Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Funday – Bob Uecker

From Bob Uecker's signature home run call: "Get up, get up, get outta here...gone!" to his self-deprecating humor...every time I hear those golden pipes of Uecker’s a big smile comes to my face.

Despite being the best broadcaster ever to call games in Cheesehead country and one of greatest announcers of all-time, Bob Uecker is a remarkably humble man. Uecker has had the option to take more prestigious full-time announcing jobs but he loves Milwaukee and he loves baseball, so Uecker has remained the radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers since 1971.

For how much Cheeseheads know Uecker as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, most people know Uecker from his acting career. Uecker appeared in:
- Movies: Harry Doyle in the Major League trilogy (I only acknowledge the original Major League)
- Televisions shows: George Owens on Mr. Belvedere, hosted Saturday Night Live, and was a regular guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
- Television commercials: appeared in a number of famous Miller Lite spots

Uecker was inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the WWE Hall of Game in 2010. As you can see, Bob Uecker has some impressive range. I loved all of the aforementioned performances by Uecker, but Uecker’s best performances come when he calls Milwaukee Brewers games.

Uecker is a well-chronicled mediocre professional major league player, which he always said prepared him for knowing how hard it is to play in the majors. One of the reasons that Uecker is in the Hall of Fame is that he never shows players up.

I am a baseball fan first and foremost because my dad loves the game. My mom knows that, so she makes sure that my dad and I got to see every Milwaukee Brewers game we wanted, including Robin Yount’s 3,000 hit.

If I had to attribute my interest in baseball to anyone besides my parents, it would be listening to hundreds of Milwaukee Brewers games on the radio growing up. In the internet age saying radio (in part) peaked my interest in baseball sounds like saying I grew-up with the dinosaurs, but Bob Uecker really makes baseball games colorful for radio listeners.

Bob Costas recently interviewed Bob Uecker on "Inside Studio 42 with Bob Costas" on MLB Network. I thought I knew almost everything imaginable about Uecker but even I picked up some nuggets from the interview. For one, Uecker worked as a car mechanic during the day and "played baseball" at night. The economics of professional sports have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Just to put it in perspective, can you imagine Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun working a day job before heading to Miller Park that night to play for the Brewers?

Uecker is notorious for having a lifetime .200 batting average and only hitting 14 career home runs in 6 major league seasons spanning 731 at-bats. Uecker claims his top salary playing professional baseball came in 1966 when he earned $17,000...$11,000 of that came from selling other guys equipment. Uecker also talked about getting fined while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. The cop fined Uecker $50 for being intoxicated on the street and $150 for playing for the Phillies.

In Uecker's interview with Costas, Uecker also told some of my favorite Bob Uecker stories that I am sure we have all heard before but bear repeating.

When Uecker's major league career was over he joked that he found out by the Braves manager Lumen Harris telling him "no visitors allowed in the clubhouse."

Uecker also talked about calling games with some of the greatest announcers of the last 50 years. One of those guys, Howard Cosell, called Bob Uecker "truculent" on the air. Cosell followed that up by saying "you probably didn't know what that meant though Ueck." Uecker said something to the effect: "of course I do, if you had a truck I borrowed, it to would be a truck-you-lent." I know that is not the most nuanced humor in the world but it just shows how quick Uecker is calling games no matter whom he is sharing the booth with.

Finally, Costas and Uecker also talked about how great the brats and secret stadium sauce combo is at Brewers games in Milwaukee. I know this seems like a shameless plug, but it really ties into the story...for a great story about how brats can be a great networking tool, check out Joe Sweeney’s New York Time Bestseller, Networking is a Contact Sport and the accompanying website.

Unfortunately Uecker has had some health issues over the last year. Uecker had pancreas surgery in January, heart surgery in April, and unfortunately had another heart procedure recently. Luckily Uecker is doing well relying on his sharp self-deprecating humor to get through his health issues. I know I am not alone in looking forward to hearing Uecker in the booth next year and thank you for being you Ueck!

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