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OPINION - A little less Bob Uecker

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) We don’t realize the travel that’s associated with sports. We click on the radio or sit down in front of the TV and our favorite team is playing in Houston. Never mind that they were in Milwaukee last night. On Sunday afternoon – get-away day for every baseball team – we don’t see the rushed news conference, the packing up of the gear, the loading of the team bus, the traffic to the airport, and the piling onto the charter flight. A baseball team will do that between 6 and 8 times a month.

I have a friend from college who did minor league baseball play-by-play. He never wants to see the inside of a charter bus again.

We should keep this in mind concerning Bob Uecker’s decision to scale back his travel with the Milwaukee Brewers. He announced today that he’ll do only select road trips this year. At 79, a full baseball season’s worth of travel must be grueling.

Uecker says he’s in good health, and, as listeners can hear, the quality of his voice hasn’t changed much as he’s aged. I don’t think his eyes are as good as they once were, but he’s still the most-entertaining storyteller in the broadcast booth.

If you’ve seen him in person, you know that Uecker walks stiffly these days. The front seat on the Brewer’s team bus, just to the right of the driver, is reserved for him. (Supposedly one of the jokes that’s played on Brewers rookies is to have them sit in Uecker’s seat, and then get cursed out – jokingly – when he arrives.) In a WTMJ radio interview today Uecker said he still enjoys travel, likes being and the ballpark, and enjoys being with the team. He says he’ll pick road trips that “make sense”, with an emphasis on cities that he enjoys visiting or where he has friends that he’s made over the years. He probably won’t be making trips to the west coast.

The challenge for the Brewers broadcast team (and their affiliates like WSAU) is that there’s no substitute for Uecker. He’s irreplaceable. Joe Block, entering his third season in the Brewers’ broadcast booth, is an accurate, solid announcer… and a good straight-man to Uecker’s humor. But he’s too vanilla and may never cross the threshold into a true on-air personality.  Craig Coshun, who’s done the Brewers pre-game and post-game shows, might be available for fill-in radio work. Telli Hughes does a great deal of post-game radio work on Milwaukee radio. He’d be competent, and has a nice personality. Dave Nelson, who filled in for Uecker during his health scare two years ago, struggled on the radio and was much better on television.

A reduced schedule for Bob Uecker makes sense. He’s a tremendous talent, and one of the great voices of summer on the radio. My only regret is that we’ll be hearing him a little less.

Chris Conley

Image: Bob Uecker at Miller Park, 2011 via WikiCommons.com