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Actor Remembers Announcer Who Shared Struggle

By Richard Sandomir, The New York Times

Michael J. Fox turned to Joe Buck of Fox Sports before Friday’s taping of a public-service announcement on Parkinson’s disease and told him: “I miss your dad’s voice. It was so iconic.”

Buck’s father, Jack, remained a St. Louis Cardinals announcer after Parkinson’s made his tremors obvious and life’s tasks increasingly difficult.

“Sometimes he felt awful,” said Joe Buck, the Fox network’s lead baseball and football announcer. “Sometimes he looked awful. But sometimes when the medicine was all right, he was great.” Jack Buck died in 2002.

Fox, 47, who is featured on the FX series “Rescue Me” this season, was found to have the disease in 1991. Nine years later, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has raised $142 million to finance research.

“I was aware when Jack became public with the disease because it was just about the time when I was getting accustomed to talking in public about it,” Fox said after the taping.

He, Buck and Tim McCarver taped the Fox Foundation P.S.A. at the News Corporation offices in Manhattan as part of the Fox Sports Supports campaign.

The foundation’s employees voted to raise awareness for four charities that were then matched to major properties. The Fox Foundation’s connection is to the M.L.B. telecasts; Susan G. Komen for the Cure was linked to Nascar; City of Hope to the N.F.L.; and Malaria No More to the Bowl Championship Series.

Fox’s broadcasts will include P.S.A.’s featuring some of the broadcasters who call each of the sports, and verbal and graphic mentions of the charities before and during games and races.

Last year, the first year of the sports division’s charitable campaign, the Fox Foundation narrowly missed being one of the four chosen. “It had my vote,” Buck said.

The foundation was informed in January of its inclusion.

“It’s such a huge opportunity to have people connect with us,” said Katie Hood, the organization’s chief executive. “They may not know us, but they’re familiar with Michael.”

Fox’s outlook — his new book, “Always Looking Up,” is being followed by an ABC TV special, “Adventures of an Incurable Optimist,” on May 7 — evokes Jack Buck’s.

“I told Michael that the disease really tested his sense of humor,” Joe Buck said. He said his father joked that when he met Muhammad Ali, who also had Parkinson’s, “it took a half hour to get us untangled.” Joe Buck recalled that when a statue of his father was dedicated at the old Busch Stadium, his father said, “I’ve given the Cardinals the best years of my life. Now I’ll give them the worst.”

Buck said that his father also narrated a play-by-play of his medications while in bed with his wife, Carole. “He’d say, ‘Sinemet pitches to Mirapex, or whatever,’ ” he said.

Fox’s sense of humor is also a weapon of self-deprecation.

Asked if he used Twitter, he said he didn’t.

“I twitch,” he said.

The disease struck Fox and Buck at very different ages. Buck began to exhibit symptoms in his late 60s, but Fox was 30 and training for a marathon.

“I was young-onset, so I have a longer grace period,” Fox said. “As bad as it gets now, I can function. With older-onset, it’s a much steeper decline, a much rougher ride. I was able to make long-term plans. Jack didn’t have that.”

Buck still traveled with the Cardinals during his decline, still signed autographs despite the deterioration of his signature and still felt the energy of being around young ballplayers.

“If he was on the radio from 7 to 10, he’d build up to 7, and after 10, he was spent, he was done,” Joe Buck said. “We built him up. He rested at home, but when he went out, he let it fly.”

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