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“Mr. Baseball” Goes on the DL

It never dawned on me how much my experience enjoying baseball was connected to the voice of Bob Uecker until I was 18.  As a college freshman, one of my dorm mates from Chicago and a Cubs fans (don’t hold that against him, he’s a good guy) went through the loss of long-time broadcaster Harry Caray.

He took it hard.

Watching him grieve made me realize that what Caray was to him, Ueck was to me: A bridge to my childhood.  Of sitting in the yard, playing catch with my brothers listening to a Brewers game in the background.  Of great moments you can share with friends and family.  Of one-liners only Brewers fans would know.  Of summer, baseball, your father, your grandfather, and on and on.

It’s said that it’s easy to show someone baseball.  Just flip on a TV, or take them to a game.  But to hear baseball?  For Brewers fans, that will always be easy to say in two words: Bob Uecker.

In Ueck, Brewers fans have something special, and with him about to be laid up for three months recovering from heart surgery, it will be like a friend ain’t there.  He’ll be missed on the radio, but also in the clubhouse at Miller Park and other ballparks across America.

The absence of Ueck won’t just be felt by those of us who are fans of the Crew; but the team as well.  During the press conference yesterday, a handful of the team stood in the corner, watching, concerned for their friend, their teammate.

Trevor Hoffman, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Jim Edmonds, Casey McGehee, manager Ken Macha and Milwaukee’s own Craig Counsell stood quietly in the corner while Uecker answered about 20 minutes of questions.

“We’re concerned,” Counsell said. “He’s just one of the guys, so every time you take someone out of that, you miss him. He swims every morning and I’m kind of an early riser, so from time to time on the road, we’ll meet and have breakfast together. Just sitting with him and listening to him tell stories, that’s something everyone should experience.”

Counsell used to listen to Uecker on the radio, just like the rest of Wisconsin. Counsell was born in Indiana, but grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay.

“My memories were listening to him, like a lot of people, on a summer night outside the house while we played baseball until it got dark,” Counsell said. “I remember listening to him in my front yard for sure.”

Ditto for Pirates reliever Jack Taschner, who grew up just south of Milwaukee in Racine.

“Games here weren’t on TV as much as they are now, so everybody listened to Uecker,” Taschner said. “I’d ride my bike to my grandfather’s house in Milwaukee and cut his lawn, and he’d sit out on the deck listening to Bob Uecker. My other grandfather, I’d go to his house, and the game is on and we’re listening to Uecker.

“You have a lot of people in different parts of the country that talk about someone being a voice. But Uecker has been here from the beginning. He is the Brewers. Obviously, I hope the best for him. He is everything to baseball in Milwaukee. Bud Selig saved the team, but Bob Uecker is the voice.”

Said Counsell: “Baseball is every day, and he becomes part of your summer. It’s going to be like one of your friends is gone.”

But only for a short time. The doctors expect Uecker to be back in the broadcast booth by August.

Until a few years ago, Fielder didn’t know Uecker had a spot in a “real” broadcast booth at all. Fielder knew Uecker from his turn as Harry Doyle in the Major League series of films. He didn’t know that Uecker was the Brewers’ longtime radio man until 2002, when Milwaukee made Fielder its first-round Draft pick. In the years since, the men have become very close.

“It’s unfortunate, but he’s had a good spirit about it,” Fielder said. “No matter what, he’s always a happy person. He has a good aura about him. Whenever he’s around, it’s a good time.”

Fielder, Counsell and every other Brewer said the same thing about Uecker: “He’s part of the team.”

“That’s the way they treat me,” Uecker said. “They’re concerned, I know they are. So am I.”

We all are concerned for “Mr. Baseball.”  Get well soon Bob.

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