Tuesday's news around Major League Baseball brought the announcement that former Milwaukee Braves catcher and current Brewers radio announcer, Bob Uecker, will undergo heart surgery this week. The voice of the Brewers will have the procedure performed this Friday at Froedert Hospital in Milwaukee.
Hearing this news about the Hall of Fame broadcaster initially came as a surprise to most. For years, fans have admired Uecker as a broadcaster, an actor, a comedian, and, most importantly, as one of the great personalities involved in Major League Baseball.
It has been quite some time since Uecker has been in the mainstream light of baseball. Quietly over the past decade, Uecker has almost exclusively operated over the airwaves of Milwaukee as the voice of the Brewers. Since being utilized as a commentator for the 1997 World Series, Uecker's role within Major League Baseball has been significantly decreased. Outside of a ceremonial first pitch at the 2002 All-Star Game and being awarded the 2003 Ford C. Frick Award, Uecker has not worked on a national level on a single occasion. The only national exposure Uecker has received has been through stints with the WWE -- most notably his 2010 induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The news of Uecker undergoing major surgery should serve as a reminder to baseball fans that Uecker is one of the priceless personalities who have made the game of baseball as special as it is.
With a long list of legendary broadcasters, much of Major League Baseball's history has been immortalized by the smooth, almost poetic descriptions given by the great Vin Scully, while personalities like Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse offered Cubs' fans a bit of empathy with every play they called. In St. Louis, the pride in Jack Buck's voice was completely indicative of the strong Cardinals franchise for which he worked.
Bob Uecker's style is very much like all of these great broadcasters, yet nothing like any of them. Uecker's style is perhaps the most under-appreciated of all, yet relatable like no other.
Having had a less-than-stellar baseball career, Uecker's career as a broadcaster and actor has been based on failure -- more specifically, acceptance of failure. In a game that sees it's legends succeed a mere thirty percent of the time, Uecker's theme could not be any more perfect. Uecker speaks to the everyman. Whereas the Dodgers' Vin Scully speaks to the majority of Los Angeles' population -- everyone from the struggling actor to the Beverly Hills billionaire -- Uecker speaks to the construction workers, city employees, teachers, fire fighters, and truck drivers. He speaks as a voice of the average baseball fan. Uecker appreciates baseball for it's similarities with everyday life, but makes no mistake in reassuring fans that baseball is a getaway rather than another responsibility.
Uecker is also one of the only broadcasters who has been able to successfully transfer his profession another medium. For six seasons, Uecker portrayed sportswriter George Owens in the television series, Mr. Belvedere. And who can forget Uecker's role as Harry Doyle in the Major League trilogy? The way Uecker crafted Doyle into a symbol of his team's successes and failures was sensational. The irony behind Uecker's role in the film is that his character was not all that different from Uecker himself. Deep down, all sports broadcasters are fans, and unlike most modern-era broadcasters, Uecker, like Harry Doyle, is proud to call himself a fan.
For over a half-century, Bob Uecker has informed, educated, and entertained several generations of baseball fans. He is a symbol of baseball's best characteristics; a timeless personality and the spirit of every aspect which makes American sports entertaining.
Here's to a speedy recovery for "Mr. Baseball" -- a true baseball icon.
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