Year with Uecker: September

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

The Brewers have been on the road for the past two weeks, so it’s been a while since I’ve checked in with Ueck (he now typically only calls home games). As the game gets started, it’s his partner Lane Grindle calling the game to start, even though Bob Uecker usually takes the first two innings. It’s not unheard of; sometimes Ueck is late getting into his seat, or maybe visiting with former Brewers or old friends visiting the ballpark.

“No problem, I’m sure he’ll be here in a couple innings,” I think.

In the third, there’s still no Uecker to be found, nor any mention of him on the radio broadcast.

“I’m sure they’ll mention it soon.”

I last about one more out before I can’t resist tweeting the Brewers’ beat writer to ask if they’ve heard anything.

A few days later, it’s confirmed that the Brewers are just giving Uecker a few days of extra time off to gear up for the stretch run and (hopefully for the Brewers), a significant playoff run that will extend the season for a bit.

Obviously, it’s a nice thing for the legendary and long-tenured Brewers announcer to have some more time off. But between the extra layoff and the Brewers’ long road trip this month, it amounts to just seven games called by Ueck in the entire month of August, making my goal of listening to every Uecker radio broadcast much easier but also leaving the well dry for much in the way of recaps.

Instead, it’s a month to reflect on the genuine fortune of being able to listen (or watch) our teams’ games with the same broadcasters day after day over six months.

I have a small idiosyncrasy, at least among baseball fanatics that I am really not sure how to explain: I can’t watch spring training games.

I mean, I guess I could, but I don’t, and won’t. February is the most intolerable time for me as a baseball fan, when we’re at almost the farthest we can get from the last season, and my patience for waiting for the next season has been exhausted. I should be happy there’s baseball on. It’s not the same, though.

I’m not sure if it’s that I need stakes, any stakes, for the game to be meaningful to me. I’ve also theorized that it’s a strange self-regulation test for myself; it feels a bit like peaking at the Christmas gifts before they’re wrapped.

Whatever the reason, I’m oblivious when people mention a spring training highlight they saw or ask a question about something spring training related. I couldn’t tell you what a spring training game really even looks like on TV (This weirdly doesn’t apply to going to spring training games in person. I’ll sit in the sun and watch baseball in February, no questions asked and stakes be damned).

But even with my own self-imposed baseball jail for the months of February and March, I do find myself cheating just a little. If I’m in the car around mid-day I’ll allow my radio to wander over to the local Brewers Radio Network station and take in an inning or two with Ueck if he’s on the call.

It’s different, I think (or at least tell myself), because I’m not really paying attention to the game at all; just getting a little taste of summer. Like making jerk chicken skewers in January just to get out of the rut of winter.

One winter after Nori Aoki signs with the Brewers, Uecker is telling the story of meeting him for the first time as he steps to the plate. “I asked him how we should pronounce his name for the broadcasts — he takes a strike now, two and one. He said it didn’t matter to him. So anyway it’s Ryan Braun now with a two and one count…”

After a fairly good run with the Brewers, I’ve sworn I’ve heard Ueck tell the story that Aoki actually named his son after Uecker, giving him the middle name “Bob,” but can’t seem to find confirmation of that anywhere. It’s possible it’s just another Uecker humorous story, or is just lost to the annals of the radio — or I’m completely misremembering it.

That’s almost beside the point, though.

It’s something that feels like it could be true — the actual facts lost to the haze of hundreds of games listened to over the years, and at least as many stories, jokes, and anecdotes.

If you were asked to name your funniest friend, you could probably do so without hesitation. If you were asked to provide an example, though, it might take a little longer. It’s not that you couldn’t think of one, it’s just something you’ve grown to know.

So, even though the break is understandable — advisable, even — for Ueck during the year, it’s still a small loss for the summer.

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