During the summers driving around Wisconsin in late evenings back in the day, I went looking for dead air. Back in the 90s and 2000s, if I let the radio on SCAN for a while that sooner a station would come up – and their would be little sound on it. Maybe you think you can hear a crowd, maybe a vendor yelling something, but usually not much else for at least 5 to 10 seconds. On most radio networks, that was like throwing money away … but I knew exactly what it was, exactly why I was going to keep listening to it. Because when that 5 or 10 seconds would be up … I would hear Bob Uecker call out: “Just a Bit Outside”.
I’ve gone a little baseball mad these last few weeks, but it is strictly out of nostalgia. As I write this, the Milwaukee Brewers are just a couple days away from hosting the first game of the National League Championship Series in Major League Baseball. They reached this point for only the 3rd time in team history, most recently in 2011, and most famously in 1982 when they lost in Game 7 of the World Series. Milwaukee will face the Los Angeles Dodgers – so you can bet there is quite a lot of talk about the upcoming series.
Now, I am not going to lie to you and tell you I am a huge Brewers fan – not by a long shot; nor am I going to say I have switched teams to the Dodgers. I’ve kept an eye on the Brewers in the same way I have kept an eye on my 401k, interested in the outcome but not expecting much from a day to day basis. I’ve paid a little more attention the last couple of years, simply because attending a Brewers-Dodgers game is easy (though they tend to lose when playing here). But this … this is great.
Honestly, I am fine if the Brewers don’t win another game. This is house money we are on, we aren’t supposed to be this good. I mean, I kind of want to see the Dodgers lose, because they are not so graceful of winners, but many of my friends are Dodger fans so … bully for them.
But let’s be honest. I really want the Brewers to win.
I want them to win. I want them to win it all. Not for the usually reasons you want your favorite team to win. I want them to win for all the reasons that make them a favorite team.
This year, the Brewers are the best in the National League regular season. For most of their existence, they simply … stunk. Sure, this is the 3rd time to the NLCS, and the most recent last visit was just 7 years ago … but over their 50 years, they only reached the playoffs 4 times … and have only had 16 winning seasons. In a sport where players make hundreds of millions a year, the Brewers were the love of a small market, fighting for good talent that were snatched away at the trade deadline. While they were better back in the 70s and 80s, we didn’t always expect them to be good. That wasn’t the point.
If there was as soundtrack to my summers as a boy, it would be the sweet words of Bob Uecker. I mean it. Listening to that guy describe a game, tell stories, and otherwise brighten up a sport independent of time itself filled my ears on warm lazy nights. Uecker was a jokester – saying things like:
“The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.”
“I had slumps that lasted into the winter.”
“In 1962 I was named Minor League Player of the Year. It was my second season in the bigs.”
The guy has two statues of himself at the stadium, one out front to celebrate his announcing … and one in the top deck, the highest seat, where during a beer commercial he was sitting when they got him a special seat (“Must be in the from row”). He was self-deprecating in a hilarious way. When he was upset at the team, he let it be know in a passive aggressive way. He pointed out the odd things, the funny things, the things that passed him by. He spent long breaks with the silence button on (rumor has it to check out the women in the stands) that left us with dead air – and even though radio people would hate it, we loved it.
Or more direct, he was one of us. Uecker was ours.
He went off and did movies and TV, and I didn’t like it because now people wanted him instead .. by god, they had him cheering for Cleveland in Major League. … CLEVELAND!
I want the Brewers to win it all for Uecker. To see the guy who got shoe contracts just to not wear the company’s shoes be there with the team.
I want to see the Brewers win for all of those big Brewers fans. People who have lived and breathed with the team since their start 50 years ago. They watch them every game, and still get as happy for the 90 games they win as the get unhappy for each of the 70 they lose. That stuck with them through the 60 win seasons. That show up to spring training and dollar hot dog nights, because they love the team. They love a team that didn’t always deserve that love, but still got it in a way that only Brewer fans can love.
I want to see the Brewers win for my Dad, who used to sneak away to watch their predecessor, the Milwaukee Braves, at old Milwaukee County Stadium. Who turned on that radio so that we could listen to Uecker tell his stories. Who took me to games even when it was a four hour drive, or it was raining, or he had to haul charcoal for the tailgating. Who could have been mistaken for Bob Uecker … and likely could outhit Mr. Baseball too.
So I will be watching the games. Sitting in whatever I call my Uecker seats. Maybe even drinking one of those beers Uecker says the good baseball players in the world drink (and he knows because he asked them).