Baseball is a way of life for broadcast legend and former MLB player Bob Uecker.Dubbed “Mr. Baseball” by legendary Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, Bob Uecker played five seasons in the major leagues but perhaps is best known for spending 42 years doing radio play-by-play on more than 4,000 games for his hometown Milwaukee Brewers. (He’s also well known to sports fans around the world for playing a drunken sportscaster in the Major League film franchise and for yukking it up in a series of Miller Lite commercials in the 1980s.) For his accomplishments, 78-year-old Uecker has been honored with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, a place in the Ring of Honor at Miller Park in Milwaukee and a bronze statue just outside the Brewers’ home field. “Believe me, it wasn’t for my playing,” he cracks.
More than four decades into his love affair with baseball, Uecker is still enchanted. “Every season’s a highlight. Every game’s a highlight,” he says. “For me, it’s about the players and the fans and the ways that I’ve somehow been able to be a part of their lives.”
On game days, Uecker arrives at the ballpark at 3 p.m. For many years, he’d immediately suit up in a Brewers uniform and throw batting practice to the starting lineup before heading up to the announcers’ booth. From the press box, where he calls the team’s games, Uecker says he sees “mostly familiar faces” at every home game. “It’s like watching baseball with my friends,” he says. “And then there are all those people listening on the radio, taking me with them into their lives — their living rooms, their restaurants, their offices. At first pitch, we’re all good friends.”
Beginning his 43rd season in Milwaukee, Uecker shows no signs of turning off his mic. “Believe me, I’ll know when it’s time to stop doing this,” he says. “But that time isn’t now. I still love this game too much.”
American Way asked the iconic announcer to recall some of his favorite moments from almost half a century in the game.
The Shot Heard ’Round the World
“When Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit that walk-off home run against Ralph Branca of the Dodgers in ’51, coming back from a 13.5-game deficit only a few weeks earlier, that was really something. ‘The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!’ I’ve heard that call [by legendary Giants announcer Russ Hodges] a thousand times, and it still stirs the soul. The voice is elevated. The crowd is thundering. It becomes a moment that’s bigger than any one play, any one game, any one moment. It becomes timeless. Baseball can do that.”
The Rocky Moment
“This is one of those moments that people will never forget: back in the ’88 World Series, Dodgers vs. A’s. Kirk Gibson, seriously injured, coming up against Dennis Eckersley, bottom of the ninth inning, down by one, battling it out over seven pitches to hit a two-run walk-off homer to win the game. Watching that guy who could barely walk fist-pump his way around the bases — that’s what baseball is all about.”
“Back in ’87, the Brewers had a really hot season. Paul Molitor had a 39-game hitting streak, and every at-bat was just a joy to call. The deeper we’d get into the game, if Molitor hadn’t hit yet, you’re just holding your breath, wondering if he’s going to poke one out there and keep the streak alive. You’re making those calls, and baseball fans identify you with the calls, with the players, with the game. You become a part of the moment, like somehow it’s me and Molitor that did something together. Truth is, it’s always about the players. I’ve got no job if they’re not doing theirs.”