Janesville58.3°

Uecker returns to the Brewers' booth just in time' to ease pain

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Michael Hunt
July 23, 2010

Bob Uecker can't make a 15-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates go away any more than he can expunge that four-game, 36-7 San Francisco abomination from the books.


He can't transform two soft-tossing lefties into one CC Sabathia or get Ubaldo Jimenez for Lorenzo Cain.


He can't retrofit air conditioning into Miller Park when an unbearably hot evening gives way to a Midwestern gully-washer or turn bratwurst into chateaubriand at the concession stand.


But he can do the one thing that almost no other radio play-by-play announcer is capable of doing.


While Uecker may not be able to make you forget about a painful baseball season, he can render it something beyond tolerable. He can, for a couple of hours, make it comforting.


That's Uecker, the embodiment of lake fishing, bubblers, corner taps, summertime festivals and liners to the gap.


He's not just Mr. Baseball. He's Mr. Milwaukee.


So welcome back, Ueck. Do we ever need you now, especially when things on the field have gone juuuuust a bit outside.


Uecker may not be the perfect baseball announcer. There's probably been a time or two in the last 40 years when you've pounded on the steering wheel while yelling at the radio, "Please, please, for the love of Sixto Lezcano, just . . . give . . . me . . . the . . . score!"


That happens because there are stories to be told when innings go sideways. Not only does Uecker tell 'em as well as anyone in the tale-soaked culture of baseball, there has been the occasional forgettable inning in the history of Brewers baseball.


But Uecker is the perfect baseball announcer for Milwaukee. Not too small-town, even if his charm is in his folksiness. And not too big-time, even if he has sold more Miller product than Rodney Dangerfield, Dick Butkus, George Steinbrenner and the catfight girls combined, and was on Johnny Carson more than a noted piano player from the neighborhood.


But Liberace left town. So did Spencer Tracy, Gene Wilder, Oprah and Kato Kaelin. Like Bud Selig with whom Ueck had a handshake deal to tell everyone from Superior to Kenosha, from Sister Bay to Cassville about the state of the big-league baseball team Uecker has always been one of us.


And always will be.


Quick, tell me, who was the most famous member of the organization in 1970?


How about 1980? 1990? 2000? Or now?


There are Hank Aaron and Robin Yount statues out front. Paul Molitor was a Hall of Famer, too. So was Rollie Fingers. Everybody loved Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner and the rest of the Wallbangers and Bombers. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have fairly high national profiles.


But when a team charter lands, just see whom the people gravitate toward first. The Brewers may be singular in the fact that their most popular person has always been, and always will be, the radio guy.


That's because Uecker has this way of resonating with the people. When the crowd parts at Scottsdale Stadium during spring training, Uecker is on his way to the booth. When the ladies who run the Miller Park press-box cafeteria are laughing like preteens at an Adam Sandler movie, you know Uecker has just delivered a one-liner just for them.


A few years ago, Uecker got justifiably mad at me for something I had written and let me know about it. The next day, it was as if nothing had happened. He smiled and, as usual, called me "Mikey." No one has ever called me that except my grandmother, and it's more than cool.


So welcome back, Ueck. The front row is waiting.



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