He is the last one. Bob Uecker is the last one.
The last of the voices.
The last connection to baseball in the ‘70s and maybe before, when it was everything, before the NFL and NBA pushed it to third place and maybe fifth for a bit if you want to bring Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon into it.
There are other greats.
There are even other greats still going who did it in the ’70s.
Bob Costas, but he hasn’t stayed busy enough on the diamond. Al Michaels, but he traded baseball for football decades ago. Jon Miller, but nobody really knew him until ESPN took him national in 1990, back when nabbing the diamond was the network’s biggest programming coup to date.
But those guys are half a generation, at least, behind Uecker, whose contemporaries are Dick Enberg, who called the Padres through 2016, 13 months before his death; Vin Scully, who turned his mic in the same time Enberg did, and remains with us at 93; also Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, Milo Hamilton and Harry Kalas.
Uecker’s with them.
You might remember him from “Major League” — “Juuuuuust a bit outside.”
Or from Miller Lite commercials — “I must be in the front roooow.”
Or from The Tonight Show,” about a hundred times, cracking up Johnny Carson like nobody this side of Rodney Dangerfield.
You should know him as a broadcaster, a color commentator for a bunch of World Series and league championships. What Don Meredith did for Monday Night Football, Uecker did for baseball.
But you may not know him for his regular gig, the one he’s had since 1971, because you’re not from Wisconsin. In a world in which all things are available, thankfully, you may want to, because he’s the last one.
Uecker’s in his 51st season calling the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio. He offers lots of color, of course, but he’s the play-by-play guy, the rare former player to lead a broadcast.
Oh, yeah, he’s 87.
Here he was Wednesday afternoon, top of the second inning, Cubs visiting American Family Field, Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes having just struck out Chicago’s David Bote with a wicked slider:
“If you’re looking for something else, you’re pretty much down on your luck with that baby. Sharp breaking, looks fastball till about halfway there; check swing, a little low and away, one ball and no strikes …
“And he throws it at 90 miles an hour,” chimed in broadcast partner Jeff Levering.
“I mean, if you’re looking fastball and you get a slider, it’s not that you can’t hit it, as long as it’s up and, you know, around thigh high and down the middle. But those that break the way that one did, down and away and off the plate? Bad medicine.
“The pitch, swinging and a fly to right, deep, warning track, playable and caught by Garcia to end the inning.”
He sounds like … well, he sounds exactly like himself. Sharp as a tack, description out fast, excited when excitement strikes.
Uecker didn’t have a written contract until this season. He got it because his Screen Actors Guild health insurance ended … or you may know him as a cast member of “Mr. Belvedere,” on ABC from ’85-90, which he somehow managed without giving up the Brewers.
He made it to Arizona for spring training. Tuesday, broadcasting Milwaukee’s 3-2 loss to Chicago, talking up the Brewers’ culture, Uecker went on about the players’ interactions and camaraderie, down on the field, around the batting cage, hours before the game, a culture he could only speak to because he, too, is down on the field, hours before the game.
In real time, it’s now 3:18 p.m., Wednesday.
Top of the eighth:
“We have a change in left field for the Crew. Tyrone Taylor, who just joined the club is now playing in left field. Austin Romine will be the batter and Josh Lindbloom is the new chucker for the Crew. Romine today has flied to right field and struck out. Lindbloom is ready and deals, a little off the inside and it’s one ball and no strikes. Seven-nothing Brewers.”
He’s still got it, fundamentally and every other way. Setting the table, calling the Brewers “the Crew,” calling the pitcher a “chucker” and offering the score after Lindbloom’s first pitch.
He was never going into the Hall of Fame as a player — .200/.293/.287 over a six-year, 297-game career — but went in as a broadcaster in 2003, winner of the Ford C. Fricke Award.
Scully won it in ’82, Buck in ’87, Caray in ’89, Hamilton in ’92, ’Kalas in ’02, Miller in ’10, Enberg in ’15, Costas in ’18.
All the greats.
One more time:
It’s 3:49 p.m.
“Three on the right side, two playing shallow in the outfield, and the pitch. Swinging and a drive to right and hooking foul, with plenty of distance on that one. Two balls and two strikes. Cubs trying to get on the board.”
He can call it straight, too.
Here it is:
You grow up.
You have your giants.
Over time, they leave.
Bob Uecker lives.
Better than ever.
He’s the last one.