Bob Uecker vs. Harry Doyle, the Real Major Leaguer
“They did it! They did it! Oh my god, the Indians did it!” There’s not a baseball fan in America that doesn’t recognize those famous words of Harry Doyle from the well known baseball movie, “Major League”. For the Brewers fans in Wisconsin, the home-run call of Bob Uecker, “Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!” is even more recognizable than those prophetic words of Harry Doyle. The fact that Harry Doyle and Bob Uecker are the same person is perhaps the only thing a person needs to know to appreciate and perhaps better understand “The Voice of the Brewers”, Bob Uecker.When listening to Bob Uecker, the current radio announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers and former catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, a person will come away both a heartwarming feeling for his love of the game, and a bellyache. Anyone who has been around Uecker knows of his wonderful ability to call a baseball game and his woeful attempts at playing the same game.
. Perhaps it was his career .200 batting average or maybe the hard to achieve stat of hitting into four more double-plays (18) than home-runs (14) in his career but no matter where his talent for playing the game stopped, we can all be thankful his love for the game has endured. It is that love of the game that Uecker projects when speaking to people about America’s pastime, and he does so in a way as to keep his listeners in stitches, thus the bellyache.
Uecker played the game of baseball from 1962-67 for the Brewers, Cardinals and Phillies and did so poorly, with moments of mediocrity mixed in. He finished his career with 146 hits in 731 at-bats and never hit over .250 in a season. His final season in the majors he hit a meager .148 and as Uecker is fond of saying, “I knew when my career was over. In 1965 my baseball card came out with no picture!” When asked about the highlight of his career his response was, “in ’67 with St. Louis. I walked with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run in an intersquad game in spring training!”On May 6th, 2009 another Milwaukee catcher’s career was just getting started. While playing against the Reds in Cincinnati, Carlos Corporan of the Milwaukee Brewers got his first major league hit. The hit came off Paul Janish, the Reds shortstop, who was acting as a mop-up reliever for the beleaguered Reds bullpen. That fact was not lost on many of Corporan’s teammates, especially bench coach Willie Randolph. “That was a shortstop, not a pitcher. The hit doesn’t count” smiles Randolph.
To Corporan it made little difference, he had his first major league hit, in his first major league game. His teammates continued with their torment though. After the game, while getting on the team bus for the airport, the entire team instructed him to take the first seat on the bus, directly behind the driver, in honor of his first hit. While Corporan was sitting in the seat, talking on his phone with his feet up, Bob Uecker got on the bus. Upon looking at the young catcher sitting in his seat, while the rest of the bus roared with laughter, Uecker swatted Corporan's feet to the floor, but then sat down beside him. “You sit right here with me young man,” he said. When the team arrived at the airport Uecker then allowed Corporan to be the first person off the bus, a right always reserved for the Milwaukee legend. Uecker is indeed a Milwaukee legend and what’s more, a baseball Icon. The scenes like the one depicted with Corporan are what Uecker has brought to baseball for the past 50 years.
Uecker recently spoke of Sandy Koufax, the hall-of-fame pitcher of the New York Mets. “I hit a couple home-runs off of him (Koufax) and every time I saw him I apologized. I thought that might keep him from the hall of fame!” Of course those two home runs would never have kept a legend like Koufax from the hall of fame but those are the self-deprecating anecdotes that can be expected from the mouth of Bob Uecker. Comments like those are what make Bob Uecker the special baseball personality that he is. While playing Harry Doyle in the “Major League” movies Uecker simply had to be himself. The announcer that Uecker already was was a better character than the one written for the movie. The character in those movies simply was Bob Uecker. While Uecker will be called on to reprise his role as Harry Doyle in “Major League 4” it is his role in “Major League” that everyone remembers and loves. Because everyone who knows Bob Uecker loves him for what he has brought to baseball, from his playing days and everyday since. He understands and loves a game at a level most of us will never appreciate.
When the day comes for Uecker to step off the airwaves there will be a very long moment of silence throughout Wisconsin. Uecker himself says that that day is “a long ways off, especially if my wife has anything to say about it” and for all baseball fans around the world, I sincerely hope that is the case. In the meantime, if you ever have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bob Uecker, don’t pass it up. You will most assuredly come away with a deeper respect for America’s pastime and hey, what’s a bellyache between baseball fans?
By Douglas Berdan
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