekend, as will his wife, Michelle Beisner, a former NFL Network anchor who has been working lately at ESPN and hosted “NFL Live” recently She will be a member of the “Sunday NFL Countdown Crew.” Joe and Michelle were married in April, 2014.
We’ll have more on Joe Buck’s life following his legendary dad, and what it’s like going forward as a dad for our Sunday piece.
What we have here and now to mention:
== What is Joe Buck’s favorite curse word?
Damned if we knew, until SI.com’s Richard Deitsch decided to ask him right out of the box in this recent podcast. Because those are the things you can do on a podcast, even if it’s Sports Illustrated and not on HBO or Showtime?
Such a fk-in potty mouth when you get Buck rolling, apparently.
Buck also admits to putting together a new book about himself and his dad, and he’s in development with DirecTV to do an athlete-interview series.
== Buck also talks about, in this Golf Digest story, why he can’t curse on the air.
“I’m playing with [NFL quarterback] Carson Palmer one year in the Tahoe celebrity tournament. I can’t do anything right. Four-letter words are pouring out of me like I have Tourette’s. When it’s over, Carson and his brother, Jordan, say, ‘How do you do a broadcast without letting an F-bomb leak out once in a while?’ As I told them, when we go on the air, I kind of throw a switch in my brain where there’s no profanity. Throwing the switch has worked—so far.”
== The Dodgers set up their game Saturday against San Francisco with a 4:15 p.m. first-pitch, thinking that it would entice Fox Sports 1 or Fox-Channel 11 to air it as a national game. Funny, but FS1 has live FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as NASCAR while Fox Channel 11 has the U.S. Open, so there’s no MLB games on the nets this weekend. Why didn’t the Dodgers move the awkward start time then? Ask that to the right fielder who has to deal with the sun in his eyes the entire game, or the pitcher who’ll be in full sunlight while the batter is in shade.
The Dodgers-Giants are instead on the ESPN Sunday Night game with the 5:08 p.m. first pitch, which isn’t much safer.
FS1, meanwhile, carries Milwaukee-Kansas City on Thursday (at 5 p.m., when FS1 goes off the air with golf and it switches to Channel 11). FS1 will also have St. Louis at Miami on Tuesday.
== Josh Suchon, the former “DodgerTalk” host whose been doing play-by-play in Triple-A Albuquerque for the team now run by the Rockies, says in this story from the Rio Rancho (N.M.) Observer about whether he, or someone, can ever replace a Vin Scully:
“I just want any job in baseball. I don’t care what the team is; I don’t care if it’s radio or TV. I really feel sorry for whoever takes Vin’s place, because you don’t want to be the guy after the guy. You want to be the guy after the guy after the guy.
“So whoever replaces Vin is not going to be liked, just because he’s not Vin,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter how good that person is. There’s going to be a sadness that it’s not Vin, and whoever comes after that person will probably have a better road.
“Those jobs are so hard. There’s two straight years there has not been a single full-time job opening in Major League Baseball.”
== For as transparent as Jason Whitlock says he has wanted to be with the creation of ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com, there has been nothing from him since last Friday’s news that he would no longer move forward as the site’s editor in chief and, from sources, perhaps not even write for the site any more.
An AwfulAnnouncing.com post tracks down a feature on Whitlock from Indianapolis Monthly that echos some of what we wrote recently about Whitlock, which included a Q-and-A.
Michael McCarthy also posted a piece for SportingNews.com that includes a quote from Jim Miller, co-author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, how things went wrong for Whitlock: “Now a lot of people inside are saying, ‘You shouldn’t be surprised, he’s not a manager — and why did you do that in the first place?’ But look, they obviously wanted to give him a shot. They felt like enough time had gone by where they saw he wasn’t doing it the way they wanted.”
ESPN says Whitlock is scheduled to be a co-host on the entire upcoming week of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption.”
== We’ve enjoyed the first two podcast episodes of Beto Duran’s “Living The Dream” series with TWC SportsNet’s Chris McGee and SportsNet L.A.’s Jerry Hairston Jr. The episodes on his website, Soundcloud and iTunes have SportsNet L.A.’s John Hartung and comedian Cristela Alonzo set up for Monday’s weekly installment. Actor Freddie Prinze Jr. will co-host with Duran when they talk to Molly Knight to discuss her new Dodgers-related book, “The Best Team Money Can Buy” set for a July 16 release.
Duran, meanwhile, who continues doing work for TWC Deportes’ Lakers show, is in Montreal this weekend covering boxing for Fox Sports 2 on a Golden Boy Promotions bout featuring David Lemieux versus Hassan N’Dam.
ESPN reported this week that Golden Boy’s deal for boxing on FS1 and FS2 will end this month with shows also left on the deal in Salnias and Philadelphia, which Duran will cover. Al Haymon’s Premiere Boxing Championship cards will reportedly start on FS1 later this summer. Haymon’s PBC cards are already on NBC, NBC Sports Net, CBS, ESPN and Spike TV.
== When 81-year-old Bob Uecker gets hit in the head with a ball, it matters. He’s taking a break from his broadcasting duties until the Milwaukee Brewers come off a road trip.
== As ABC was setting records for having the most-watched and highest-rated NBA Finals since it started doing this thing in 2003, the L.A. market contributed with a 17.2 rating (ranked 13th best) for the sixth and deciding game of the NBC Finals, and a 15.1 mark for the entire series (ranked 12th).
Overall, ABC had an 11.6 rating, up 26 percent from last year’s Miami-San Antonio matchup, and it attracted 19.9 million viewers.
The Golden State-Cleveland series also ranks as the best rated since the Lakers-Philadelphia matchup in 2001 (12.1 rating) and it is the most-watched NBA Final since Chicago-Utah in 1998 (29 million viewers).
Research reported at SportsMediaWatch.com has it that this NBA Final was the most-watched best-of-seven series in any sport since the 2004 Red Sox/Cardinals World Series (which had 25.4 million).
WatchESPN also averaged more than 750,000 unique viewers, up more than 100 percent from a year ago.
== The NBA says that its “NBA League Pass” for the 2015-16 season will include several new “live game” options — consumers can purchase individual games as well as team packages. This in addition to its season-long package of nearly 1,000 out-of-market games. Pricing will be announced next month.
== NBC says its six-game Chicago-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final averaged 5.55 million viewers, second only (with records going back to 1994) to the Chicago- Boston series in 2013 (5.76 million). The Blackhawks-Lightning was also 11 percent up over the Kings-Rangers series last season (5.0 million viewers). Chicago had a 27.3 rating locally, a boost over the 22.0 rating the city had when the Blackhawks won the Cup in ’10 and ’13. And then there’s the fact that Chicago had a 41.0 rating for Game 6 on the local NBC affiliate for the clincher, to set another record.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Globe & Mail reports Game 6 drew an average audience of 2.62 million Canadian viewers on CBC, down from an average of 3.28 million viewers for last year’s Kings-Rangers Game 5.
== Fresh off saving just a handful of West Coast residents — mostly his family members — during the “San Andreas” movie mishap, Dwayne Johnson will ball-up again in HBO’s new 10-episode series “Ballers,” starting Sunday at 10 p.m.
Johnson plays a retired NFL star trying to reinvent himself as a financial manager for a bunch of current players living it up in Miami. Think a little of ESPN’s aborted 2003 scripted series “Playmakers” along with HBO’s current version of “Entourage,” since the creator and executive producer is Stephen Levinson. Johnson, Mark Walhberg and Peter Berg are among the exec producers as well, with Berg directing.
Interesting angle: As ProFootballTalk.com notes, this is the first show that will use NFL logos without permission from the league. Such as, Johnson all geared up in a Dolphins’ uniform, which was the team the former University of Miami linebacker (in real life) once played for (according to the script).
“Even if HBO is within its legal rights to use NFL team names and logo (past films like Any Given Sunday and The Replacements surely would have liked to use real team names and logos, and presumably didn’t due to legal concerns), HBO has a separate business relationship with the NFL, through the annual Hard Knocks series,” writes Mike Florio. “So for the same reason the NFL squeezed ESPN more than a decade ago, the NFL could squeeze HBO now.”
In Sunday’s pilot, viewers are introduced to Spencer (Johnson), who feels pressure from Joe (Rob Corddry), his boss at a financial firm, to “monetize his friendships” with players.
A review from Brian Lowery for Variety includes the line: “Premiering at a point when exploitation of athletes and debilitating injuries are very much in the news, (“Ballers”) isn’t savvy enough about its subject matter to leave a mark. Sure, it’s easy enough to watch, but almost wholly inconsequential, and forgotten as soon as the final gun sounds.”
== Michael Oher still feels the backlash of having “The Blind Side” movie follow him everywhere? Apparently. Maybe the Rock can help him out.
== Fox reports the Team America 1-0 win over Nigeria in the final FIFA Women’s World Cup group stage on Tuesday in Vancouver was the most-watched soccer match ever on Fox, 11 percent more than who watched U.S.-Sweden a few days earlier. Expect that record to be broken when the U.S. faces Columbia in the knockout round on Monday (FS1, 5 p.m. with JP Dellacamera, Tony DiCicco and Cat Whitehill). The Round of 16 begins Saturday with Germany-Sweden (FS1, 1 p.m.) and China-Cameroon (4:30 p.m., FS1). The winner of the China-Cameroon game would be the American’s opponents in the quarterfinals should it win Monday.
== Would you buy ESPN if it was unbundled and offered a la carte? You aren’t everyone.
Would you buy ESPN2? Especially if you knew it was carrying the Arena Football League’s L.A. Kiss game against the Philadelphia Soul from the Honda Center in Anaheim at 8 p.m. on Saturday?
== There was a 2010 episode of “How I Met Your Mother” when Barney was upset with Ted for blowing off the “Robots Vs. Wrestler” competition that they so loved. FX just ran it again the other day. It never gets old, even though it’s old.
Nor does the concept of “Battlebots,” which seems to have risen from the scrap heap and will be on ABC’s schedule for six episodes starting Sunday (9 p.m., Channel 7).
Writes Richard Lawler on engadget.com: “We knew the Battlebots TV show would crawl out of its early 2000s grave … (and) Battlebots will once again light up screens with robot vs. robot combat, now enhanced with the elimination of weight classes, the addition of onboard cameras and ‘a greater emphasis on the design and build elements of each robot.’ The competitions didn’t actually stop once Comedy Central turned the TV lights out in 2002, so in a few months we should see how a decade or so of maker culture has advanced the sport — as long as the producers’ desire to add backstory doesn’t get in the way. Hey, it can’t be worse than Fuller House.”
== Two pieces of note in the next edition of HBO’s “Real Sports” (debuting Tuesday, 10 p.m.): First, correspondent David Scott, who did an Emmy-nominated investigation into worker abuses in Qatar as the country was building toward the 2022 World Cup, goes back with producers Josh Fine and Jake Rosenwasser to meet with officials in light of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s resignation to refocus attention on how bribery scandals and continued dangerous working conditions are leading to more skepticism about whether it will go through with hosting that tournament. Also, Jon Frankel looks at how the company GoPro, and founder Nick Woodman, has changed the media coverage of extreme sports.
== Maybe when ABC had it part of “Wide World of Sports,” it felt more legit. ESPN tried to keep it alive. Maybe when CBS Sports Net makes it a summer-filler program, it either has a retro-TV feel, or it’s just a proliferation of trash sports. Nonetheless, the “World Strongest Man” competition has found a home with 10 30-minute episodes starting Thursday, June 25 and running through the end of August on CBS’ cable channel. Thus, we see competitors like Hafthor “Thor” Bjornsson, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and Zydrunas “Big Z” Savickas getting together in Putrajaya, Malaysia for this thing. Former NFL player and college football analyst Aaron Taylor is on the broadcast team with play-by-play man Brent Stover and former even winner Bill Kazmaier.
The first three years of this event (1977-79) was held at Universal Studios and two of the last four years it was held in L.A.