Move over Fonz...Mr. Baseball is now in bronze
Really wanted to watch Friday night's Brewers/Cardinals game but a rain delay, fatigue and that second bourbon said otherwise.
I'm sure it was great fun for those who were up late enough to see Ryan Braun once again save Milwaukee's bacon with a 13th inning homer to keep Milwaukee's playoff hopes alive in a city where they so often have gone to die. But I was up late enough to see something else: Fox Sports Wisconsin's rebroadcast of the Bob Uecker statue-dedication ceremony which aired as the showers held baseball at bay in St. Louis.
I didn't see the original live telecast because I was lucky to have been part of the audience that Friday afternoon--my work bosses snagged a credential for me (I hadn't even asked for one), so there I was in the second row sitting right in front of Mr. Baseball's on-stage perch as the accolades poured forth. Uecker must've known everyone in the prime seats, and I'm sure he was wondering who in the hell the elderly interloper was, how someone he surely didn't know was sitting not quite "in the front row." I'm surprised he didn't call security.
It was great to hear the tributes again--the gentle jabs, the familiar jokes, the heartfelt sincerities from Hank Aaron, Dick Ebersol, Bud Selig and Mark Attanasio who isn't from here but is smart enough to respect Milwaukee's baseball traditions. I laughed again at Robin Yount's video tribute from Rome, at the montage of Uecker TV appearances. And, it was fun to watch a bewildered Bob Costas, the master when it comes to mastering ceremonies, wondering just where the actual statue was when, in fact, it was hiding behind that huge silver curtain on stage.
Uecker was his usual self-effacing, hilarious self but it was obvious as that he was touched, too--by the honor, the monument and the crowd that came out to share his moment. And, he made sure to share the spotlight, especially when he called Aaron's wife Billye to the mike to serenade us with an impromptu version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". Watching it on TV Friday night had the same effect it had on my tear ducts that afternoon. Awesome.
Summer has a soundtrack in Wisconsin and it contains nary an musical instrument. It's Mr. Baseball, putting on a nightly symphony of baseball knowledge and humor that can enhance the most thrilling of wins or the most putrid of late-season losses. He's smart and funny but most of all, Uecker is honest without ever being mean.
Other cities have had love affairs with their baseball announcers: Detroit and Ernie Harwell, St. Louis and Jack Buck, Chicago and a fellow named Carray. Milwaukee's with Uecker is unique and especially torrid, because Uke is one of us. His skill set could've taken him anywhere--Hollywood, New York, you name it--and he did, indeed, dabble in other pursuits. Dabble, but never dwell. Uecker always--ALWAYS--comes home to Milwaukee, always tells the world how proud he is of where he's from. He'll make fun out of a lot of things, but he's dead serious about where he chooses to live.
For all the baseball he's called, all the laughs he's given, all the baseball wisdom he's shared and all he's given back to the community, a statue is more than fitting. For coming back to Milwaukee when opportunity could've taken him elsewhere, for always remembering his roots and for making all of us proud of where we live, it's merely a good start.