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Mr. Baseball, live in the booth at Maryvale Baseball Park. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

Milwaukee Talks: Bob Uecker

PHOENIX -- The Milwaukee Brewers biggest star today is a career .200 hitter who's never even played for the team. But Bob Uecker, the radio voice of the team for 32 years, has just about done it all.

Nationwide, fans still remember Uecke as an actor, comedian and author. To Brewers fans, though, he's a no nonsense scholar of the game who's not afraid to criticize a pitcher who can't throw strikes. Here in Milwaukee, we also appreciate him for his dry sense of humor that can keep any game entertaining, even when the team is mired in a slump. We caught up with Mr. Baseball this March at Maryvale Baseball Park, the Spring Training home of the Brewers. Even while nursing a sore throat, Uecke had plenty to say about the team, his career and what keeps him motivated after all these years.

OMC: You've been announcing Brewers games for 32 years. How do you get motivated to entertain us after more than a decade of on-the-field futility?

BU: I don't think there's any motivation involved. It's baseball. It's my job. It's something I've done for a very long time, not only doing the games on the radio, but having been a player and being in the clubhouse, on the field and up here.

I've been to the bottom, and I've been to the top, winning a World Series with the Cardinals in 1964. I think there's always a little extra incentive to really enjoy being around baseball. I still enjoy being around baseball and being around the guys. I still get a kick out of doing the games. If I didn't, I wouldn't do it anymore.

You know, you do something for so long, it becomes part of your way of living. I don't know what I would do if I didn't do baseball. I've never wanted to do anything else. The acting and all the other stuff, that's all fine. I sometimes get a little testy in the middle of the summer when the club's not playing well. But I know they're not going out there and trying to lose. But I don't like losing even when I'm up here.

OMC: You are known for getting on the players when they underachieve. I can hear it in my head, "Folks, he just ... walked ... the leadoff man. Hmmph!" How do players react to your style?

BU: I know they're trying to throw strikes, but there are some times when players don't apply themselves as much as they should or give themselves as much credit. Everyone is here as a big league player, and those who take it to the next level and really excel, are guys who really go out there and bust their rear ends. And that's what it takes. But up here you still have to be enthusiastic about the game, and you want people to listen.

Sometimes it takes someone outside of the game to keep people listening and having fun -- and not so much at the players' expense. I can look around the ballpark and have fun with things going on, or I can go back and look at things that happened during my career as a player. I can draw on the contacts I've made in and outside of baseball and have fun, without taking anything away from the game. But there's a fine line. In spring, you can mess around all you want. Half the guys are taken in and out of the game. Nobody knows what's going on, but once you get into the regular season, there's a fine line between messing around and having fun, especially when you have a good game going on. If you've got a good game, you want to back off some of that stuff. But if you're getting blown out, of if you're blowing someone else out, there's nothing wrong with having a little fun.

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OMCreader | June 29, 2006 at 1:57 p.m. (report)

Glenn B. Burt III said: Good job and well written, Mr. Tarnoff! my mother-in-law me become a Uecker and Brewers fan 18 years ago when she gave me a copy of his "Catcher in the Wry". She was helping me understand why her daughter and all her friends knew all the Brewer players, while indoctrinating me into Wisconsinisms. Still think it is tops for homespun dry humor. Unfortunely, living in Oklahoma kept us from hearing him call games until moving “up nort’” 4 years ago. These days, when driving home from work, I look forward to catching his calls on Wausau’s News Radio 550 WSAU and 620 WTMJ Milwaukee. It's a slow day at work, so we have the Brewers-Cubs on now while enjoying your article, heheh. Thanks for perking up the day!

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