Fox steps to the plate tonight for the first game of the American League Championship Series (7 pm/ET). As always, network staple Joe Buck will be the play-by-play voice, flanked by analyst Tim McCarver. It will be Buck’s 12th consecutive postseason, and when Fox’s coverage of the World Series starts up on Oct. 24, it’ll be his 10th consecutive turn in the booth handling that event. TVGuide.com checked in with the big-time broadcaster as he prepared for the impending diamond duel between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. And not only did we talk hardball, but Buck also filled us in on his late-night talk-show plans.
TVGuide.com: What was the biggest surprise of the divisional series?
Joe Buck: That I watched every minute of it. I was tuned in the whole time. Typically, I find myself doing other things when we’re not doing the games — I just read about them the next day. This year, I was captivated.
TVGuide.com: That’s interesting, considering three of the four series were sweeps.
Buck: Well, I was impressed by the young National League teams and by Cleveland playing so well against the Yankees. But as far as a surprise, I would have to say that it’s got to be the National League. Sweeps by two Western Division clubs — the division that’s usually the afterthought — make you realize how far you can go with good scouting, good young players and a strong manager who can bring things together. I’m not into the world of making predictions, but I didn’t see two three-game sweeps going that way. I think it’s great, though. Whatever happens in the ALCS and whatever the World Series matchup, it’s going to be a lot of fun to do.
TVGuide.com: Honestly, aren’t you guys at Fox a bit bummed about not having the Yankees in the ALCS?
Buck: The way I see it, I think we’ve got the two best teams in the league, maybe the two best teams in baseball. Sure, you want the New York market, but beyond that, you want a long series. You want it to build to a Game 6 or 7. With the Red Sox and the Indians going at it, they’ve got so much pitching that it’s hard to pick which team has the edge. Because of that, I think we’ll get a long, fun series.
TVGuide.com: The Indians, Rockies and Diamondbacks all have a lot of young, relatively unknown talent. Who are some of the players you see grabbing the spotlight over the next couple of weeks?
Buck: The matinee idol from Cleveland is Grady Sizemore. He’s got that heartthrob, boy-band look going on, but he’s also a great player. He set the tone in Game 4 the other night to get the momentum back for Cleveland. I don’t know if people across the country are aware of his talent. Then you’ve got his teammate [Fausto] Carmona, who looks unhittable. Of the other teams, Colorado’s got a lot of dynamic personalities. They come at you with [Garrett] Atkins, Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki, who could win Rookie of the Year. For Arizona, there’s Eric Byrnes. He’s a likable, hustling-type player that even a casual fan might grab a hold of and say, “I like the way this guy plays.” He’s also done some in-studio work for Fox, so I can see our cameras focusing in on Byrnes if the Diamondbacks make the World Series.
TVGuide.com: So what did you think of TBS’ first year handling the division series?
Buck: I thought they did a great job. Obviously, their pre- and post-game coverage was extensive. Ron Darling was great. I love listening to Bob Brenly. I e-mailed Dick Stockton to tell him I thought he did a great job. Everybody across the board was terrific.
TVGuide.com: During the last Yankees/Indians game, the broadcast team mentioned you and Tim and said they were looking forward to Fox’s coverage of the ALCS. Is there no rivalry between networks?
Buck: There’s always been this thing between Fox and ESPN. There are no bonfires or pep rallies where we’re like, “Let’s go beat ESPN,” but there’s a little more harmony between TBS and Fox. Let’s also be honest, we rely on each other for in-game promotions. We have to scratch each other’s backs, and I think that’ll be an easy thing to do.
TVGuide.com: Your October schedule is pretty hectic, doing both NFL football and baseball. What’s that like?
Buck: It’s good. I like taking a break from one and doing the other. When you come back, you’re a bit refreshed because you’ve had a breather. The worst thing you can do as a broadcaster is not challenge yourself. You need to change things from week to week. When you take a break from someone — be it with Troy [Aikman] doing football or with Tim doing baseball — you’re excited to get back in the booth with them and get into a rhythm.
TVGuide.com: Tell me a little bit about the late-night pilot you shot for Fox.
Buck: At this point, it’s just a pilot. I guess the next step is just to wait for Fox to let me know if they like it or not. I’m proud of it. The idea was hatched when I was working on these spots for Budweiser with a Saturday Night Live writer named Matt Piedmont. We hit it off and one of the spots we did was this interview in the back of a cab. So we decided to expand that and do it as a pilot for Fox.
TVGuide.com: So it’s a talk show in a cab?
Buck: It starts and ends in the cab. The middle portion has skits and an interview segment that takes place in a New York loft. It was fun. I did one sketch with David Spade and another one with Paul Rudd.
TVGuide.com: I heard a real New York City taxi driver named Abebe is going to be your cohost.
Buck: That’s the best part. He’s a legitimate, everyday, working cabdriver, who was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Cuba. If this thing ever takes off, it’ll be the American dream for him. So he’s the cohost and he’s a smart, sweet, funny guy.
TVGuide.com: Won’t McCarver get jealous of Abebe?
Buck: He might. McCarver’s natural instinct is jealousy, so there’s no doubt that my spending time with Abebe will step on his toes a little bit. It’s OK, though. I think I can make time for Troy, Tim and Abebe without hurting any of their feelings too much.
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