Year with Uecker: July

Listening to every game called in 2023 by "Mr. Baseball"

There are certain patterns to Bob Uecker’s speech you pick up over the course of a season.

They aren’t catchphrases, nor are they so unique they would be completely out of place in a normal day-to-day conversations. They’re the signatures of a Uecker broadcast, though, that provide some predictability into the call. I find myself finishing Uecker’s sentences sometimes before he does, because the way he uses those words falls into rhythm, like baseball itself does.

“That one is inside, catches the bat. Rolls up the first base line, a…”

Jam job.

“He didn’t like that call. Craig is out there now and things are getting a little…”


It’s an underrated part of Bob Uecker’s broadcast game. Everyone talks about the hilarious stories and diversions (including here in this monthly column), but we all fall into different speech patterns and word repetitions with our friends. The repetition without getting repetitive  makes you feel like you’re watching the game with someone you know.

Milwaukee certainly knows Bob Uecker, in a way. Born and raised in Milwaukee, he signed with the hometown major league team, then came back in 1971 and has called games for the Brewers ever since.

This month, during one of his “off” innings, where Uecker leaves play-by-play duties to his partner but often sticks around and converses, he’s asked his earliest memories of playing baseball in Milwaukee.

It’s fun to say “hey, I know that place!” as Uecker ticks off all the places in and around Milwaukee that still exist. He talks about playing “Legion ball” on the weekends and summers, but spends quite a bit of time reminiscing playing softball on weeknights in Sherman and Washington Parks, with spectators at that. The humor certainly is the calling card for Bob Uecker, but the colorful history of how people could just be playing pickup baseball or “rec league” softball and be signed by a local Major League team feel like a connection to a past that’s hard to imagine.

For all the time Uecker has spent in Milwaukee and his “local legend” status among Brewer fans, he occupies a unique place with his celebrity. There aren’t many famous people living in or around the Milwaukee area; when I first moved here, locals would regularly point out the top floor of a high-rise where Oprah’s mother was said to live (I have never confirmed if this was or is true). So it’s surprising to me that there aren’t too many people with stories about running into “Uke” out and about in Milwaukee.

I’m not sure that kind of celebrity can really develop anymore. There are famous people who prefer not to be recognized and just live their everyday lives, but is it possible to gain fame without rising to the top of an extremely crowded social media landscape, where everyone has some measure of recognition?

Then again, maybe it didn’t used to be like that. Bob Uecker is, after all, 89 years old. Not to stereotype, but perhaps it would be more surprising if people were running into him on Brady Street on Saturday nights and had stories about it.

One wonders if it was more commonplace to run into Uecker in the 70s or 80s. He was probably a bigger celebrity nationally then– appearing on basically the only “late night” talk show at the time and the star of the sitcom “Mr. Belvedere.”

It’s widely known that he goes fishing just about every day he’s not at the ballpark– he takes players on his boat. So he leaves his house, and ostensibly has interactions with people outside of the ballpark.

You do get the sense though, that there’s not much that interests Uecker outside of baseball.

In 2011, the Brewers won their NL Divisional Series against the Diamondbacks in a thrilling game five walkoff win. The postgame show went longer that night, and Uecker interviewed star second baseman Rickie Weeks remotely from the booth after the game.

“Uke, Uke! Come have a beer with us Uke!”

“I’ll be right down there, buddy,” Uecker responds as he follows up with a couple of more questions about the game.

Uecker is still treated as “one of the guys” in the clubhouse. He’s regularly voted a full share of the club’s playoff bonuses, and his post-series celebrations in the clubhouse have become a tradition.

“To be treated like one of the guys is so nice. They treat me like I’m still a player, and I’m so honored that they do that,” said Uecker.

Between seemingly functioning as a full-time player in terms of his social engagements, and the respect fans around Milwaukee and Wisconsin have for him (I’ve seen people threatened at Brewers games for trying to rudely get his attention while he’s broadcasting), Uecker occupies a unique role for a celebrity in a smaller city.

It’s not certain that his kind of career trajectory could exist if it started today– either in how he made the Major Leagues or in his post-playing entertainment career. It’s another reason we should be lucky to have another full season to listen to him call games.


Photo adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)


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

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