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Brewers fans celebrate their 'Mr. Baseball,' Bob Uecker, who continues to broadcast games at 90

Twins Brewers Baseball
Posted at 12:11 PM, Apr 03, 2024

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Bob Uecker received a hearty ovation from fans chanting "Ueck" when the legendary broadcaster appeared on the American Family Field video board early in the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener Tuesday.

Brewers fans don't know how many more times they'll get to continue cheering the presence of "Mr. Baseball."

Uecker was back at the ballpark handling play-by-play on the radio broadcast of Milwaukee's game with the Minnesota Twins as team officials remained circumspect about the 90-year-old's workload for the rest of the year.

This will be Uecker's 54th season broadcasting Brewers baseball, though he has limited himself to home games for the last several years.

"Ueck is very focused on always being at a Hall of Fame level," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said before Tuesday's game with the Minnesota Twins. "He doesn't want to just be in the booth to be in the booth. He's very mindful. I say to him, 'Ueck, you don't have to do the play-by-play for nine innings or seven of the nine. You can do less.' He sort of grumbles about that idea. I say, 'You can flip roles with (Jeff) Levering and he can do play-by-play and you can do more color. He doesn't want to talk about that. And so what he wants to do is just see how it goes this year, and we'll see."

Attanasio's comments essentially echoed a statement Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger had issued on social media a week earlier. Schlesinger noted that Uecker would be part of the Brewers' radio coverage for Tuesday's home opener with the Minnesota Twins and that "he'll take it one day at a time after that."

Uecker became the voice of the Brewers in 1971 and has been part of their broadcast team ever since. Uecker regularly makes appearances on the field and in the locker room conversing with players and coaches.

He participated in the locker-room celebration last year when the Brewers won their NL Central title, just as he had done when the team clinched its other recent postseason berths.

"It's always great to have Ueck around," Brewers outfielder and 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich said. "I've gotten to know him fairly well over the last seven years. I think each year we've gotten closer. Anytime you hear from him, whether it's via text or just seeing him in person at the ballpark, I think it makes everybody's day better. I think he loves being around the team, and we love having him. He's obviously a baseball legend, a Brewer legend."

Uecker played in the majors from 1962-67 with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, but it was after his playing career that he became a national celebrity.

He worked as a national color commentator for ABC and NBC baseball telecasts and earned fame beyond that of the usual broadcaster following his appearances in late-night talk shows, beer commercials and the movie "Major League." He also starred in "Mr. Belvedere," an ABC sitcom that aired over 100 episodes from 1985-90.

Uecker showcased his sense of humor early in Tuesday's broadcast by focusing on his own lack of playing success, a frequent source of his comedy. Uecker noted that he had begun his MLB playing career "just across the parking lot" from American Family Field at the old Milwaukee County Stadium. That site now is the home of Helfaer Field, which hosts youth baseball games.

"That's where I started my major league career — in a Little League park," Uecker quipped.

Uecker is particularly well known in Milwaukee, where he has become synonymous with Brewers baseball. Attanasio said the first two people he called after buying the Brewers were Uecker and Hall of Famer Robin Yount.

"Ueck's in the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster for a reason," Attanasio said. "He's exceptional at his craft. It's not just the great stories he tells."

The Brewers have honored him with two statues, one that's outside American Family Field and another in the back row of the terrace level, a nod to the old Miller Lite commercial in which he said, "I must be in the front row!" as he was escorted to the back of a stadium.

Attanasio noted Tuesday that Uecker's "voice is as strong as ever."

"I have the same arrangement with him that I think (former Brewers owner) Bud (Selig) did, with a handshake," Attanasio said. "There's no contract. I feel it's his booth and he can do what he wants in that booth. And that's true this year. And we'll see. Every year it's always a little different anyway. This year, I think he's mindful of where he is in life. But I'm expecting a great broadcast today, and we'll see what he wants to do."

Brewers fans can't imagine a season without Uecker behind the microphone.

Neither can Brewers players.

"It wouldn't feel right if he wasn't around," Yelich said. "We love having him and we're excited seeing him back at the ballpark."