Year with Uecker: June

Listening to every game called by Bob Uecker in 2023

Typically, Bob Uecker calls the first couple of innings in a game fairly straight. It makes sense as everyone — players, managers, umpires, fans — are settling into that particular night’s rhythm. There’s also simply more to get into the first time through the order. Announcers have to introduce the starting pitchers, and the lineups that will face them that particular night. The game moves more quickly, as starting pitchers are at their best as the game is just taking off (usually).

It’s often in the middle innings when Uecker is at his comedic peak. The game has been established, but there’s still a way to go before it has completely unfolded.

Sometimes, though, you can tell right away from the first pitch when Uecker is feeling it early, like a starter having electric stuff with movement during his warmup pitches in the bullpen.

Several years ago I developed this theory while cutting the grass, listening to a mid-summer tilt between the Brewers and Cubs in Chicago; this was when Bob Uecker was still traveling to limited (mostly NL Central) cities on the road. As “Uke” went through his usual mandated pregame announcement, he added unusual flair to the legal disclaimer … “unauthorized reproductions or accounts of this game are …. PRRRRRRRRRRRROHIBITED,” rolling his “Rs” as he went through it.

I knew Uecker was in a mood, and sure enough, that became a legendary game in which he spent the better part of most innings pitching a sitcom idea about the Wrigleyville neighborhood and all the characters that could be part of it to his coworkers and listening audience.

“There’s a coyote that roams around centerfield, too.”

(Long pause)

“And he is rabid. Two and two now the count on Ryan Braun…”

Such was the case this year on May 22. It was the first game back after an eight-day road trip, so perhaps Uecker was just glad to be back at the ballpark. It’s a common feeling you get on the first games of home stands with the Brewers.

With one out in the game, Uecker is already ribbing former Brewer Ben Oglivie: “I’m going to call him. He’s out in Scottsdale, hanging around. Some shopping mall 5… Benji’s a shopping mall guy. If there’s something new on the market, some sale going on … one way or another, he’s going to be there.”

Even with his calls being partial comedy routines at times, Uecker is intentionally careful to never embarrass players on the field (“I know how hard it is,” he says).ย Formerย players, and Uke’s closest friends, however, are not subject to the same protection.

Several years ago, his good friend and hall of famer Robin Yount is scheduled to visit the booth at the next day’s game as part of festivities honoring Brewers of the past. That launches Uke into an opportunity to talk about his friend, closing with “Robin’s listening tonight, I know he is. Listening on the radio, in his driveway. Locked out again. Two down now in the bottom of the fifth…”

Those quick swerves are a staple of Uecker’s calls. It’s the unexpected twists that comprise the best Uecker moments. The stories from a solid 70 years of baseball are myriad and would make him a hall of fame announcer on their own, but it’s the unexpected jabs during otherwise unremarkable moments of a game that reward the regular listener.

It has been suggested that at 89 years old, Uecker might not have his fastball every night anymore. It’d be understandable — few of us do at any age, and even a diminished hall of fame player will hit a ball farther than any of us ever have, even at our peaks. Granted, as Uecker has gone on there are certainly more names to remember, more experiences to draw from. But this month, he still brings the heat with those comedic twists every so often:

While the occasional fastball right out of the gate happens, the opposite is certainly true as well. Tuning into Brewer blowouts, you’re likely to get peak Uecker along the way. In early May, the Brewers were getting thumped by the Dodgers, down 6-0. That was the opportune moment for Uecker to reflect on his own failure as a hopeful pitching prospect. As Uke tells it, the manager came out to get him. He at first refused, begging the manager to let him finish one more hitter, because “I struck this guy out last time.”

The manager replies, “I know, but it was earlier this inning.”

Whether right out of the gate or giving the game time to develop, there’s not a bad time to listen to Bob Uecker call a ballgame. This month gave us plenty of both.

Sean Roberts

Sean Roberts is a baseball columnist for Pitcher List. His work has been featured on Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and October. He's still getting used to the DH in the national league.

One response to “Year with Uecker: June”

  1. J.C. Aoudad says:

    He always makes me laugh. Thanks for these, Sean.

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