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Enjoying a Laugh With Uecker

Pinch-hitting for T.S. O'Connell today in the Out of Left Field Blog is SCD's Tom Bartsch:

It's not often I can enjoy nearly six hours in a casino and have my
sides hurt not from second-hand smoke but from laughing so hard. And I
got to call it work at the same time.

In truth, it was pure
pleasure to be able to attend the Milwaukee Braves Historical
Association testimonial dinner that honored former Braves catcher and
current Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker. The event was
held at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee.

Among those in
attendance, in addition to the guest of honor, was Commissioner Bud
Selig, a long-time friend of Uecker's and the person who brought Uecker
into the radio booth after a job as a scout didn't go over so well.
Selig said in his introduction speech that when Uecker sent back a
scouting report covered with mash potatoes and gravy stains, perhaps a
different career was in order.

Other notables at the podium and
in the crowd were retired umpire Bruce Froemming, former Milwaukee
Sentinel writer Bud Lea, Johnny Logan, Andy Pafko, Felix Mantella,
Eddie Matthews' son, former college basketball coach Rick Majerus, Ken
Sanders and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.

With a
character like Uecker being honored, it was more about the stories than
his stellar playing career. When Uecker was sent down to the minors by
Braves manager Charlie Dressen in 1961, Dressen said, "There's no room
in baseball for a clown." Uecker shot back at the podium in his usual
deadpan manner, "I didn't like Dressen. Not for the fact he sent me
down, I just didn't like him."

Uecker talked about the $3,000
signing bonus the Braves offered him to sign and how his dad couldn't
come up with that kind of money. He spoke about damaging a tuba during
batting practice by shagging fly balls with it prior to a game in the
1964 World Series and how he had to pay for the damages. It was the
only action he saw on the field in that series.

But it was the
personal side you got to see of Uecker, obviously connected to staff
members, friends and former teammates, that was so much fun. Same goes
with the commish. The only time you see Selig is on TV defending drug
use in the game or possible labor disputes. To see the other side of
him and how appreciative the people of Wisconsin are toward him for
bringing baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves left in 1965 was
sweet, for lack of a better term, regardless of your thoughts about his
leadership of baseball.

The former players were approachable,
cordial and you got a sense as to why he days of baseball past are so
cherished by the hobby and the readers of this magazine. Sign me up for
next year and this time give Uecker as much time as needed to explain
the story behind a picture of him seemingly trying to woo actress
Phyllis Diller.