Year with Uecker: August

Listening to every game called by "Mr. Baseball" this season

“All right, baby,” says Bob Uecker as he settles into his seat for the fifth inning. Uecker is running late, forcing his broadcast partner Lane Grindle to call a couple of extra pitches than he usually would.

The broadcasters typically trade off, with Uecker covering the first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings. It seems the tighter pace this year a few times has caused these brief delays, where Ueck is getting back to his seat just in the nick of time.

At any rate, Ueck’s anachronisms are worth the few pitches’ delay. Legendarily, Uecker uses some old-time sayings, as was revealed by Norm MacDonald on the Letterman show years ago (google the videosbut be forewarned about the language). Apparently, Uecker wasn’t thrilled with MacDonald’s comedian friend Artie Lange spilling secrets about how he talks off the air. It’s understandablefew things are more wholesome than Uecker’s brand of self-deprecating comedy during a ballgame. But once in a while, you get stories from his famous friends, or through whispers in Milwaukee from people who have been fortunate to be around Uecker in a non-public setting.

It’s an odd juxtapositionyou don’t really know your broadcaster, but you feel like you do after spending hours listening to them. Even with our favorite tv shows and movies we don’t spend nearly the same amount of time with the actors portraying characters as we do from just listening to a handful of baseball games with our local broadcasters.

Uecker opened that door a little bit more with his 1982 book “Catcher in the Wry” (get it?), which was both hilarious and probably good timing for the Brewer broadcaster to release a book, as the Brewers were in their first (and to date, only) World Series appearance.

The book is an easy read and mostly tells the stories that will be familiar to many Brewer fans by now. However, as with the peek behind the curtain with the stories about Uecker on Letterman, another mystery appeared surrounding Ueck’s book authorship.

There is, apparently, a second book that Uecker wrote in the 90s, “Catch .222” (get it?). The only real references to it are a few deep-in-the-weeds internet comments, in which people claim the book existsyet there are no copies available anywherenot on eBay, no records of it at any library, or rare book dealers. Not even a picture of a cover.

Reputable sites do list an international standard book number for it, so it does seem that it’s a book. Many of them report an initial print run of 50,000 copiessurely if that’s the case there’d be a copy available somewhere, for some cost.

Intrigued and determined to find the book at all costs, I investigated further. It seems a book was in fact written, but for whatever reason never published. A source confirmed to me that the publisher has record of a contract for it, but it was later canceled. Not a satisfying answer for those of us hoping for another Uecker book, but having the mystery is almost as fun.

Perhaps, like the stories told about Uecker on Letterman, the book was deemed too outside (or, if you’d prefer me to go for the easy joke here, “juuuust a bit outside!”) Uecker’s family-friendly image or Uecker thought better of publishing some of the stories in it. The synopsis of the book reads:

In his send-up of baseball, the noted sports figure and author of Catcher in the Wry turns a critical eye on Steinbrenner, Rose, Fantasy Baseball, player salaries, and even himself.

It wouldn’t be wholly unsurprising given the targets of the send-up if the book was given (either by those inside baseball or Uecker himself) a second thought before publishing.

It won’t be the only confounding thing about Uecker, though. As long as I can remember him calling games against the Brewers’ division rival Reds, he mentions the “easy ride” from Cincinnati to Milwaukee to explain the many Reds fans that come up to Milwaukee. As someone who has recently made that drive, the six-and-a-half to seven-hour trip is not something I would consider “easy.” There are five major league parks that are closer to Milwaukee (Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, and Cardinals), but Uecker always mentions the Cincinnati “easy ride.” It’s maybe the one question I’d ask him if I had the chance.

Having to be content with never fully understanding these aspects of Uecker himself, we can rest easy with his calls of the game in the present.

We’re fully into the swing of the season now, and Uecker isn’t holding back with his amusing anecdotes, often at his own expense.

Uecker has told the story before about getting a called strike at the plate and complaining that he didn’t think it was in the zone. The umpire Jocko Conlan responded with “the next one is, too.” Uecker then continues the story, saying he knew it was going to be a strike when the pitcher winked at him, and that was the last time he argued balls and strikes.

In a similar vein, on July 22, Lane Grindle asks Ueck about the first pitcher he got a hit against in the majors, after Brewers rookie Sal Frelick gets his first career knock. Uecker can’t remember the pitcher off the top of his head, explaining that “he was probably gone the next inning.”

That same game though, Ueck provides the other side of his mastery in the booth, with his deep historical knowledge and experience of the game, in a story I had at least never heard before.

Apparently, Satchel Paige was brought on to pitch a home run derby at the age of 65 in an exhibition, and Bob Uecker was slated to catch behind the plate. The problem was, no one told Paige that it was a home run derby, so he kept throwing sliders as Ueck tells it, and none of the hitters could get one off of him. Uecker claims that Satchel was then told it was a derby, and quit when someone told him he had to ease them in there for the hitters.

Those kinds of baseball storieshumorous, but also teaching us something we might not have known about baseball history in multiple waysare the ones we should really appreciate when listening to Uecker over the course of a season.



Sean Roberts

Sean Roberts is a baseball columnist for Pitcher List. His work has been featured on Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and October. He's still getting used to the DH in the national league. @seanroberts.bsky.social

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login