Nick Olig – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com Music, culture, gentle sarcasm. Sat, 22 Sep 2018 00:52:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://milwaukeerecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/cropped-mrapp-32x32.jpg Nick Olig – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com 32 32 6 Milwaukee Brewers All-Stars in old-school video games http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/6-milwaukee-brewers-all-stars-in-old-school-video-games/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/6-milwaukee-brewers-all-stars-in-old-school-video-games/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 12:39:14 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=52927 Milwaukee’s representation in Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic was scarce decades ago. Before five Brewers were deemed All-Stars in the 2018 season, the franchise was prone to sending just one requisite player to the mid-season exhibition. The team’s postseason drought lasted from 1983-2007, which spans the age of Atari to the dawn of PlayStation 3. […]

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Milwaukee’s representation in Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic was scarce decades ago. Before five Brewers were deemed All-Stars in the 2018 season, the franchise was prone to sending just one requisite player to the mid-season exhibition. The team’s postseason drought lasted from 1983-2007, which spans the age of Atari to the dawn of PlayStation 3. As a result of the real-life team’s era of ineffectiveness, the home console games you might have owned back in the day also reflect this dubious trend.

Many years before Crew fans with hyperactive thumbs and youthful imaginations could pummel chumps with Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich from this season’s club in MLB The Show 18, gamers were hard-pressed to control a good Crew squad in bit form, and finding a pixelated All-Star from Milwaukee was also a challenge. In the eras of 8, 16, and 64 bits, the logo of the glove got almost no love. Somehow, however, a few pixelated performers stood out on some otherwise bad Brewers video game squads. And if we don’t confront those sad memories of lonesome Brewer All-Stars, then honestly: what in God’s name is this whole thing about?

1. Bill Schroeder — RBI Baseball, Nintendo (1988)
It remains a mystery how the current color commentator of Brewers broadcasts made the starting lineup of the American League All-Stars in this NES classic developed by Namco. In reality, he never received such an honor (Terry Kennedy of Baltimore and Detroit’s Matt Nokes caught for the AL in 1987, as you probably guessed).

One could even make the case that Schroeder wasn’t even the best catcher on the Brewers at the time, due to the production of a swaggering rookie by the name of B.J. Surhoff. Schroeder did post a robust .332 batting average in 1987, but his playing time and at-bats were much more limited than Surhoff’s. Along with sharing a nickname with an eight-time WWE champ-turned-action hero, Rock should also be proud that he somehow wooed the scouts from RBI Baseball three decades ago.

2. Paul Molitor — RBI Baseball, Nintendo (1988)
Shifting gears to a player who was in RBI Baseball for reasons mortals can actually comprehend, Molitor was named to seven All-Star teams in his Hall of Fame career. Molitor posted a career-best 1.003 OPS in the season the game culls its stats from, but oddly enough, he wasn’t named to the real All-Star team that year. Probably because the universe is a senseless expanse of maddening chaos.

Anyway, since only the eight strongest franchises were included in RBI Baseball, Milwaukee was left out, which means Rock and Molitor are the only Crew members featured. Even Robin Yount is nowhere to be found. You could hardly blame the two-time MVP and Brawny paper towel lookalike if he called bullshit, sued the hell out of Namco, and swore a lifelong grudge against Bill Schroeder.

3. Greg Vaughn (aka J. Steed) — Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, Super Nintendo (1994)
By the time Nintendo stepped it up a notch to the Super level, the glory of the ’82 Brewers had long subsided, Molitor was winning back-to-back World Series titles in Toronto, and the Crew was starting to epitomize a mediocre ball club. While every team, the Brewers included, was playable in Griffey for the SNES, the number of Milwaukee All-Stars actually fell from two in RBI Baseball to just one in this game. That honor went to outfielder Greg Vaughn, whose alias was J. Steed in the game. You see, the game wasn’t licensed by the Players Association, hence the (legally mandated) fun with pseudonyms.

Seen above floating in front of the surface of the sun, Vaughn/Steed got the nod to rep the Brewers thanks to those 30 dingers and that POW rating of 9. The crappy caliber of the Crew notwithstanding, this Griffey installment remains a fun, simplistic, arcade-like take on baseball with some comically muscle-bound sluggers. The game stands the test of time—even if it also snubbed S. Templar (whom everybody surely knows is Robin Yount).

4. Jeff Cirillo — Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., Nintendo 64 (1998)
In Milwaukee’s final season in the American League, third baseman Jeff Cirillo carried the torch as the sole Brewer All-Star in the first Griffey for N64. Cirillo drove in 82 runs, hit .288, and sported dark sideburns and a goatee for the ladies.

Somebody actually went to the trouble of doing these calculations: The AL squad in this Griffey featured four Yankees, four Mariners, and three players from Cleveland. Meanwhile, Milwaukee pulled a Highlander on the roster again, proclaiming there could be only one. We can only guess that Dave Nilsson is still super pissed and has never fully recovered.

5. Fernando Viña — Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest, Nintendo 64 (1999)
In an era of baseball in which ratings and attendance soared due to a skyrocketing number of home runs hit by players that may or may not have been on steroids (okay, a lot of them were on steroids), Viña knocked a mere seven pitches over the fence in his All-Star season, when—you guessed it—he was the only Brewer to appear on Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest, the slightly refined sequel to the previous entry.

A .311 hitter with speed, Viña could swat plenty of doubles in Slugfest. When it came to homers in reality, though, he only totaled 40 bombs in 12 seasons. Though his lacking power didn’t exactly raise much suspicion, Viña was named in 2007’s infamous Mitchell Report and cited as a probable user of anabolic steroids. He didn’t belt many homers, but he still (allegedly!) juiced up. The moral of the story? Life is really, really funny.

6. Jeromy Burnitz — All-Star Baseball 2001, Nintendo 64 (2000)
The only Brewer to represent the National League in this installment of Acclaim’s warmly received baseball sim was a run-producing machine on lousy teams in the late-’90s and early ’00s. Years before the farm system produced talents like Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and much of the current crop of contenders, Milwaukee enjoyed stat lines like a .270 average, 33 homers, and 103 RBI from Burnitz. There wasn’t much else to enjoy at the time.

Still, 64-bit Burnitz can swing the lumber in the same lineup as the sluggers who overshadowed him, including Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Ken Griffey Jr. All-Star Baseball 2001 is one of the highest-rated sports games of its era, so if you’ve got a soft spot for N64 classics and recommendations from well-meaning oddballs, buy this cartridge if you can get it cheap.

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9 nominees for the (nonexistent) Wisconsin Sports Poster Hall of Fame http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/wisconsin-sports-poster-hall-of-fame/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/wisconsin-sports-poster-hall-of-fame/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 18:29:47 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=48723 ew things are as subjective or nostalgic as posters. A blown-up snapshot and all that it stands for may conjure a million different reactions in people. Posters are like charming ghosts from a childhood bedroom or a basement where friends gathered. A poster may also come in handy if you’re the sort of person who’s […]

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Few things are as subjective or nostalgic as posters. A blown-up snapshot and all that it stands for may conjure a million different reactions in people. Posters are like charming ghosts from a childhood bedroom or a basement where friends gathered. A poster may also come in handy if you’re the sort of person who’s got to tunnel out of prison.

For these reasons and more, we wanted to acknowledge the thin, glossy rectangles that cling to vertical surfaces, those colorful scrolls that fight the tedium of staring at a blank wall. Some of us maintain the posters that showcase Wisconsin sports figures present some of the boldest imagery this side of the Sistine Chapel, but we can all agree that posters are subjective. Ranging from cringeworthy to cool, these are the nominees for Dairyland’s finest sports posters.

Paul Molitor & Robin Yount
Robin Yount shares a first name with a celebrated sidekick. Paul Molitor was a ballplayer known for hitting the baseball with, you know, a bat… Add to the mix a couple toy guns and the effects of a smoke machine to cloak the fact that that’s not the real Batmobile and you have this baffling spectacle from the ’80s. Now, we’re not trying to start a gun control debate here, but why did Molitor and Yount need to be brandishing plastic firearms? If we’re lucky, that question will someday be answered in a big budget motion picture based on this poster, starring Channing Tatum and the redheaded guy from Game of Thrones.

Don Majkowski
An angelic mullet, a magic wand, and a football with no fishing line whatsoever attached to it: those are the main components of the Majkowski classic “Majik Man.” Some believe that Majik used sorcery to command the scoreboard in the background, while others haven’t really put that much thought into it. On a final note, we’ve seen this poster dozens of times, and we finally just realized the Majik Man is wearing a shorn jersey to prove he’s not hiding any tricks up his sleeve. Over 25 years after its debut, the “Majik Man” poster is still finding ways to blow our minds.


Glenn Robinson
Nothing captures the essence of basketball quite like Glenn Robinson throwing down a dunk in the moonlit wilderness with the silhouette of a mighty buck in the background. That seemed to be the manifesto of whoever designed this poster, anyway. It’s oddly soothing to see the Big Dog throw down a dunk in front of the team mascot in its natural habitat. There’s only one thing on Earth that could spoil this borderline-majestic scene: the wolfman.

Rollie Fingers
Seated in the stands in the background we can see every fan who ever had the guts to badmouth Rollie’s mustache to his face. Posing here like he’s a stone-cold member of the baseball-themed street gang from The Warriors, 1981 saw Fingers win both the American League Cy Young and the MVP as a dominant closer for the Crew. The Hall of Fame starter-turned-reliever thrived on snuffing out the last hopes of the opposition, which helps explain his resemblance to scheming cartoon villain Dick Dastardly.

Gilbert Brown
A large man, a shovel, a bizarre reference to chowder, and a hefty, sweltering mess of beef, dairy, and greasy veggies. Those are the ingredients of Gilbert Brown’s iconic-in-Wisconsin poster. Recognized as a loyal patron of a Burger King in Green Bay, the run-stuffing mammoth of the Packers’ front four got a sandwich named after him in 1997. The Gilbert Burger was a double Whopper with double the cheese, lettuce, and mayo, as well as double onion and double ketchup (and some customers also got the double-bypass).


Reggie White
Last seen taped to the classroom door of an awkward biology teacher at a Fond du Lac junior high school in 1998, Reggie White’s “Character” was unique in its ability to take itself so seriously. If the first definition of the word “character” didn’t make you fork over a wad of cash to the poster clerk, you’d better believe that second definition did.

Ray Allen
Seen here in one of Bill Walton’s acid flashbacks, Ray Allen appears to be dunking at the focal point of 12 intense dark-green beams. After the Bucks dealt him to the Sonics in 2004, the playmaking sharpshooter went on to win a title on both the Celtics and the Heat, but thankfully, his career highlight of slam dunking a ball at warp speed occurred when he was an All-Star in Milwaukee.

Brett Favre & Donald Driver
Perhaps the most purely appealing poster to make the list, this picture commemorates (arguably) the best quarterback-to-receiver combo in the rich history of the Packers. From 1999-2007, Favre and Double D connected 503 times for almost 7,000 yards. Favre’s unbridled love of the moment shines off the surface, and the Gunslinger’s grin makes it clear that he’s got Driver in what could only be described as a friendly fireman’s carry (and not a John Cena finishing move).

The ’80s Bucks
If you didn’t know about the Bucks’ standard of excellence during the decade of Reaganomics, get a load of this: From 1980-1987, Milwaukee’s regular season record totaled 382-192, good for a winning percentage of about 67%. Sadly, Milwaukee could never advance past Julius Erving and the 76ers, nor Larry Bird and the Celtics dynasty. But the smily, cartoony likes of Sidney Moncrief and Terry Cummings make for a forgotten gem of a Wisconsin sports poster.

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Bob Uecker once wrecked his buddy’s new car, and it was glorious http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/bob-uecker-wrecked-buddys-new-car-glorious/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/bob-uecker-wrecked-buddys-new-car-glorious/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 06:13:02 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=47076 ob Uecker didn’t hit a home run in September of 1967, but his buddy Clete did. And that was good enough for Ueck. Some background: A Honda dealership in Atlanta was running a promotion for the players in the last month of the season. If they pitched a shutout or cracked one over the fence, […]

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Bob Uecker didn’t hit a home run in September of 1967, but his buddy Clete did. And that was good enough for Ueck.

Some background: A Honda dealership in Atlanta was running a promotion for the players in the last month of the season. If they pitched a shutout or cracked one over the fence, they’d win a new car. Belatedly seizing the opportunity, Braves third baseman Clete Boyer swatted a homer in the final game to acquire the prize most likely to get someone really psyched on The Price Is Right. While Ueck may have been envious, he wasn’t too proud to mooch.

Clete’s Honda was parked in front of his apartment the very next morning when Ueck rolled up to take it for a test spin. He wasted no time coaxing the keys from Clete. If you thought that perhaps Ueck required shoes and/or a shirt to see how the new set of wheels handled, you’d be mistaken. As Uecker recalls in Catcher In The Wry, “I was shoeless and shirtless when I roared off down the street.”

We don’t know if Clete advised him to not crash the car he’d earned the day before, but we do know that if he did, Ueck wasn’t listening. Hell, someone might have also told Ueck not to leave the house that morning wearing only shorts, and he didn’t listen to them either.

When Ueck revved that Honda’s engine to get a load of its thunder, he says a pack of dogs got excited by the noise. Was Clete’s apartment building in 1967 a hotbed for unruly packs of dogs? We don’t know. There’s a lot about Bob Uecker, his old pals, and the universe that we don’t understand.

Seeing the canines in pursuit in the rearview mirror, a barefooted Ueck felt for the brakes. Looking back, that may have had the unintended effect of a rowdy pooch or two face-planting into the Honda bumper, but rest assured, no dogs were harmed in this Uecker story.

The dogs went unscathed because Ueck never pumped the brakes with his foot (or toes). Instead, his feet got tangled and he stomped on the gas. On its first day off the lot, the Honda sped up, jumped what must have been a menacing curb, tipped over, and crashed against the pavement.

“I was lucky to get away with a broken right arm and a pair of badly slashed feet,” Uecker writes.

He offers no account of the cost of damages incurred on Clete’s one-day-owned-and-fucked Honda, but the mishap set the tone for Uecker’s offseason. He spent the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day of 1968 and several weeks thereafter with his throwing arm in a cast. He was almost healed less than a month before the dawn of spring training in Florida, but someone on the Braves’ medical staff unhealed his injury.

“When a trainer tried to ‘work out’ some of the adhesions by yanking and twisting my arm, he rebroke it,” Uecker recollects.

A limb that had been in recovery since being disfigured by one man’s lack of caution and brazen “no shirt/no shoes” credo was forced to retreat into a cast again. On the fringe of being cut by the Braves, Ueck reported to Florida with an encased arm that was better suited for accepting autographs than throwing a baseball.

Spring training renewed acquaintances. Perhaps as a distraction from the impending end of his playing career, Ueck met up with Clete (and fellow teammate Deron Johnson) at the Cock ‘n’ Bull Restaurant in West Palm Beach to indulge in mischief we’ve covered before. As you might have guessed, Clete and Deron got wasted on a jug of martinis on the team bus before stumbling into the Cock ‘n’ Bull to party with Ueck.

An old cliché states that bad things happen in threes. If the retirement of Bob Uecker the ballplayer could be construed as a bad thing, the final act was realized in a barfight in West Palm Beach. Some wino jerked Clete off his stool. Ueck stood up for his friend and slugged the guy. In Uecker’s own words, here are some fragments to recap what happened after that:

“Busted my head wide open.”

“Oh, jeezus.”

“A terrific fight was breaking out all around me, like a scene from a ‘B’ Western.”

“A week later the Braves released me.”

With the 2018 Brewers reconvening in Arizona for games this spring, it’s doubtful the likes of Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun have swapped any anecdotes that compare to how Bob Uecker spent his offseason in ’67-’68. And it remains unclear if Ueck learned anything about the repercussions of recklessly driving a buddy’s new car while naked above the waist and below the knees.

No matter. Some of the best stories don’t include a lesson.

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Once un-Herd of, there’s a fun new pro hoops team in Oshkosh http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/un-herd-theres-now-pro-hoops-team-oshkosh/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/un-herd-theres-now-pro-hoops-team-oshkosh/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:39:22 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=45907 Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh was packed with Wisconsin Herd fans at a nearly full capacity on Saturday, February 3. A daylong snowstorm caused a few patches of empty seats, but the rest of us were treated to the best Wisconsin’s new NBA G League team had to offer—in the first half, anyway. The “G” […]

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Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh was packed with Wisconsin Herd fans at a nearly full capacity on Saturday, February 3. A daylong snowstorm caused a few patches of empty seats, but the rest of us were treated to the best Wisconsin’s new NBA G League team had to offer—in the first half, anyway.

The “G” in G League stands for corporate sponsor Gatorade—which does wonders for athletes…and anyone with a hangover. The Bucks affiliate is one of four expansion teams added this year to what was formerly known as the NBA Development League. In a new and revamped era, it seemed fitting to watch the Herd compete against another team in its maiden season, the Memphis Hustle. The tip-off was lofted at 7 p.m. in the city that’s synonymous with baby jeans.

Having lived in Oshkosh for years, it was a thrill to see that one of its many decrepit buildings (the eerily abandoned Buckstaff Furniture Company) had been bulldozed and replaced with something sure to energize the community. The positive vibes in the arena were contagious. The Herd may be struggling to stay above the .500 mark, but that had no effect on the joyful atmosphere in the slightest. Though some of us were uneasy about driving home later as the flurries kept piling up, there is no more perfect metaphor for the value of a sport than the way it can lend us shelter from a storm.

The gorgeous and spacious arena can hold about 3,200 people, and while some of us nerdier Herd followers hunkered down in their seats with a pen, notepad, and Pepsi, others made friends and mingled throughout the concourse area. Off-court attractions include four concession stands, two party decks, the Verve VIP lounge, and a bar called The Maple Pub.

After a little girl stole the show with her rendition of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Hustle were given a nonplussed introduction unique to basketball teams on the road, a rushed monotone mumble used to contrast the hype the home team gets. To showcase the Herd, the lights went out as fans were encouraged to raise their glowing phones. The scene conjured images of fireflies. Fireflies who liked to party.

The Herd’s starting lineup included two All-NBA G League standouts—Ukrainian forward Joel Bolomboy and guard Xavier Munford. The latter is inked to a two-way contract with the Bucks that essentially gets him closer to a roster spot in the Association. D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in the 2017 Draft, also began the game on the floor. The trio displayed NBA-caliber talent as well as the kind of growing pains evident in developing players. The way the evening went for the Herd, that dichotomy was clearly split between two halves.

The first half electrified the home crowd. In their retro red uniforms that evoked movies like Boogie Nights and Semi-Pro, the visiting Hustle struggled on defense and shot the ball atrociously. On the other hand, the home team quickly got into a rhythm. The Herd thrived, chiefly in transition, where at least one fast-break dunk by Munford seemed perfectly suited for a “Boomshakalaka!” or “Razzle Dazzle!” punctuation.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch a basketball team playing in concert with each other. To be near the court and see the timing, swagger, and selfless chemistry all blending together is worth the price of admission—and in the G League, tickets come at a lower cost than seats to watch the expansion team’s NBA counterpart.

Breaks in the action bustled with fan games ranging from Bucks trivia to a two-on-two race to roll a friend out of a carpet wrap, allowing them to pick up a basketball and make a layup. (Side-note: Anybody else miss Double Dare?) During halftime, when the Herd were up 61-46, grade school kids took the floor and played a shortened game. During another break, “The Kiss Cam” brought a compelling mix of dread, awkwardness, excitement, and voyeurism to Menominee Nation Arena. This fan went un-kissed.

The first half was as heartening for the Herd and their fanbase as the final 24 minutes were devastating. Former Kentucky Wildcat Marquis Teague caught on fire for the visiting squad down the stretch. The Herd officially coughed up their lead when Teague buried a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Memphis never looked back. Teague led all scorers with 25. Wisconsin tallied a dismal seven points in the fourth quarter.

The Herd dropped to 17-17 and got bested by a sub-.500 squad on a night when Wisconsin once led by 24 points and wound up losing by 19. The final score was 104-85 in favor of the bad guys. Though witnesses to a meltdown, it was still a great experience. And what the hell? A little frustration doesn’t hurt when it can be channeled into an ice scraper as fans tended to their frozen windshields in the parking lot.

Whether the outcome the team delivers is something closer to euphoria or nausea remains a tossup, but the dazzling venue and the revived spirit of an unsung college town are likely to make the trip from Milwaukee to Oshkosh worthwhile. The drive is about 88 miles each way. One could cover that distance to watch the Herd fall victim to a 43-point swing and still not regret a thing.

The Wisconsin Herd hosts the Grand Rapids Drive on Friday, February 9 and the Long Island Nets on Saturday, February 10. Tickets are still available.

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Remembering the life and comedy of Chris Farley, 20 years after his death http://milwaukeerecord.com/film/remembering-life-comedy-chris-farley-death/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/film/remembering-life-comedy-chris-farley-death/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:15:21 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=44191 n the 20th anniversary of Chris Farley’s untimely death, it’s worthwhile to recall a formula someone once expressed for living a full day: laugh, cry, and think. Chris Farley used his time on this Earth to deliver great bellyaching laughs of mammoth proportions that will endure forever. His drug overdose at the age of 33 […]

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On the 20th anniversary of Chris Farley’s untimely death, it’s worthwhile to recall a formula someone once expressed for living a full day: laugh, cry, and think.

Chris Farley used his time on this Earth to deliver great bellyaching laughs of mammoth proportions that will endure forever. His drug overdose at the age of 33 remains a tragic loss that could very well move us to tears. And the void left behind by the dynamo from Madison still gives us cause to dwell on a simple question with a complex answer: Why?

But before we hazard a guess as to why he left us, we should celebrate how divinely, rambunctiously, painfully funny Chris Farley was. Because we were enriched by his gift for comedy, and whether he’s in Heaven making God giggle until he pees Himself, or just decomposing beneath a tombstone, we owe Chris a debt of gratitude. We adore him too much to deny him a simple “Thank you.”

The third of five children in an Irish-Catholic home, Christopher Crosby Farley was born on February 15th, 1964, to parents Mary Anne and Tom. Mary Anne was a quiet, devoted mom in a house overrun with rowdy boys, while Tom was a boisterous extrovert who prospered as the head of the family’s asphalt business.

Tom Sr. was large in stature and heart. Father Farley and Chris shared a generous spirit, a drive to please people, and a deep religious faith, as well as volatile mood swings paired with urges to overindulge.

With little hyperbole, Chris made his comic talents known shortly after exiting his mother’s womb. According to his brother Tom Jr., “He lived to make others laugh, and he was fearless about it.”

As a boy, Chris had a teacher named Colonel McGivern who ended each lecture with a lame joke he coined the Groaner of the Day. Sensing an opportunity, Chris managed to sneak past McGivern and hide behind a curtain at the front of the classroom. At the exact moment the teacher delivered his corny punchline, Chris shoved his bare ass through the folds of the curtain to moon his classmates. The room exploded with laughter. McGivern scratched his head. “Jeez,” he said. “I didn’t think it was that funny.”

Young Chris treasured and studied every movie that starred cast members from the early years of Saturday Night Live. He also had a passion for sports, chiefly rugby and football. He was a pretty good athlete, and as any swooning Wisconsin girl will tell you, he was dazzlingly light on his feet.

Just like his namesake in Tommy Boy, Chris enrolled at Marquette University, where he lived in a filthy house with his beer-chugging rugby buddies. His grades were lousy, and despite his talents, he was horribly self-conscious around the opposite sex. At parties, he tended to get nervous, drink too much, and do his “fatty falls down” routine in a mess of tragicomedy.

While he did graduate in 1986, it’s been said that Chris read only one book during his college years. It was Wired: The Short Life And Fast Times Of John Belushi. Chris didn’t see the biography of the SNL star who died of an overdose as a cautionary tale. His interpretation was that to become a comic icon, he needed to abuse drugs.

After college, the Tommy Boy parallels kept coming as Chris, the lovable misfit son, went to work for Tom Sr., the smooth-talking dad who ran the company. Before long, Chris left the steady but stifling job to pursue his dreams. Once focused and devoted, he was unstoppable.

From the Ark Improvisational Theater in Madison to the Improv Olympic in Chicago, Chris ascended to the mainstage of the Second City in 1989. That part of his journey only took about two years. Fast times, indeed.

Chris flourished in revues like The Gods Must Be Lazy. But even in a scene filled with heavy drinkers, the big man’s vices raised a lot of concerns. Offstage, his problems mounted. His apartment looked ravaged by a tornado of garbage. He was showing signs of OCD, tapping anything and everything twice, unexplainably licking his belt and shoelaces as he dressed himself. Chris was in pain…

On the other hand, he was just so goddamn funny. Even comedy tycoon Lorne Michaels thought so, and in the fall of 1990, the pride of Wisconsin flew to New York to join the cast of Saturday Night Live.

From his stellar, six-year run in the Big Apple, let’s break down three of Chris’ greatest skits (with apologies for omitting “Schmitts Gay”). The scenes reveal his commitment to breathing life into a character, his knack for physical comedy, and his endearing personality.

• The “Motivational Speaker” was written by the prolific Bob Odenkirk—and though the two have little in common, the character was named after Chris’ dear friend and spiritual guide, Father Matt Foley. With a magnetic stage presence, kooky body language, and an explosive roar, Chris became a legend. Viewers felt a constant giddy joy watching a downtrodden failure preach about the woes of “LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!” The Quotable Farley was born, and we remain grateful.

• The “Chippendale’s Audition” showcased Chris’ glorious, logic-defying agility. Hysterical as the bit was, it was also polarizing. Playing the part of underdog Barney in a dance-off against the hunky Patrick Swayze, the sketch concluded with Chris (politely) getting fat-shamed and rejected. Some of his friends feared that since Chris was so sensitive, the scene could have damaging effects on his psyche. The scene was a hit. And his friends were right.

• Lastly, we got to adore Chris in his true form: sweet, sincere, disarming, Midwestern polite, beautifully awkward, and in a childlike state of awe as he interviewed his heroes on “The Chris Farley Show.” On a darker note, we saw him resort to self-harm as he called himself “STUPID!” Chris once explained the appeal of acting dumb: “Nobody’s afraid of the fool.” The man was so bursting with empathy that he didn’t want anyone to feel afraid.

Chris entered rehab several times during his stint at SNL. It was not all in vain. He made a moving speech at Hazelden, a facility in Center City, Minnesota, in June of 1994, in which he declared to a roomful of addicts in need of hope that he’d been sober for over a year. In closing, he said, “I know I can do it. We all can do it.” Indeed, Chris really did it…for three years.

During the filming of Tommy Boy, Chris was sober, and the results are still a delight to watch. Bolstered by his chemistry with costar David Spade, the film did well in theaters and made a fortune on VHS sales. And do you recall the woman a randy Spade spied on as she stripped nude and dove into the hotel swimming pool? Her name was Lorri Bagley, and after months of friendship and courting, she became sober Chris Farley’s girlfriend.

Thanks to his springboard at SNL, Chris emerged as a movie star. The Quotable Farley still brings instant bliss in his roles such as the angry bus driver in 1995’s Billy Madison. (“Him and her GOT-IT-ON!”) And though it was a mere rehash of Tommy Boy, the following year’s Black Sheep has its moments. (“That’s one small step for man, one giant…I HAVE A DREAM!”) For his swan song, he played a crass slob in Dirty Work. (In that one, he said some mean things about a prostitute from Vietnam.)

Living with a disease got crass, dirty, and mean for poor Chris towards the end. When he relapsed, his girlfriend was devastated, and she wasn’t alone. Before Lorri broke up with him, he cried and drank vodka all night and kept pleading with her, “How do I turn off the voices in my head?!”

As his descent got deeper, Chris hung out with drug dealers, users, and prostitutes. When he returned to host SNL in October of 1997, he was in a horrid state, and he wasn’t fooling anybody. He also wasn’t listening to the family and friends who insisted he go to treatment for what would have been the 18th time.

At the end of a nihilistic drug bender in Chicago on December 18, 1997, Chris overdosed on cocaine and morphine. Before she left him alone in his apartment, a woman he had paid to keep him company heard his last words: “Please don’t leave me.” Chris echoed the final statement of his idol John Belushi: “Just don’t leave me alone.”

Even the brilliant clowns need somebody to love.

I love Chris Farley. And even if I’m not sure there’s a destination after death called Heaven, he made me want to believe. When stranded far from the shore alone in a sailboat, I’d be one to pray to Saint Chris: “Need a little wind here.” Two decades later, he still makes me want to believe there’s a place to reach on the shore full of everlasting love to call home.

In his own words: “The notion of love is something that would be a wonderful thing. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it, other than the love of my family. At this point it’s something beyond my grasp. But I can imagine it, and longing for it makes me sad.”

We miss you, Chris.

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Double Team: 10 Green Bay Packers with celebrity lookalikes http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/double-team-10-green-bay-packers-with-celebrity-lookalikes/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/double-team-10-green-bay-packers-with-celebrity-lookalikes/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 06:30:47 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=43613 From Thomas Jefferson and Michael Bolton to Homer Simpson and Guy Incognito, lookalikes prove that sometimes DNA runs out of new material. Over the course of the recent history of the Green Bay Packers, the team had its fair share of doppelgangers. Since there’s probably nothing more notable going on in the world right now, […]

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From Thomas Jefferson and Michael Bolton to Homer Simpson and Guy Incognito, lookalikes prove that sometimes DNA runs out of new material. Over the course of the recent history of the Green Bay Packers, the team had its fair share of doppelgangers. Since there’s probably nothing more notable going on in the world right now, feast your peepers on these doubles.

1. Brett Favre and Geoff Jenkins
Favre may have had the edge over Jenkins regarding team success and individual marks, but when it came to facial features, they were on a pretty level playing field. If the Gunslinger ever needed to be in two places at once—like the set of a Wrangler Jeans commercial and the set of There’s Something About Mary—he could have sent an AOL instant message to Jenkins to request a stand-in. “Where you at, Geoff?” “I’m in town to play the Marlins, dumbass.”

2. Kenny Clark and David Ortiz
Another football-baseball double, David “Big Papi” Ortiz could pass for Kenny Clark’s uncle, which means the young defensive lineman could call the future Hall of Famer Big Tío, and Ortiz might as well regard the heftier Clark as his nephew. Would Clark be cool with changing his name to Huge Sobrino? The kids could call him “HuBrino.”

3. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Wrigglesworth
He tells jokes for a living, but Mr. Wrigglesworth has a name like a cheery chimneysweep or perhaps a kooky housekeeper. He and Rodgers were pegged as doppelgangers a few years ago, giving the British comic a minor jolt of fame in the States. We wish him well in his standup endeavors, but if Wrigglesworth ever cracks wise about the collarbone injuries, the bloke ought to be tarred and feathered like a captured Redcoat in Colonial America.

4. Brett Hundley and Roland Gift
In 1989, Fine Young Cannibals scored an infectious hit with “She Drives Me Crazy.” Now that that song is sure to be trapped inside your skull for all of eternity, take note of how much Aaron Rodgers’ backup resembles singer Roland Gift. Replacing a legend is a lot harder than Rodgers made it appear, so we’re more optimistic about the Cannibals topping the charts again than Hundley keeping his starting job once Rodgers is ready to return.

5. Ted Thompson and David Byrne
On “(Nothing But) Flowers,” David Byrne sings, “Years ago, I was an angry young man.” Now he’s aged into his mid-60s just like his mirror image, Packers GM Ted Thompson, who seems likely to give one-word replies at parties. With that constant expression of solemn bewilderment, Thompson looks like a wandering man who can’t find the team bus as he ponders, “Where is that large automobile?”

6. Jeff Query and Joe Dirt
The original Joe Dirt was pretty funny. But word on the street is the sequel was a bit of a letdown. By that logic, only odd-numbered Joe Dirt movies are good. That means the stage is set for former Packers wideout Jeff Query co-starring in Joe Dirt 3: Bro Dirt.

7. Blake Martinez and Rob Lowe in Tommy Boy
With multiple games of double-digit tackles this season, Blake Martinez is emerging as a premier player on Green Bay’s D, so it may be unfair to compare his likeness to that of a shady character who was mean to the beloved Chris Farley. Poor Blake. This must be a raw blow to the man’s ego.

8. Jamaal Williams and 50 Cent
Aside from a striking resemblance, this pair shares a fondness for the letter “G,” with Williams sporting it on his helmet and 50 Cent naming his entire Unit after said letter. And call it the blindest speculation of all time if you must, but on “In Da Club,” Mr. Cent displayed a brash disregard for the spelling of “the” that might have been inspired by the Pack-loving novelty group Da Yoopers. Inane coincidence? Fans of the album Songs For Fart Lovers might disagree.

9. Joe Callahan and Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber
Just when you thought this list couldn’t get any dumber, some dork goes and writes something like this… AND TOTALLY REDEEMS HIMSELF! While Lloyd Christmas is no scholar, Callahan got his degree from Wesley College. So when the Packers travel by plane, don’t expect him to fall off the jetway.

10. A.J. Hawk and Eric Stoltz in Mask
Okay, this one’s kind of mean. But everybody calm down and recall the message behind Mask, based on a quick browse of the plot on Wikipedia: Inner beauty is what truly matters. Ol’ #50 reminds us of a funhouse image of protagonist Rocky Dennis, which means Hawk deserves his own hunky calendar, to be ogled by all who find his virtue titillating.

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Samkon Gado and other unlikely Packers backups who stepped up to fill in for fallen stars http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/samkon-gado-players-stepped-fill-fallen-stars/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/samkon-gado-players-stepped-fill-fallen-stars/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 14:57:43 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=42694 It sure sucks when your favorite football team loses its best player to a (possibly) season-ending injury, but the remedy to feeling as though the Green Bay Packers are officially collar-boned is not nihilism. While 24-year-old Brett Hundley has induced a lot of collar-tugging in his first two games at the helm, the team is […]

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It sure sucks when your favorite football team loses its best player to a (possibly) season-ending injury, but the remedy to feeling as though the Green Bay Packers are officially collar-boned is not nihilism. While 24-year-old Brett Hundley has induced a lot of collar-tugging in his first two games at the helm, the team is still 4-3, so it’s too early to give up—and besides, the first ones to quit are always a bunch of knobs.

The franchise has smacked helmets with adversity before, and when replacing premier talent on offense, the results aren’t necessarily as bleak as one might think. Granted, it’s ill-advised to bet a grand on the Pack to stunningly win Super Bowl LII (unless you really, really want to), but surrendering in November is also a lousy notion. In recent memory, the franchise has shown the ability to overcome injuries to key players—Rodgers included. Here are five examples in that last 20-plus seasons that range from dudes who earned Super Bowl rings to, uh, Samkon Gado.

Andre Rison, Wide Receiver (1996)
The sole member of the countdown to be mentioned in a Behind the Music because Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC fame burned his house down, Andre “Bad Moon” Rison was brought onboard for the final five regular season games, after Robert Brooks tore his ACL. Signing Rison helped Favre maintain his full arsenal of weapons. Surprisingly, his regular season numbers were marginal, and he was oftentimes a decoy to take coverage away from Antonio Freeman, but Bad Moon stepped up in the postseason to help the Pack hoist that Lombardi Trophy.

The midseason replacement’s shining moment of Packers lore came on the team’s second play from scrimmage in Super Bowl XXXI, when the Gunslinger got a wily notion, called an audible, and delivered a strike to Rison on a deep post route to open the scoring. Signing the controversial wideout to replace Brooks for part of one season was a calculated risk that led to the ultimate reward.

Samkon Gado, Running Back (2005)
The 2005 squad made a surly Wayne Larrivee grumble “Decimated by injuries” an alarming number of times. The franchise drafted Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick in the spring, but after the draft, basically nothing good happened the whole season. Except, perhaps, for Samkon Gado. An undrafted rookie from some college called Liberty who was cut by the Chiefs during training camp, Gado wound up deep down the depth chart in Green Bay, but became the starting RB in week eight, after Pro Bowler Ahman Green suffered ruptured quads and second-string Najeh Davenport broke his ankle.

With 103 yards on the ground and two scores in his first career start, the affable Nigerian-born rusher became an underdog worth cheering for, a pleasant folk hero in a season that was mostly doomed. He went on to lead the team in rushing with 582 yards and six touchdowns on the ground (and one receiving TD). The depleted Pack limped to a 4-12 mark, but Gado’s unlikely trio of 100-yard performances are worth remembering, even if almost nothing else was. He was traded to Houston early in the 2006 season, then bounced around the league for a few seasons before becoming a doctor.

James Starks, Running Back (2010)
Though he began his rookie season on the Physically Unable To Perform List (or “PUP List”), Starks was a better-late-than-never asset to a backfield that had lost Ryan Grant, its leading rusher from the previous year. While Rodgers excelled with an array of great receivers, the ground attack left something to be desired in the wake of Grant’s damaged ankle. Third-down specialist Brandon Jackson led the team in rushing yards with 703, but when the Packers truly got their mojo working in December, Starks was the lead back.
Like Rison, Starks made his impact in the postseason. His 123 yards on the ground were crucial in a first-round win at Philly. He rushed for 315 yards over four away games en route to a Super Bowl victory. Unlike Rison, Starks—an unheralded back from Buffalo—was drafted by the team, but both were instrumental skill position guys who replaced fallen stars effectively.

Matt Flynn, Quarterback (2013)
Somehow Matt Flynn earned an incredible payday without being a particularly good NFL quarterback. In 2012, he cashed in with Seattle, who wound up starting rookie Russell Wilson and releasing Flynn, who eventually returned to Green Bay. The first time Packer fans went through the heinous ordeal of watching Aaron Rodgers snap his collarbone, he was replaced by the likes of Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and finally Flynn. Due to the last quarterback on that depressing list, the Packers still somehow won the division because the Bears choked.

Flynn was the best of the three options that were clearly a lot worse than Rodgers. With Flynn under center, the Pack tread water and earned a crucial win in a thrilling comeback in Dallas. With his collarbone mended, Rodgers returned in week 17 and the Packers beat the Bears for the division title. The team was just 8-7-1. In the Wild Card Round, the Green and Gold lost another heartbreaker in overtime. Still, the Flynn signing was needed to prolong their season, if only by a game.

James Jones, Wide Receiver (2015)
In the aftermath of the team’s meltdown in the NFC Championship game in Seattle the previous January, motivation and hopes were thriving as Green Bay approached the start of the 2015 campaign…until Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in a damn preseason game. Suddenly, Rodgers was without his favorite target, a top-five receiver in the league. To remedy Jordy’s absence, the team reacquired free agent James Jones. As expected, he was James Jones-good, but not Jordy Nelson-great.

In 2014, following seven years in Wisconsin, Jones signed a three-year deal with Oakland. He got cut after one year with the Raidersm got signed and promptly cut again by the Giants, and then spotted a job opening in Title Town when Jordy went down in a non-contact heap. In one full season, Jones overachieved with a line of 50 receptions, 890 yards, eight touchdowns, and one awesome hoodie, but without a deep threat or an effective tight end, the passing attack wasn’t the same. The team earned a wild card spot and ultimately lost in an overtime heartbreaker to the Cardinals in the Divisional Round. That would be Jones’ final professional game.

Injuries to awesome players are lame, but they may lead to opportunities. So, even if it seems like an optimistic outlook on the 2017 Packers is dumb (and getting dumber), a light of hope exists in the the fan who says, “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!” Hopefully Brett Hundley can fill in well enough to at least keep Green Bay’s postseason hopes alive until Rodgers returns to the throne.

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10 Packers and Cowboys you might remember as actors http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/10-packers-cowboys-might-remember-actors/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/10-packers-cowboys-might-remember-actors/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 13:30:55 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=41314 The Green Bay Packers are heading to Texas to clash with the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, and there are many ways to preview the meeting. Insight could include terms like “elite quarterbacks” and “nitro package,” as well as speculation that during pregame warmups, Ezekiel Elliott might be straight-up naked. However, we’re going to ditch those […]

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The Green Bay Packers are heading to Texas to clash with the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, and there are many ways to preview the meeting. Insight could include terms like “elite quarterbacks” and “nitro package,” as well as speculation that during pregame warmups, Ezekiel Elliott might be straight-up naked. However, we’re going to ditch those angles in favor of judging the movies and TV shows in which Packers and Cowboys have appeared.

Millions upon millions of people love sports, even though athletes get away with a lot of stuff—like being shitty at acting 90 percent of the time, yet finding no shortage of acting work. Nonetheless, we’re drawn to versatility, which is probably why fantasy football lineups feature a flex option. So, ranging from the shitty to those who deserve a better adjective than shitty, let’s assess the acting credits of current and former players from two of America’s teams.

1-2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Aaron Rodgers (Key & Peele)
Using a classic premise of delightfully absurd names and a fast-paced comic rhythm, creative maestros Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele induced belly laughs with faux players who introduced themselves by names like Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace, Hingle McCringleberry, and “The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop.” For the third installment of the classic East/West Bowl skit, Key and Peele were interspersed with real pros who (mostly) shared the quirky names we associate with Strunk Flugget and Turdine Cupcake. Packers Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (birth name Ha’Sean) was willing to poke fun at his appellation, and for the topper, the bit concluded with Aaron Rodgers, who identified himself as A.A. Ron Rodgers. Despite the minimal effort of about 10 combined seconds of screen time, the sketch works.

3. Troy Aikman (The Simpsons)
Not to sound like softies, but less hatred can be a good thing. With that in mind, even if you don’t care for the Cowboys or Aikman’s commentary alongside sports fan whipping boy Joe Buck, it’s important to recall that the former Dallas quarterback once lent his voice to The Simpsons in the episode “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday.” When a crew including Homer, Bart, and Flanders attend the Super Bowl between the (covers mouth) Atlanta Falcons and the (covers mouth) Denver Broncos, Aikman is seated behind an easel outside of the stadium, drawing caricatures in his #8 jersey and silver tights—because why wouldn’t he be? “Do you like dune buggies?” he asks Flanders. Sure, he does, which means he’s in luck, because Troy Aikman draws every model riding in a dune buggy, grinning ear-to-ear with one thumb raised in ecstasy. The lesson is, instead of rejecting Aikman as a laconic leper, try focusing on the common bond of humanity: Everyone likes dune buggies.

4. Ray Nitschke (The Longest Yard and Head)
The ferocious middle linebacker of the Lombardi dynasty Packers may have looked like a cross between Sloth from The Goonies and a cranky principal, but that didn’t stop him from appearing in some memorable pictures (so long as he was cast as a football player). In the 1968 drugged-out comedy Head, Nitschke gratuitously tackles one of The Monkees in a foxhole during an absurdist spoof of warfare.

His role as Prison Guard Bogdanski in 1974’s The Longest Yard was less trippy, and if you think a man suffering pain in his genitals is entertaining, then Ray Nitschke was your kind of thespian. While blitzing through the middle during the Cons vs. Guards game, quarterback Burt Reynolds drops back and launches that pigskin directly into Nitschke’s dong. The Packers luminary displays excellent verisimilitude in his portrayal of a guy whose penis and nuts are in a state of agony. The ball! His groin! It works on so many levels!

5. Michael Irvin (The Longest Yard remake)
This middling 2005 remake furthered Adam Sandler’s transition from goofy to macho by including wrestlers like Goldberg and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (conspicuous in his absence was the Macho Man). Ex-NFLers were also cast to make people cringe, including Hall Of Fame receiver Michael Irvin as the convict Deacon Moss. As protagonist Paul Crewe, Sandler shares a pivotal scene with Moss/Irvin. Now, because the entire film builds up to a football matchup set in prison, the two play each other in a heated game of… uh, basketball. It doesn’t matter who wins. Nothing that happens in the remake of The Longest Yard matters.

6. Carlos Brown, a.k.a. Alan Autry (In The Heat Of The Night)
After Bart Starr retired, Green Bay’s play at quarterback was atrocious throughout most of the 1970s. Back when he called himself Carlos Brown, before he delved into switching up personas like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the future Alan Autry lost all three games in which he started for the Packers in 1976, his second and final year in the NFL. In search of a new career, he became an actor, and his efforts were rewarded when he landed a supporting role on a show that was less acclaimed than the film that inspired it: In The Heat Of The Night. The cop drama lasted eight seasons. It took place in Mississippi, so obviously someone had to play the part of a guy named Bubba Skinner, and that someone was Alan Autry. The story arc of Bubba’s rise from officer to sergeant to lieutenant to captain has been seen inside countless nursing homes.

7. Emmitt Smith (Little Giants)
Basically Pee-Wee Football’s answer to The Sandlot, 1994’s Little Giants taught some awkward nerds how to believe in themselves through battle on the gridiron. The NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith shows up to mentor the kids along with fellow legends Bruce Smith, Tim Brown, and John Madden after they roll up in a bus. (Or was that a season of Road Rules?) As an encouraging follow-up, over 20 years later, none of the children featured in Little Giants have reported any symptoms of C.T.E.

8. Reggie White (Reggie’s Prayer)
It’s been said before that the Minister of Defense’s foray into film espoused a heavy-handed Christian agenda. Secular viewers can place bets on how many times someone will say the phrase “Our Lord and Savior” for entertainment purposes, but that’s about it. The movie—that also had cameos by Mike Holmgren, Bryce Paup, and Keith Jackson—might have fared better with a different title, such as Pray, Sack, Rasp.

9. Tony Romo (Trainwreck)
In director Judd Apatow’s billionth film in the last decade, Romo, as himself, presents an award to a sports doctor played by Bill Hader, love interest of star Amy Schumer. This hurts to admit, but Romo’s cameo in the well-liked 2015 blockbuster comedy proved that the Cowboys signal caller-turned-broadcaster has more of a knack for acting than the next guy on the list.

10. Brett Favre (There’s Something About Mary)
When Gunslinger drawls, “That’s right, Mary, you know I’ll always be true to you,” a nation winced more than they did watching James Van Der Beek deliver the line, “I don’t want your life!” in Varsity Blues. So, while Favre may have been a shitty actor, at least he took some heat off Dawson.

Recap: The Cowboys’ lead in acting credentials became insurmountable after an animated Aikman appeared on the The Simpsons, but when you stop for a moment to really think about it, an edge like that won’t mean anything in the actual game. Packers 30, Cowboys 24.

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Remembering the time Bob Uecker crushed an old man’s pitch for his first homer http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/bob-uecker-crushed-old-mans-pitch-first-homer/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/bob-uecker-crushed-old-mans-pitch-first-homer/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 05:50:48 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=40938 hough Bob Uecker got the call-up to the majors midway through the month of April in the 1962 season, when the time came to club his initial home run for the Milwaukee Braves, he didn’t rush into it. The man had spent six years in the minor leagues to prove he preferred to get the […]

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Though Bob Uecker got the call-up to the majors midway through the month of April in the 1962 season, when the time came to club his initial home run for the Milwaukee Braves, he didn’t rush into it. The man had spent six years in the minor leagues to prove he preferred to get the important stuff done at his own leisurely pace. True to form, with the approach of a cunning slacker, Uke waited until the very last day of the season to cross off his to-do list: “Hit first MLB dinger.”

Leading up to the backup catcher’s 33rd game of the year, the future Harry Doyle had totaled 15 hits, 6 RBI, 4 runs, and a pair of doubles in nearly 70 plate appearances—and to his credit, Uke wanted even more. He had done a great job showing to the casual fan that it’s really hard to swat a pitch over a far-off wall, but his competitive drive made him want to demonstrate that such a feat could indeed be done.

With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the second inning, the hometown kid picked his moment to shock the fans at County Stadium. The victim on the mound was a Pirates lefty named Diomedes Olivo.

Nicknamed Guayubín after his birthplace in the Dominican Republic, Olivo, like Uke, had some distinct quirks. When Olivo made his debut in “The Show” in 1960, he was 41 years old. Only Satchel Paige, a legend from the Negro League, has ever been an older candidate for Rookie of the Year (at 42). A late bloomer and journeyman of the Western Hemisphere, Olivo pitched in the countries of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua before he moved to the States.

Guayubín was baseball’s oldest player, seven years shy of a half-century, when he peered over his glove at Bob Uecker in the batter’s box on September 30, 1962. A veteran of life, a newbie in the majors, perhaps Olivo underestimated Uke, and like a man who showed up two minutes late for the Early Bird Special, he paid the full price.

Despite being over the hill, Olivo had earned respect for his vigorous fastball and surprisingly low earned run average. (He posted a stingy 3.10 ERA and a record of 5-6 in 85 games played in 1960 and 1962-63. We can only guess that he took 1961 off to soak his aching body in a tub of Epsom salt.) Too loose to care, Bob Uecker was not intimidated by the quadragenarian on the bump.

The count was no balls and a strike when Uke stopped toying with the middle-aged southpaw. He took a mighty hack at the second pitch and connected. Years later, the tape was played at a roast of Uecker, featuring Earl Gillespie as he announced the round-tripper (as well as a laugh track added to the mix). Gillespie’s call is chronicled in Uecker’s autobiography, Catcher In The Wry:

“The pitch swung on and a drive (voice rising) INTO DEEP LEFT FIELD…GOING BACK TOWARD THE WALL…IT MAY BE…IT’S BACK AT THE WALL…HOME RUN FOR BOB UECKER!!! Well, Bob Uecker…quite a thrill.”

While the blast is described as a “looping line drive” in Uecker’s book, it sure seems like the Spalding stayed in flight long enough for Gillespie to contemplate the fate of it. As he trotted around the bases, few had any notion that Uecker would someday surpass Gillespie in the quality of his home run call. Mr. Baseball went on to coin a dinger catchphrase that’s an emphatic command, not a prolonged maybe, and rather than saying “WALL” twice, Uke’s slogan avoided the word altogether. His iconic order to “GET UP” is so good it had to be used in an alarm clock.

When his cleats landed on home plate, Uke must have felt relief. Milwaukee went on to lose the game 4-3 and fall several games short of a postseason berth, but that hardly mattered. Uke had freed himself from the bother of having to wait at least another six months to humiliate a Big League pitcher. In fact, the Braves demoted him back to the minors for the bulk of the next season, and he went homerless in the scant 13 games in which he played. He wouldn’t go deep again until ’64, after Milwaukee dealt him to the Cardinals—and he coaxed a home run call out of Harry Caray exactly once that season.

It’s worth noting that, despite sitting on the bench for the entire seven-game clash between the Cardinals and the Yankees in the 1964 Fall Classic, Uke still got honored with a World Series ring.

Consider that resume: World Series Champion without the use of a bat or a glove, and first homering off not merely an old pitcher, but a historically old pitcher.

Bob Uecker may have been a mediocre ballplayer, but today we salute him because he was also a sly opportunist.

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The man who made mediocrity famous: Bob Uecker’s ‘Catcher In The Wry’ still delights after 35 years http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/man-mediocrity-famous-bob-ueckers-catcher-wry-still-special-place-35-years/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/sports/man-mediocrity-famous-bob-ueckers-catcher-wry-still-special-place-35-years/#respond Thu, 24 Aug 2017 15:20:32 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=39858 t may have been lost in the glory of Harvey’s Wallbangers and a charge to the World Series, but on August 24, 1982, incomparable Brewers’ play-by-play man Bob Uecker published his autobiography: Catcher In The Wry. His book was overshadowed by the feats of Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, and Paul Molitor. It was all for […]

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It may have been lost in the glory of Harvey’s Wallbangers and a charge to the World Series, but on August 24, 1982, incomparable Brewers’ play-by-play man Bob Uecker published his autobiography: Catcher In The Wry. His book was overshadowed by the feats of Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, and Paul Molitor. It was all for the best, though. Nobody excels at getting lost in the glory quite like Bob Uecker.

Pronounced the same as J.D. Salinger’s iconic Catcher In The Rye, the Milwaukee native’s titular pun was so sharp it could’ve spiked a shortstop blocking second base. The main character from that other Catcher book, Holden Caulfield, isn’t entirely different from Bob Uecker. Maybe that seems like stretching farther than Jake Taylor did to leg out that bunt single in Major League, but it’s true. Both Holden and Bob are misfits who struggled in school and cut loose with booze benders. Each stood as individuals in the ’50s, a decade known for conformity. They shared cognizance of the absurdity of life, but they diverged in how they handled the storm. Holden sulked alone and charged his fellow humans with crimes of being phony. By contrast, Bob embraced absurdity, befriended it as though it was a kooky teammate.

From Uecker’s puckish adolescence to the unlikely rise of the Bob Uecker Fan Club to his ascendance to the broadcast booth, Wry is filled with stories that make us grateful for the misfits.

Bob delights with tales of sabotage, like when he had a prickly manager who forbade his lowly players from eating his “gourmet” chili. Bob bristled at the cold elitism. When the coast was clear, he would spike the vat on the stove with matches and cigarette butts, then watch from afar, snickering and high-fiving as coaches and members of the press as the skipper scarfed down the new, tar-enhanced recipe.

When a callous pitcher insulted him during a visit to the mound, Bob shrugged, returned to the plate, and told the batter which pitch was coming next.

Bob also made a mockery of the tuba. He was like an overgrown Bart Simpson, except with curls instead of spikes.

Honesty is vital to a good memoir, and Uke is astutely self-aware throughout Wry. Beneath his deadpan humor is a truthful man with no delusions. During his stint in “the show,” Ueck wisely preferred to be a benchwarmer. He writes: “The less I played the more likely I was to stay in the big leagues.”

Catcher features an array of other choice Ueckerisms:

“My father wanted me to learn a trade. I did. By the end of my first semester I could hot-wire a car.”

“Fans often ask me how the players were able to stay up, stay ready, when it was August and the sun was blazing and your team was out of the race? I can only answer for myself. I would just go out and get likkered (sic) up.”

“You have to be lucky. It isn’t enough just to be crazy.”

But an especially telling line comes when the author describes waking up the morning after a night of brawling and binge drinking: “I felt like I had the hangover they were saving for Judas.”

It’s an exemplary sentence on life in Wisconsin, with the wonder and the punishment of religion and alcohol found in the same concise passage. And of course, there’s a wild story behind it.

Ueck had gotten rowdy and thrown punches at the Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant in West Palm Beach during spring training, along with two fellow Braves, both starters in the lineup. The snarky backup catcher was clinging to a roster spot, with his broken throwing arm in a sling (which didn’t stop him from jabbing with his left), and when news of the brouhaha broke on the radio, a hungover Uecker sensed trouble. Sure enough, two of the players wound up keeping their jobs. Neither was named Bob.

That donnybrook marked the end of his playing career, but the great ones know how to adapt. Mr. Baseball was only getting to the midpoint in the memoir he penned 35 years ago.

Sometime after the fracas, the brass in Atlanta threw him a life preserver. Acknowledging his wit, charm, uncanny blend of swagger and humility, and the fact that nobody wanted him to play baseball anymore, the Braves gave Uecker a job in public relations. He thrived. The gig led to public speaking, announcing, and a seat beside the desk of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, where Ueck captivated and slayed without cracking a smile. Hollywood awaited him—and so did Milwaukee.

Three years before Mr. Belvedere started writing him paychecks, and seven prior to his hysterical role in Major League, Uecker and collaborator Mickey Herskowitz wrote a wickedly funny depiction of the man who made mediocrity famous. A follow-up was printed in 1992. Punning the classics again, Ueck titled the sequel Catch 222. It didn’t fare well. The book is harder to find than a Cardinals fan who’s worth talking to. Thus, Catcher In The Wry is Uecker’s magnum opus.

Milwaukee holds the highest esteem for the voice of the Brewers, and today, we tip our caps to his prose.

The post The man who made mediocrity famous: Bob Uecker’s ‘Catcher In The Wry’ still delights after 35 years appeared first on Milwaukee Record.

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