Bob Uecker was born on January 26th in Milwaukee Wisconsin. After serving in the armed forces, Uecker signed with the Milwaukee Braves in 1956. In 1962 Uecker was called up to the Milwaukee Braves as a catcher, after a very solid (.928 OPS) performance in 1961 with the AAA Louisville Colonels.
On April 13th in 1962, Uecker would make his MLB debut as a pinch-hitter against Hall of Famer Don Drysdale and the LA Dodgers. In his first at bat, Uecker would ground out to second base. On April 19th, Uecker would get his first start behind the plate against the SF Giants and Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. Uecker would go 0-3 with 2 strikeouts and ground into a double play. Although, Uecker would reach base for the first time in his career working a walk off of Marichal.
Against the Phillies on May 3rd, Uecker's teammate Joe Torre would get plunked by Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey. Torre would have to leave the game and Uecker was called from the bench to pinch-run for Torre. Uecker stayed in the game to catch for the Braves, and in the 4th inning Uecker singled to left field for his first career hit. Art Mahaffey was promptly removed from the game.
Almost six months later on September 23rd, Uecker would drive in the first and second runs of his career, doubling home Lee Maye and Hank Aaron, off of Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Bob Friend. Later that game, Uecker would pound out a single against Pirate reliever Tom Butters giving him his first multi-hit game of his career.
Three days later in his next start, Uecker would collect 2 more hits against Casey Stengel's New York Mets, giving them their 118th loss of the year. On September 29, Uecker would continue his onslaught of National League pitching as he went 3 for 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 30th would mark the last game of the season for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves as they took on 43 year old rookie starter Diomedes Olivo and the Pirates. In the bottom of the second inning, with Ken Aspromonte on base, Uecker hit his first MLB HR off of the second season starter. Olivo would never pitch for the Pirates again, and Uecker would finish the season with a .250 batting average.
Uecker would end up playing in 33 games in 1962 for the Milwaukee Braves. In 1963 Uecker would appear in 13 games for the Braves. The Braves would lose 11 of these games. In April of 1964 the Braves would send Uecker to the Cardinals for Jimmie Coker and Gary Kolb.
While a lot of fun is made at Uecker's expense about his lack of success as a player, as a Milwaukee Brave, he certainly was not the least successful player in the Brave's history. Uecker's .250/.326/.338/.663 line, compares favorable to the tenures of well-known Milwaukee Braves such as: Frank Bolling, Jack Dittmer, Tommie Aaron, Roy McMillan, Del Rice and Felix Mantilla.
After playing for the 1964 MLB champion Cardinals, Uecker would be traded to the Phillies and then in 1967 Uke would be traded back to the Braves, now playing in Atlanta. After leading the league in passed balls (27), while playing in only 62 games, all parties involved decided it would be best for Uecker to quit playing baseball. Besides his legendary .200 career batting line, Uecker would exit baseball as a player with homeruns off of Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins.
A couple of years later in 1969 Uecker would be "discovered" by Jazz legend Al Hirt in New Orleans. Hirt was so impressed by Uecker's comedic styling he arranged for Uke to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Uecker would become one of Carson's favorite guest, visiting the Tonight Show over 100 times in his career.
In 1971 Uecker joined Merle Harmon to form the Milwaukee Brewer's radio broadcast team. Uecker would go on to broadcast the next 40 years in Milwaukee including the current 2010 season. It is hard to imagine Milwaukee Brewer baseball without the careers of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. It is impossible to fathom Brewer baseball without Bob Uecker.
Bob Uecker would later become a fixture on television as well as radio, appearing in many popular Miller Lite commercials, his own "Wacky World of Sports" show, and the ABC sitcom Mr. Belvedere. Uecker would also portray Cleveland Indian broadcaster Harry Doyle in the classic movie "Major League".
In 2003 Uecker won the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, and was deservedly enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In 1993 Uecker was inducted into the Wisconsin Performing Artists Hall of Fame, in 1994 the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame, in 1998 the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2001 the Radio Hall of Fame. Ironically, a man who has made a career focused on self-deprecating humor, found his path into at least five Halls of Fame.
Bob Uecker's ability to connect with the "every man" in his audience, is probably in a large part due to his unforgettable humor and quotes. I will close this article with my favorites:
- "The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up."
- "Sporting goods companies pay me not to endorse their products."
- "One time, I got pulled over at four a.m. I was fined seventy-five dollars for being intoxicated and four-hundred for being with the Phillies."
- "People don't know this but I helped the Cardinals win the pennant. I came down with hepatitis. The trainer injected me with it."
"When I played, they didn't use fancy words like that (emotionally distressed). They just said I couldn't hit."
"I led the league in "Go get 'em next time."
"In 1962 I was named Minor League Player of the Year. It was my second season in the bigs."
- "I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for three-thousand dollars. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn't have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up."