MILWAUKEE -- One of the best moments of Bob Uecker's not-so-illustrious playing career occurred against the Dodgers, the team the Brewers are about to take on in the National League Championship Series.It was also one of the most troubling moments, if you actually believe him."Every time I see Sandy Koufax,
MILWAUKEE -- One of the best moments of Bob Uecker's not-so-illustrious playing career occurred against the Dodgers, the team the Brewers are about to take on in the National League Championship Series.
It was also one of the most troubling moments, if you actually believe him.
"Every time I see Sandy Koufax, I have to apologize to him," Uecker has said many times. "I always thought it was going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame."
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It was July 24, 1965. Uecker, who'd broken into the big leagues with his hometown Milwaukee Braves, was with the Cardinals by then, and was the lesser-used half of a catcher platoon with Tim McCarver. That explains how Uecker found himself in the lineup that day at Dodger Stadium against Koufax, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner who did eventually make it to the Hall of Fame, in spite of Uecker's best efforts. Of all Uecker's amazing statistics, including his perfect .200 lifetime batting average and that he really did lead the league with 27 passed balls in '67, the best may be this: In 1965, he hit .400 (6-for-15) against Sandy Koufax.
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On this July day, the Dodgers' Lou Johnson and Ron Fairly had hit sacrifice flies early in the game to spot Koufax a 2-0 lead, but Uecker keyed a Cardinals comeback with that big moment we've been leading up to -- a two-out solo homer to the left-field bleachers in the fifth. The Cardinals tied the game an inning later, and when Uecker came to the plate again in the seventh, Koufax issued an intentional walk. Maybe he was rattled. Probably it was because the pitcher was on deck with two outs.
The latter moment led to another memorable Uecker line.
"Career highlights?" he's said. "I had two. I got an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax, and I got out of a rundown against the Mets."
The story of that rundown will have to wait for another day.
Is anyone having more fun during the Brewers' postseason run than Bob Uecker?
Before we get to the dance moves, let's cover the biography. Uecker is 84, despite what some sources will tell you. Throughout his playing career, the backs of his baseball cards all said he was born in 1935, and Uecker never considered it enough of a problem to say he was actually born in Milwaukee in 1934. When he turned 80 a couple of years back on the same day the Brewers held their annual winter fanfest, he finally corrected the record. Some outlets still haven't gotten word.
Then-Brewers owner Bud Selig had known Uecker for years by the time he hired him in 1971 as a scout. When that didn't work out -- there's an often-told story about reports arriving on Selig's desk smeared with mashed potatoes and gravy -- Uecker moved up to the radio booth, beginning a broadcasting career that has led him to many Halls of Fame, including the broadcasters' wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Do the math, and that means Uecker is in his 48th season calling games for his hometown team.
"Ueck has been on my side since Day 1, even when I came over here and had all of my struggles," said Brewers backup outfielder Keon Broxton, echoing what many players who have crossed Uecker's path over the years will tell you. "His excitement in all this is awesome. Everyone deserves it. Everyone has been working hard. It's a great feeling for everybody.
"He is definitely part of the team. We've got 25 men, and he is 26."
The 26th man has been the star of the Brewers' three champagne celebrations so far. The video clip of his dance moves in St. Louis the night the Brewers clinched a spot in the postseason was made for the age of social media, and Uecker has reprised it in each of the two clubhouse parties since -- first at Wrigley Field on the day the Brewers won the NL Central in a Game 163 against the Cubs, and again Sunday in Denver after the Brewers swept the Rockies in the NL Division Series.
Uecker no longer makes most road trips -- Brewers Radio Network teammates Jeff Levering and Lane Grindle call those games -- but he resumed a full schedule beginning with the final road trip of the regular season.
"I've been around here a long, long time, and I've been through a couple of them before, and nothing like this ever gets old," Uecker said when the Brewers celebrated in St. Louis. "Especially with these guys. To have the kind of year that some of these guys are having. ... This is how it pretty much is in the clubhouse every night, except the beer is free."
Players play to pop champagne. Do broadcasters broadcast for the moments that produce such celebrations?
"I enjoy the broadcast every day," said Uecker, "but it's my friendship with these guys. They treat me like a player, that's the thing. I can come in here and they can break my chops and whatever they want, and they know I'm part of it. That's the one thing: No matter how old you get, they keep you young."
Uecker knows what it is like to win a World Series without swinging a bat, though he did wield a tuba for the '64 World Series champion Cardinals. Uecker donned the instrument in the outfield during batting practice before Game 2 of the Series against the favored Yankees in an effort to relieve teammates' tension.
St. Louis triumphed in seven games, but Uecker didn't get into any of them.
In 1982, he threw batting practice for the Brewers before calling their games on the way to a World Series against his former team, the Cardinals.
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What would a World Series mean to him today?
"Another ring," Uecker said, before breaking into laughter. "This club is capable. Absolutely."
During Selig's tenure as Brewers owner, legend says Uecker's "contract" consisted of a yearly handshake agreement. It's unclear whether Uecker and current owner Mark Attanasio have continued the practice, though Uecker was asked whether he'd already committed to 2019.
"I'm looking at 2022," he said, with his usual straight face. "And then I'm going to go to Japan and try to play. They haven't seen me play."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.