Uecker statue dedicated at Miller Park
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A statue of popular Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker was dedicated outside Miller Park on Friday, and those in attendance recalled it was all made possible because of some spilled mashed potatoes and gravy.
Uecker, affectionately dubbed "Mr. Baseball" by Johnny Carson in the 1970s, joined Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig as the fourth person to have a statue outside the main gates.
The 7-foot bronze statue features a smiling Uecker with his hands in his pockets.
"This is a good place to be," said the 77-year-old Uecker, who grew up in Milwaukee. "There are a lot of places that are warmer in the winter, but this place has been home to me for a long time."
More than half of the current Brewers players and the entire coaching staff turned out for the festivities before Milwaukee took on Pittsburgh. Former Milwaukee Braves teammate Joe Torre and former Brewers star Rollie Fingers attended the 90-minute ceremony, along with members of the television show "Mr. Belvedere," which starred Uecker from 1980 to 1985.
Carson's bandleader, Doc Severinsen, played with his 14-piece big band and Aaron's wife, Billye, sang an impromptu version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Yount was in Italy for a family wedding, but sent a playful video tribute.
A career .200 hitter in 297 major league games over six seasons as a catcher in the 1960s, Uecker was hired by his friend, Selig, in 1970 to be a scout for the first-year Milwaukee Brewers.
Uecker was sent to scout the now-defunct Northern League, but his first reports angered general manager Frank Lane, Selig recalled.
"He comes whirling into my office," Selig recounted of Lane. "He said, 'What the heck is going on with your friend?'"
Uecker was filling out the reports while eating in North Dakota and spilled his food on the papers, but turned them in anyway.
"He couldn't read the scouting reports because it had mashed potatoes and gravy all over it," Selig said.
That was about the end of Uecker's tenure as a scout.
The next year Selig had Uecker work as a radio broadcaster for the team. He has remained in that role ever since 1971.
"He's been the voice and face of this franchise, think about this, for more than four decades," Selig said.
Selig, Aaron, broadcaster Bob Costas and television executive Dick Ebersol gave short speeches.
Costas joked that the nearby Aaron statue was "begging" to be moved away from the one of Uecker, who hit only 14 home runs in his career.
Aaron talked about a time on the Braves when both he and Uecker were struggling.
"I was in a semi-slump and you were always in a slump," Aaron told his friend.
Also in attendance were former Braves teammates Johnny Logan and Felix Mantilla and former Brewers Gorman Thomas, Jim Gantner and Ken Sanders.