MILWAUKEE — Bob Uecker is a national treasure, and the voice of the Brewers continues to be one of the funniest men in baseball.
Uecker got the chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to manager Craig Counsell on Friday night at Miller Park before the Brewers’ 6-5 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Instead of the pitch being “juuust a bit outside,’’ as “Major League’’ broadcaster Harry Doyle would say, Uecker joked, “I was going to take a Percocet and throw it in the upper deck. That would have been good for a laugh.’’
It’s all about the laughs for Uecker, 83, and he has been entertaining fans and ballplayers ever since he first played for the Milwaukee Braves back in 1962 as a backup catcher.
Uecker’s comedic side was unleashed to the public on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. He appeared on the show more than 100 times and delivered such classics as, “I knew when my career was over. In 1965, my baseball card came out with no picture.”
When in Milwaukee with the Mets this summer, I saw how excited the Mets were to talk to Uecker. When Uecker was asked what makes that bond so special even now, he went on for eight minutes about how much he relates to the game and the players.
In many ways, Bob Uecker is what made Milwaukee famous. He is a graduate of Milwaukee Tech High School. There is the Uecker statue in the upper deck, a favorite spot for fans.
“The statue that they put in the upper deck here, it was from a great Miller Lite commercial that happened to be at Dodger Stadium where we filmed it, where I was supposedly in the front row and ended up in the upper deck at Dodger Stadium,’’ Uecker explained. “I thought it was funny, plus it raises money for charity. You can go up and sit next to it for a dollar. The only thing I asked was that nobody sit facing me.
“All that stuff, it’s good for the club, it’s good for fans,’’ Uecker said. “I never changed. My MO has never changed from the time I started here. Anything other than baseball was, you know, a ‘Ha, Ha, Ha.’ This was always No. 1 for me. I never wanted to leave here. And I had the opportunity to do the network stuff and work with some of the great guys in the game, Al Michaels and Bob Costas.
“I always wanted to come back here. I love doing radio. And that would never change for me, never. And when Bud Selig brought me back here in 1971, and there were a couple of things that could have changed my time here, opportunities that I had outside of baseball to do: The television stuff, ‘Mr. Belvedere,’ the Miller Lite commercials. Pabst was our big sponsor at that time, and for me to do a Miller Lite spot was totally out of whack.’’
Mr. Baseball eventually told Selig if he could not do the Miller Lite commercials he would leave. Selig allowed him to do the commercials. Same goes for the TV show “Mr. Belvedere.”
Amazingly, Uecker, who hit .146 over his six-year career and had just 14 career home runs, hit a home run against Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
“For whatever reason I hit Sandy fairly well,’’ Uecker said. “I don’t know why. But I did hit a home run against him in Dodger Stadium, and since then, every time I see him I always apologize because I thought it was going to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.’’
Uecker respects the game and did not want to do the World Series two years ago when some wanted him to broadcast the Indians against the Cubs.
“When they called to ask me about coming and doing the Cleveland and Cubs World Series,’’ he said, “and they kept referring to ‘Major League,’ right? The World Series is for real. I don’t want to do nothing to the World Series that’s going to make fun of the World Series.’’
Perhaps Uecker will get to the World Series with the Brewers this October, a front-row seat.