Bob Uecker Day cause for 50th celebration

Hall of Famers Yount, Molitor on hand to laud Brewers' legendary radio voice

September 26th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Mayor Tom Barrett declared Saturday “Bob Uecker Day” in the city, and Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, Brewers founder Bug Selig and other club luminaries gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of Uecker’s tenure as the radio voice of his hometown team.

You didn’t expect a serious affair, did you?

No, this turned into a roast of Mr. Baseball, whose wit is as sharp as ever at 87, after all these decades on the mic.

“Bob and I were similar hitters,” Yount said in a video tribute that aired during a pregame ceremony at American Family Field. “With the only difference being about 100 points in our career batting average.”

Uecker, who delivered the ceremonial first pitch in classic style with the aid of a pitching machine, was a lifetime .200 hitter in a Major League career that began with the Milwaukee Braves in 1962. He originally dreamed of pitching in the big leagues and was good enough to score a tryout at County Stadium with then-Braves pitching coach Johnny Cooney, who watched Uecker throw for 15 minutes and then told him to show his good fastball.

“I said, ‘I have been throwing my good fastball,’” Uecker said.

“Well,” Cooney replied, “then I recommend you get a job.”

Courtesy of Milwaukee Brewers

After his playing career came to a close, Uecker did get a job, first with the Braves in Atlanta and then back home with the Brewers, where he was a famously terrible scout for Selig. At the 1971 Baseball Writers’ dinner in New York, the two went to dinner and Selig offered Uecker a different gig, up in the radio booth with broadcasters Merle Harmon and Tom Collins.

“I’m still waiting to get paid,” Uecker said.

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” Selig said, “but you’re not going to get paid.”

Still, Uecker accepted, and 50 years later, he is still going with no plans to call it a career.

“Not really,” Uecker said when asked if he ever thought about retirement. “I don’t want to be in a spot where I’m going to embarrass myself on the air or embarrass the organization.”

Uecker paused for a split-second.

“That’s why I always wear a diaper,” he deadpanned.

Listen to the calls of some of the Brewers’ biggest moments this season at American Family Field, and you’ll hear Uecker’s fastball still humming. Like the Sunday afternoon when Daniel Vogelbach put a charge into an Alex Reyes sinker for a walk-off grand slam against the Cardinals.

Yount and Molitor recalled a time when Uecker did double duty, throwing batting practice before hastily changing clothes and heading upstairs to call the game.

“When I met him, I was 18 and he was a little more than that, but he hadn’t reached teenage mentality yet,” Yount said. “But the connection that he creates with players, the camaraderie that he brings to the clubhouse, I’m sure it’s the same today. He was always accepted as one of us. He threw batting practice, and I’m not joking, he was the best batting practice [pitcher] we had for many, many years. I couldn’t wait to go on the road because that was when he threw batting practice most of the time.”

“I think you wore No. 1 on your jersey when you were out there, didn’t you?” Molitor asked.

“I didn’t have a jersey on. That was my back,” Uecker replied.

Uecker became one of the guys, even though his playing days were over.

“You know,” Molitor said, “Bob became incredibly popular and incredibly recognizable, and his favorite environment was always the clubhouse. He never changed. All the things that came his way, he never forgot his roots and who he was, and what he was all about.”

Uecker remains just as connected to the clubhouse today, though that was temporarily severed in 2020 due to pandemic protocols. In '21, with vaccines available, Uecker was able to get clearance to return to the locker room for his daily swims in the Brewers' resistance pool and his pregame shows with manager Craig Counsell.

On Saturday, Christian Yelich presented a gift on behalf of the players. It was a pair of custom sneakers with “Air Uecker” on one foot and the phrase “ONE OF US” on the other.

“When you spend a lot of time with Ueck, you really wish that you wrote everything down,” said Counsell, who has known Uecker since he was a kid. “That’s what I always wish. I wish I wrote it all down.”

That connection between a broadcaster and a team is “incredibly rare,” Counsell said, conjuring a comparison to legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. Scully, who retired at age 88 in 2016, was among Uecker’s friends from across the sport who sent video messages on Saturday.

Courtesy of Milwaukee Brewers

“You know, there comes a time for everybody,” Uecker said. “I’ll know that time before it gets here. I love being here every day. I’m not going to embarrass myself, and Jeff [Levering] and Lane Grindle are doing a great job. They’re going to be here a long time, too.

“I don’t want to be doing a game and fall over or something like that. But other than that, I’m going to do it until we think it’s time. I’m happy here every day. I come downstairs and I enjoy the players. I enjoy the winning. You know, I want to win so bad, just like they do.”