Bob Uecker is many things – a former baseball player, comedian, actor, and broadcaster. For Matt Wild, Bob Uecker is Milwaukee. He tell us what the Brewers icon means to him.
There’s a picture, taken in 1964, of Bob Uecker playing a tuba. It’s moments before the second game of the ’64 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees, and the then-Cardinals catcher is standing near the outfield bleachers of Busch Stadium, literally tooting his own horn. He’s young—all of 30 years old—and the young and old alike in the stands behind him are grinning at his good-natured and low-level hijinks.
There’s another picture of Bob Uecker, taken almost 44 years later. Uecker isn’t the subject of the picture (or is he?), but there he is in the background, clad only in a swimming suit, impeccably bronzed and fit, leaning against a cabana at a Florida hotel swimming pool while Corey Hart and J.J. Hardy play ping pong in the foreground. It’s a perfectly ridiculous and meme-worthy image, but there’s something almost heartwarming about it, too. Bob Uecker, septuagenarian and silver fox: still kicking it with the boys and letting it all hang out.
There are lots of pictures of Bob Uecker, though it’s hard to find two that are alike. Here’s Bob Uecker playing with the Cardinals. Here’s Bob Uecker playing with the Milwaukee Braves. Here’s Bob Uecker and Merle Harmon calling a Milwaukee Brewers game while shirtless. (Always shirtless, that Uecker.) Here’s Bob Uecker on the set of a Miller Lite commercial. Here’s Bob Uecker getting choked by Andre The Giant. Here’s Bob Uecker yukking it up with Mr. Belvedere. Here’s Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle in Major League. Here’s Bob Uecker standing next to a bronze statue of Bob Uecker.
This spring, Uecker began his 46th year as the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, his 61st overall in baseball. To call him an institution would be wrong—he represents institutions. Personally speaking, my love for Uecker is deep, unequivocal, and without irony. His is the voice of my childhood summers, my teenage drives to the next town over, my current-day afternoons with my daughter. Long before I became a baseball fan, I was a Uecker fan. Against all odds and reason, I was a member of the Mr. Belvedere Fan Club, which, yes, was a real thing. Later, in college, I cut my teeth on web design by creating a Mr. Belvedere site. Why? Uecker. For me, Uecker is a foundation. Uecker is a pillar. Uecker is a fact.
Uecker is also 82 years old. It’s painful to contemplate the mortality of the seemingly immortal, but it’s safe to say he’s winding down. Though still in good health, he’s cut back on road games in recent years, electing to sit out most West Coast trips and the long travel they entail. Uecker claims he wants to finally get up and get out of here while behind the mic. There’s no reason to believe he’ll settle for anything less.
This fall will mark my 20th year living in Milwaukee. If I’ve learned anything in those 20 years, it’s that one person’s Milwaukee is bound to be different from another person’s Milwaukee. Uecker is my Milwaukee. He contains all that is good and weird about our good and weird city. His lifelong celebration of his own mediocrity strikes me as uniquely Milwaukee. His weird, wonky career filled with beer commercials and Wrestlemania hosting gigs with Vanna White seems uniquely Milwaukee. The fact that he’s stuck with a team that’s seen more bad than good seems uniquely Milwaukee. I’m glad that I’ve found my Uecker, and whether it’s a band, a neighborhood, a building, the past, or the future, I hope you find yours.