“Mister Baseball”…Imagine what a Brewers World Championship would mean to the heart and soul of the organization

89-year-old Milwaukee Brewer radio announcer Bob Uecker (center) celebrates the Brewers 2023 Central Division Championship Tuesday with Brewers owner Mark Anastasio and is wife Debbie. Courtesy Milwaukee Brewers.

Go ahead, call me a big bowl of slightly overripe Irish sap bubbling over on the stove. Or, Wisconsin maple sap, doing same, a drippy, sticky mess, while the cook is off chasing away hungry racoons brash enough to walk in the slightly-ajar front cabin door.

Now ask me if I care. What readers of this blog might have inferred by now is that, as a culture commentator, I rank local team sports as important as any “high, middle or low-brow” art, in terms of community impact, of reknitting and reinforcing the precious weave of community fabric, which in modern times seems to be torn asunder at the local and national levels.

Yep, nothing brings all corners of a community — call it Wisconsin and the extended Brewer fandom — together, politics and racial biases aside, more than team sports that represent the city. So, we have our Brewers, our Bucks and our state has our Packers. I just was prompted to recall to a good friend the first time I was brought to tears as a young sports fan, was at a Packer game with my father, at Milwaukee’s County Stadium in about 1959 versus Johnny Unitas, a sports–transforming quarterback — and the mighty Baltimore Colts.

Now, which aspects of culture might have a more lasting, profound or transformative impact might be another discussion, yet even removing sports from that discussion is an elitist fool’s errand.

Now, my main point might help to explain my blog subtitle: “Exploring our common and uncommon culture.”

OK, explanatory throat-clearing out of the way (yahhh-hem!…Gee, this column is getting, um, sticky), Here’s my sap-drenched point. I just overheard a radio sports talk show host (on 97.3 F.M. The Game) pose the rhetorical question: What it would mean to Bob Uecker, for the Brewers to win it all, now that they are Central Division Champions once again. The question hit me squarely in the gut because I hadn’t considered it until now. Have you?

As the announcer intimated Uecker may be retiring, that is, becoming yet another bronze statue, the ultimate one, before our very ears. and will, in spirit, join the two (count ’em) commemorative statues of him at Miller Park (er, Am-Fam Field). Even Aaron, Yount, Molitor and Selig only have single statues there.

The man is 89 years old and still the foghorn, no, the clarion bugle, of Milwaukee sports. Listen to this, a medley of his more unforgettable home run calls: https://www.bing.com/videos/riverview/relatedvideo?q=bob+eucker+calls+a+home+run&mid=A3BFA25D04945CF49F17A3BFA25D04945CF49F17

One of his last HR calls is his description of Martin Maldonado’s walk-off blast to win a 17-inning game –by a career back-up catcher like Uecker, who caught all 17 innings (Maldonado is still playing for the Houston Astros.) Listen to these clips and look down to check for goosebumps. If none, check your pulse. For your sappy blogger, my sight is blurred by my tear ducts. Does any baseball announcer have a more powerful home run call?

I’ve never even seen Uecker in person, which I’m a bit surprised by, as an aging Milwaukee native, though I spent 20 years working in Madison. Yet, I feel like he’s a very special uncle, my only-surviving “relative” of “The Greatest Generation.”

These thrilling clips segue to an introduction to “the great Bob Uecker” by David Letterman, with a delightful Uecker impersonation and anecdote by Saturday Night Live alum Norm MacDonald.

If you dig further on You Tube, you should find some of Uecker’s many funny visits on The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson, always introducing him as, “Would you welcome, Mister Baseball, Bob Uecker!”

This is getting down to the nub of my point. If Johnny Carson helped establish Uecker’s identity as the premier ambassador for the sport entwined with Milwaukee’s national identity as “Mister Baseball,” nobody comes close to Bob Uecker’s significance.

And if so, how do we zoom in on the implications of that identity? Given that is a strong, if arguable case for “Mister Baseball,” who more than Bob Uecker would most appropriately signify “Mister Milwaukee Brewer”? Perhaps the first former player who comes to mind as competition is Robin Yount, arguably the greatest historic Brewer, he of the 3,000-plus hits, league MVP at two different positions, etc. Yount is very much “in the ballpark,” or even comes close, but at best he’s still “just a bit outside,” as Uecker might say.

Bob’s a Milwaukee native and so Milwaukee that it’s still hard for me to type his slightly odd ethnic name correctly, I always want to type “Eu…”

In terms of visibility, wide renown and popularity, Uecker is the voice, the personality, the heart and ambassador of the Brewers, and by extension the city of Milwaukee. It’s also in his still-potent sense of humor, dry as a Wisconsin martini and always ready to float to the top during a slow spot in a game, like a buoyant Door County cherry.

A favorite Uecker line: The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.

Even consider him at his corniest, in his current, effortlessly gemietlekiet-soaked commercials, as the infallible blindfolded nose tester for the best Milwaukee sausage: “AHHHH Usinger’s!” (though I’d still argue for Klement’s!) Even the youngest Brewer fans know the white-haired nose for those.

Uecker doing Usinger’s commercial. facebook.com

In other words, it has been all too easy for many of us to take him for granted over the 50 years as the voice of his team, our team. Let that sink in: fifty years as the voice of the Brewers.

He might feel a bit like Sisyphus, pushing that big baseball boulder up the hill every season, the boulder that signifies the smallest market in Major Leagues, for 50 years of working, and waiting, for a championship!

No, make that 53 years, (having started with the Brewers in 1971). So, damn, he’s really pushing it. Time for him to slow down? He sounds as vital and sharp as ever, it seems.

Here he is more recently calling back-to-back game-winning homers by Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun: https://www.bing.com/videos/riverview/relatedvideo?q=bob+eucker+calls+a+home+run&mid=A3BFA25D04945CF49F17A3BFA25D04945CF49F17

In one of the vintage home run calls above, he perhaps unconsciously invokes the renowned exclamation of his radio predecessor, Earl Gillespie, voice of the Milwaukee Braves, when he yells out at one point, “HOLY COW!” sensing instinctively how much that’s a quintessential Wisconsin rubric.

So, imagine what a first-ever Brewers World Championship — with Uecker calling the final out, and perhaps the crucial hit or home run, would mean to Uecker — as he possibly contemplates, or chooses, to finally ride off into the sunset? By extension, what would it mean to the city that is his?

At 89, “Ueck” still can embody the essence of the game’s timelessly boyish, pastoral playfulness (with a hint of its sublimated corn-field mysticism: “Build it, and they will come.”) and, in the next breath — as a Brewer suddenly smashes a rocket shot — can capture the drama and visual majesty of an epic, game-winning home run.



Bob Uecker baseball card from 1964. He’s with the Cardinals in this card but he’s wearing a Milwaukee Braves uniform after being recently traded to the Cards by the Braves. e-bay.

Leave it to Uecker to be apparently the first baseball player to pose playing a tuba for his Topps baseball card. pixels.com

As a backup catcher, he played for the Milwaukee BravesSt. Louis CardinalsPhiladelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves from 1962 to 1967. His career batting average was an even .200, the generous essence of mediocrity back then, even if a fair amount of current Major Leaguers now hit below that today and still have jobs.

WIKI reports: “After retiring, Uecker started a broadcasting career, (he) became known for his self-deprecating wit, and became a regular fixture on late night talk shows in the 1970s and 1980s, facetiously dubbed “Mr. Baseball” by TV talk show host Johnny Carson. He hosted several sports blooper shows, and had an acting career that included his role as George Owens on the TV show Mr. Belvedere and as play-by-play announcer Harry Doyle in the film Major League and its two sequels.[1]

More from WIKI: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared September 25, 2021, as Bob Uecker Day in honor of his 50th year broadcasting Brewers games.[25] Uecker threw out the first pitch in the game against the New York Mets. But instead of throwing the ball to the catcher, he unveiled a pitching machine and used that. Before the game, leftfielder Christian Yelich presented a gift on behalf of the players, a pair of custom Nike sneakers with “Air Uecker” and “Get Up, Get Up” on one foot and “One Of Us” and “Just a Bit Outside” on the other.[26]

What of that “facetious” Mister Baseball moniker? Stick around long enough and the joke pretty much wears off, and you’re left with the dregs of titters, like random splatters of brat mustard, adorning a life-size statue sitting in a stadium seat, amid the distinctly pungent aroma of spilled Miller Lite.

Bob Uecker statue in an Am-Fam Field seat, with a
“mini-me” of himself, actually a Uecker bobblehead doll. Pinterest.com




Growing Hope for America: An anniversary revisit to the 25th Farm Aid in Milwaukee

It’s one day removed from the date but I am honoring the anniversary of a great concert in Milwaukee history by posting my review of Farm Aim 25,  at Miller Park on October 2, 2010.

October 2, 2010 

Farm Aid 25 Does Heavy Hauling for America’s Family Farmers

MILWAUKEE — It took a quarter of a century for the players in this farm system to make it to the majors.

But Farm Aid 25 proved it ain’t no game though, heck, it was at least as fun as any Brewers outing, to judge from the 35,000 who rocked Miller Park Saturday, along with the many dedicated musicians who filled the ten-hour event.

Farm Aid 25 at Miller Park. Courtesy Onmilwaukee.com

The first Farm Aid drew 78,000 in Champaign, Illinois in 1985. Today it’s the longest-running concert benefit in the U.S, having raised $37 million over those years. And co-founders Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp – who all performed Saturday with style and passion – have been stars for decades. So the event’s 25th anniversary in its first major league stadium only served to remind people of a team effort as heroic as a two-outs, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

The hero’s stance is somewhat different now. Farm Aid now does heavy work on the promotional tractor hauling the local sustainable food movement to public awareness. They’re helping push for organized family farming and healthy food choices as refurbished tools for economic revitalization of America through “family farm food systems” based on alliances, economic stewardship and well being of community and public health (see farmaid.org for more information on this)

They still proselytize for the ongoing plight of America’s family farmers in the face of corporate farming’s razing of the small farm business model. In the pre-concert press conference, Neil Young, Farm Aids’ resident corporate gadfly, asserted that big-business farms “create and spread disease and are inhumane to animals” and ravage the ecosystem.

Yet, as perennial good guy Nelson says, “We started out trying to save the family farmer and now it looks like the family farmer is going to save us.”

Farm Aid to mark 25th anniversary at Miller Park

Farm Aid co-founder Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 25 in Milwaukee OnMilwaukee.com

With a majority of this huge throng appearing to be under 30, the message seemed to connect with the generation that must take up the mantle of leadership.

Many of them sang along from memory to lyrics of musicians old enough to be pa or grandpa. While Mellencamp did his harrowing farm tragedy saga, “Rain on the Scarecrow,” even a young stadium security guard sang along, with his back to the stage and eyes diligently scanning the crowd.

Yes, there’d been plenty of tailgating beforehand, which kept attendance at a slow trickle-in though the early afternoon acts like Randy Rogers, Robert Francis, Jamey Johnson and the Blackwood Quartet. Among those, the act too many missed was Johnson, whose Moses beard and hair hang as long as his foghorn voice resounds deep, seeping into the darkest caverns of the heart, with deftly self-deprecating storytelling. His Depression-survivor song “In Color” deserves to be a widely-covered classic, though I doubt anyone could deliver such craggy authenticity as does Johnson.

Though now middle-aged thick and lovable-attire slob, Mellencamp can still ignite and work a crowd – into what Quakers call (not so) gentle persuasion: At one point he asked all of the cell-phone toting fans to immediately call a friend to “thank them for supporting Farm Aid.”

He even grabbed one fan’s phone and thanked a doubtlessly startled “Steve,” on the call’s receiving end.

Farm Aid co-founder John Mellencamp at Farm Aid 25. Courtesy milwaukeejournal-sentinel.com

By then, the crowd seemed primed to attack the back forty, after a bracing but short set from Milwaukee’s own seminal roots rockers The Bo Deans, and a beguiling one from Philadelphia folk-soul troubadour Amos Lee, and another by the appealingly high-energy alt-roots rock Band of Horses, who are galloping up record charts these days.

Milwaukee’s own, The Bodeans, at Farm Aid 25. milwaukeejournal-sentinel.com

Yet the crowd perked up for the almost effortless charm of two young pop music phenoms, Norah Jones and Jason Mraz. The line-up’s only female act, Texas-raised singer-songwriter-pianist-guitarist Jones recently relocated to New York. She captivated with her sophisticated new look – punky page boy and fishnet stockings — and fluent eclectic flair, shifting from her sultry sweetheart mega hit “Come Away With Me” to Johnny Cash’s honk-tony beer lament “Cry, Cry, Cry” to her own increasingly dark and thoughtful originals.

Norah Jones at Farm Aid 25. milwaukeejournal-sentinel

By contrast, Mraz seems like his own brand of endless sunshine with a voice as boyish as Paul Simon’s but stadium-impact strong and with songs carrying a high melodic calorie count. He woos the listener like the boy Romeo next door, or the strapping young farmer down the road. He actually runs an avocado farm in California when not doing music or surfing. Too cool.

Between the Jones and Mraz sets, Jeff Tweedy — leader of the immensely popular and arty roots-rock band Wilco – delivered a curiously tepid solo set that suggested his true gifts are as a musical conceptualist/bandleader/songwriter.

You get the stylistic gist here — Farm Aid welcomes virtually all American music genres under its big farmer’s market tent. And to wit, many fans also partook of the outdoor Homegrown Market and chatted with farmers about their issues and tasty wares even through cold wind and some rain. That interaction is part of the important underlying purposes of this musical harvest.

Back inside, time-conscious bandleaders too infrequently introduced their faithful band members. But the show rarely dragged with Willie Nelson stepping in to add his “Texas herb” aroma to the sets of Jones and Lee, and with contemporary country star Kenny Chesney showing gleaming vocal pipes and sporting a New Orleans Saints cap instead of the expected ten-gallon hat.

And few complained about nepotism when Willie’s son Lukas Nelson scored a set, because he’s inherited the old man’s showmanship. No knockoff though, the younger Nelson’s style strives to virtually channel the ghost of short-lived blues rock guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan. His guitar-string biting impressed some, but made you wonder if Willie feeds the kid enough.

Dave Matthews, the Gen-X rock star who joined the Farm Aid board of directors in 2001 and is the fourth perennial headliner, started his duo set with guitar ace Tim Reynolds by unleashing Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which felt like a man reliving the song’s wild tale as a primal-scream dream. His intensity cranked the crowd up to a level that Mellencamp rode masterfully.

Yet, for this baby boomer, and surely many others, this all climaxed with Young’s set. He remains an uncanny blend of wizardly yet unpretentious song-storyteller/melody-spinner prone to deft feedback theatrics and spontaneous speeches. Few seem to care about farmers as much as he does. But an eloquent riff on being an aware consumer for small farm support –“read the label” is his mantra – immediately lost any hint of browbeating when Young launched into “Long May Young Run.” This is a gloriously warm-hearted salutation to a friend he last saw alive “in Blind River in 1962.” The winsome melody and sentiment seem to suggest – with a new line crucially added to the original lyrics – that the never-forgotten friend was a farmer.

Farm Aid co-founder Neil Young at Farm Aid 25. milwaukeejournal-sentinel 

Young’s always had a quirky a genius for balancing his fiery social consciousness with mournful, humane soul. Accompanied only by his own scruffy-scarecrow presence and solitary electric guitar, Young’s “Ohio” still seared into memories of the Vietnam war-era killing of four Kent State University student protesters by National Guard members.

Of course, Farm Aid always provides the salve of Willie Nelson to top off even reopened psychic wounds, and to send everyone home buzzed on musical vibe. That’s from toking up on ol’ Willie, twirling his smoky, behind-the-beat phrasing around another blessedly-crafted song. His concert-closing set ranged from tough blues-rock led by son Lukas, to reggae rhythms, to “one for Waylon.” On cue, all the headliners joined onstage to sing “Good-Hearted Woman,” a comfortable-as-worn-blue-jeans song by Nelson’s fellow progressive-country “outlaw,” the late, great Waylon Jennings.

Concert epics like this don’t get much more golden.

It was well after 11 p.m. and co-sponsor Direct TV had been telecasting the concert since Mraz’s set at 5, so one hoped the ideals and passion of this extraordinarily well-conceived and executed effort may spread like the winds of change, rather than like locusts or chemical farming-borne disease.

Time will tell. Meanwhile, long may Farm Aid run.


This review was originally published in YourNews.com, Madison edition

For videos about the Milwaukee event, go to www.farmaid.org.)