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. “They had some Dixieland bands on the field that were playing before the game,” Uecker recalled in 1995, “and while one of them was taking a break, I grabbed one of the tubas and put it on and went out in the outfield and started shagging fly balls with it. I didn’t catch them all. Some made dents in the tuba, but I caught a couple.”
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 impossibly 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—dat speedo tho—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, spiking his drink with a splash of whiskey. Here’s Bob Uecker standing next to a bronze statue of Bob Uecker.
Last week, 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. Yes, he’s the voice of the Brewers—the only Brewers voice many have ever known—but he’s also an unlikely actor, a pitchman, an author, a perennial talk show guest, a perennial talk show anecdote, a one-time SNL host, a WWE Hall of Famer. Tune in to a Brewers radio broadcast right now and you’ll hear Uecker as an impassioned hawker of Usinger’s sausages and Pretzilla pretzel buns. He once talked about furries for 30 minutes. He’s had a stalker, for Christ’s sake.
If you’ve followed this website over the past two years, you’ve seen plenty of Uecker gracing its digital pages. 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 and not just a fitfully remembered SNL skit with Tom Hanks. Later, in college, I cut my teeth on web design by creating a Mr. Belvedere site. (I’ll never reveal its location, but it’s still possible to dig it up on the UW-Milwaukee servers.) All of that because of Uecker. Why? I’m honestly not sure. 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 (a 2010 heart surgery notwithstanding), he’s cut back on road games in recent years, electing to sit out most West Coast games 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.
Today is Milwaukee Day, wherein the good citizens of the Brew City celebrate a happy alignment of calendar date and area code (4/14 = 414). If I’ve learned anything in my 20 years here, 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 (.200 career batting average, 14 home runs) is self-deprecating and played for laughs, sure, but it 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.
So today, if anything, I urge you to find your Uecker. Maybe it’s a band. Maybe it’s a neighborhood. Maybe it’s a building. Maybe it’s the past. Maybe it’s the future. Whatever it is, find it, celebrate it, and share it. This is a city of endless experiences, and, like the pictures of a certain baseball announcer, no two are alike. “I didn’t get a lot of awards as a player,” Uecker once said. “But they did have a Bob Uecker Day Off for me once in Philly.” Let’s make every day your Uecker Day.