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Bob Uecker Appreciation Blog

MLB.com - MILWAUKEE -- Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio spent Tuesday morning working through the traditions of his 20th home opener. He reflected on his late father, Joe, who used to sing the national anthem before every regular-season and postseason opener. He called MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, who was on his way to teach his history class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while the franchise he founded prepared to open another season at the domed ballpark he helped build. Then Attanasio visited with the face of the franchise.

Not 20-year-old Jackson Chourio, who made arguably the most anticipated home debut in Brewers history, or veteran mainstay Christian Yelich, whose arrival in 2018 began a stretch in which the team has made the postseason five times in six tries. But 90-year-old Bob Uecker, the Brewers’ Hall of Fame radio voice who is entering his 54th season in the booth.

This year, Uecker, the former .200-hitting catcher, will call his own game. He worked Tuesday’s home opener and will decide on a day-to-day basis when he wants to work. Having reached nonagenarian status on January 26, he’s earned the right to disappear for two weeks any time he likes.

“It’ll be just like when I played,” Uecker said, still as witty as ever.

Bob Uecker, affectionately known as "Mr. Baseball," stands as a towering figure in the world of sports and entertainment. He's done what few in the sport have been able to, something it's always needed, possibly now more than ever, and that's his unparalleled ability to bridge the gap between the sport and its fans through humor and humility. Which have made him a beloved icon.

The fact that the is 90 freaking years old, and still calling Brewers games is astoudning! 

Milwaukee is truly, truly blessed.

Uecker’s father, August, was a Swiss immigrant who came to America and who worked as a tool and die maker and mechanic. His mother, Mary Schultz, was born in Michigan and had a brother, Bernard, who played professional baseball in the Tigers' organization. August and Mary settled on Milwaukee’s near north side at 10th Street and Meinecke Avenue and had three children -- two daughters and Bob, who grew up surrounded by baseball. Living just down the street from Borchert Field, home to the original iteration of the Milwaukee Brewers, a Minor League team that played from 1902-53.

Despite a playing career that many would describe as less than stellar, Uecker's self-deprecating humor about his time as a major league catcher endeared him to fans and players alike. He famously quipped about his batting average and defensive skills, turning what could have been seen as shortcomings into sources of endless amusement and relatable content for the average fan.

After his playing days, Uecker made a seamless transition into broadcasting, where he truly found his calling. His wit, charm, and deep knowledge of the game made him an instant hit in the booth. For decades, Uecker's voice became synonymous with Milwaukee Brewers baseball, bringing games to life for fans with his unique blend of humor and insight.

Beyond the diamond, Uecker's talents shone brightly in entertainment. His appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson helped to cement his status as a cultural icon, bridging the worlds of sports and mainstream entertainment with ease. Uecker became a favorite of Carson, making more than 100 appearances.

He then became the natural choice to be spokesman for the hometown beer company, Miller Brewing Company, and soon became a household name thanks to countless memorable ads, spanning over years and years.

The thing I remember Uecker from the most, before I ever even knew he was affiliated with baseball, was his role on the 80s sitcom, "Mr. Belvedere". One of my favorite shows growing up as a kid, and one of the more ridiculous 80s plot lines for a show - a refined English butler comes to be a servent to a family in a Pittsburgh suburb, and hilarity ensues.

Uecker played the dad, who was a sportswriter or a sportscaster, I can't remember. But his kids were always getting into trouble and the youngest one, Wesley, and Mr. Belvedere were always pranking each other in a best buds kind of a way. Mr. Belvedere was the man.

However, his most well-known contributions have got to be his unforgettable appearances in the "Major League" film series which showcased his versatility and natural comedic timing, endearing him to a whole new generation of fans.

He’s even in the WWE Hall of Fame after hosting a couple of classic WrestleManias.

Bob Uecker's legacy is not merely in the laughter he induced or the broadcasts he enriched. It's in the way he made baseball more enjoyable for millions. He demystified the game, making it relatable to the everyday fan while never losing sight of its complexities and subtleties. Something the nerds also appreciate. 

Mr. Baseball may have joked about his prowess on the field, but when it comes to broadcasting and bringing people together, Bob Uecker is in a league of his own. One thing is for sure. Bob Uecker is part of a dying breed. We gotta cherish this guy while he's still around.

Respect to the new Brewers owner Mark Attanasio as well for respecting and recognizing a true legend- 

“I have the arrangement with him that Bud did,” Attanasio said. “We do a handshake. There’s no contract. I feel it’s his booth and he can do whatever he wants in that booth. And that’s true this year.”Attanasio recalled that when he was into negotiations to buy the Brewers from the Selig family in 2004, his first two calls were to Hall of Famer Robin Yount and Uecker. The Uecker call was brief, but then-CEO Wendy Selig-Prieb arranged for Attanasio and Uecker to have drinks in Scottsdale. They were supposed to meet for 30 minutes, but they spent three hours together and have considered each other friends ever since.

One of the funniest acceptance speeches you will ever see is Bob Uecker's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, as a broadcaster… something he had a bone to pick with the baseball writers about…

For his 90th Birthday MLB.com compiled some all-time Uecker stories. Here were some of the best -

No matter what other sources tell you, Robert George Uecker was born in Milwaukee on Jan. 26, 1934. Throughout his playing career, the back of Uecker’s baseball card said he was born in 1935. Uecker says he never paid attention, but when he got older and people began to more frequently ask his age, he noticed that most databases had it wrong. When he turned 80 in 2014, Uecker finally set the record straight -- and lamented a missed opportunity.

“If I was going to cheat on my age, I would certainly make it more than one year,” Uecker said. “This just gets me into the Village at Manor Park sooner.”

For out-of-towners, that’s one of the Milwaukee area’s prominent retirement homes.

Fans today know about Uecker’s exploits as a light-hitting catcher for his hometown Milwaukee Braves before stints in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Atlanta, but he actually began his baseball life as a pitcher, as he told MLB.com in 2015.

“I was a pretty good pitcher, you know,” Uecker said. “I threw a no-hitter. I threw pretty hard, actually. I had a workout with the Braves. I was, like, 16 years old, and they invited me down there during the afternoon. The catcher was a guy named Bob Keely. The pitching coach was a guy named Johnny Cooney.

“I’m on the sidelines throwing down at County Stadium. And like I said, I was a pretty good pitcher and I’m down there humping pretty good. I threw upper 80s, low 90s maybe. I’d been playing sandlot baseball and we won a city championship a couple years in a row with Rohr Jewelers downtown. We were good. So, I’m humping for about 15 minutes. All of a sudden, Cooney says, ‘All right, now let me see your good fastball.’ I said, ‘I have been throwing my good fastball!’ And he says, ‘Well, then I recommend you get a job.’

“Years later, I ran into him when I was a catcher with the Braves and I asked if he remembered me. He looked at me and said no. That’s a true story. It was pretty much a destroyer.”

In Milwaukee, Uecker was a teammate of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. Then he went to the Cardinals to back up catcher Tim McCarver in 1964 and won a World Series ring. But the achievement Uecker mentions most came in his final Major League season, 1967, when he was traded by the Phillies to the Atlanta Braves and joined a roster that included knuckleballer Phil Niekro. That season, Uecker was charged with 27 passed balls, 25 coming with the Braves.

That’s an all-time record, as he proudly notes.

“There was a game, as a matter of fact, during that year when Phil Niekro's brother and he were pitching against each other in Atlanta,” Uecker said in Cooperstown in 2003. “Their parents were sitting right behind home plate. I saw their folks that day more than they did the whole weekend.”

It wasn’t the way Uecker drew up his 50th season in the Brewers' booth in 2020, but as usual he made the most of it. The season was first delayed until late July by the coronavirus pandemic, and when it began, Major League Baseball instituted strict protocols limiting who could be on the service level at Miller Park. For the first time since he started calling games in 1971, Uecker was separated from the team.

“I can’t go in the clubhouse,” he said. “It brings back such great memories of teams that I was playing on.”

p.s. - these stories from Norm MacDonald and Bob Costas about Uecker are must watch