Brewers to immortalize Uecker with statue
Broadcaster will be fourth member on Crew's Mount Rushmore
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mr. Baseball is getting a statue outside Miller Park, begging the question: What the heck took so long?"I didn't have enough for the down payment," Bob Uecker said. The 77-year-old Brewers broadcaster, star of television and film and all-around funnyman, will be immortalized in bronze on Aug. 31. He'll stand on Miller Park's home plate plaza alongside the three other members of the Mount Rushmore of Milwaukee baseball: Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig. Uecker will be depicted casually, with his hands in his pockets, just like the thousands of times he's stood around the Brewers' batting cage since taking a broadcasting job with the team in 1972. Selig moved Uecker from the scouting apartment to the booth, the story goes, because Uecker's reports arrived covered in mashed potatoes and gravy.
Forty years later, the light-hitting catcher-turned-broadcaster-turned actor is a baseball icon."It's going to be there forever and ever," Uecker said. Seriously, it's a huge honor. "My family, my friends, are all excited about it," Uecker said. "I'm honored, and I'm pleased with it. I thank the whole organization. [Principal owner] Mark Attanasio. The players. Who are we as broadcasters without the guys who make the game to call and make the games exciting? I hope the fans have enjoyed listening as much as I've enjoyed doing the games. "I don't think I've ever gone to the park where I've had a bad day." He paused. "Discounting playing," Uecker added. "A lot of bad days there." So much for a moment of seriousness amid Uecker's usual deadpan. Asked how they would keep pigeons away, he said, "We're going to invite pigeons. We are. That's the other enhancement, I'm holding a stand. It's a feeder-type thing." Before a Brewers spokesperson arrived to tell the straight story, Uecker was asked what the statue will look like. "Kind of a Schwarzenegger-type thing," he said. "Beefcake. Speedos. Pretty buffed. It's really enhanced. I've seen pictures of the finished product, and, yes, I'm very pleased, as a matter of a fact. It's drawing a lot of attention. More than that swimsuit issue." Uecker was referring to a 2008 Sports Illustrated photo, in which he appeared to the side wearing a skimpy swimsuit. He has since dubbed it, "My swimsuit issue." Chalk it up among Uecker's accolades. Born in Milwaukee in 1935, Uecker signed with his hometown Braves in 1956 and made his Major League debut in '62, the first of his six seasons in the big leagues with the Braves, Phillies and Cardinals. The '64 Cardinals won the World Series, but Uecker didn't appear in that postseason. The trainer, he jokes, injected him with hepatitis to help the Cardinals' chances. Uecker's big break came in 1969, when he appeared on stage in Atlanta with jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, who later arranged for Uecker to make the first of some 100 appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Those appearances led to other television gigs, including turns hosting "Saturday Night Live" and "Wrestlemania," two syndicated talk shows and a role on "Mr. Belvedere," a sitcom that spanned 122 episodes. He also appeared in a popular series of Miller Lite commercials, never quite able to make it to the front row. In 1989 he starred as Indians radio voice Harry Doyle in the film "Major League," Uecker's best-known role. Put all together, Uecker is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the 2003 Ford C. Frick Award Winner, in the Brewers' Walk of Fame, the Radio Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame and the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. An avid bratwurst enthusiast, he's also in the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame. On April 17, Uecker will be inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. Not bad for a guy with a .200 lifetime batting average. "The joy that Bob has brought to us over the years is priceless, and with 2012 being the 50th anniversary of his first Major League game, there's no better time than now to celebrate his achievements," Attanasio said in a statement. "Bob represents everything that is good about Milwaukee and Wisconsin. He is an iconic figure for the franchise, and his passion for the Brewers is second to none. "Bob is a national treasure who calls Wisconsin home. I'm proud to have him as a great friend. I couldn't be happier to add this statue to his legacy." Uecker's statue is being designed and produced by Brian Maughan, who, with Douglas Kwart, also created the Aaron, Selig and Yount statues. As fans approach Miller Park, they will see from right to left, Uecker, Aaron, Yount and Selig. The Brewers have been planning Uecker's statue for more than a year. Uecker was measured at "Brewers On Deck" in January 2010, a year that turned tumultuous. He underwent two very serious heart surgeries and missed a significant number of games for the first time in 19 years. But on the day he was measured, Uecker was in good spirits. He told the sculptor to send his measurements to the Schramka Funeral Home in Milwaukee, "'cause I'm not doing this again." He kids, he kids. "When you realize that something is going to be there as long as Solomon Juneau," said Uecker, referring to a Milwaukee founder whose statue rises 15 feet on bluff at the city's lakefront, "it's a pretty neat thing."