Some of Bob Uecker’s closest friends have known for months that he’s been battling heart trouble. But when it became public on Tuesday that Uecker would undergo surgery and miss as much as three months of baseball, the well-wishes started really pouring in.
“From around the world, really,” an appreciative Uecker said. “It’s really something.”
Uecker will have surgery Friday morning to replace his aortic valve and remove a portion of his enlarged aorta. His doctor described the procedures as “a commonly done operation,” but it could sideline the 75-year-old Uecker for up to three months.
He will have plenty of people around baseball pulling for a speedy recovery.
“I’ve been talking with Bob regularly and knew this was coming but I’m just as worried as everybody else is,” said Braves broadcaster Jim Powell, Uecker’s on-air partner from 1996-2008. “I know this: ‘Ueck’ has overcome big hurdles his whole life and I fully expect this to be just another one he clears. My guess is that he will use the experience as a source of a lot more trademark laughs after he’s recovered.
“All the swimming he’s done over the years will come in handy in getting his body through this ordeal. Froedtert is a great hospital and he could not be in better hands. I’ll be among the legions who are praying for him before, during, and after the surgery. I expect my friend to be back in the booth calling games sooner than you think! I’ll be looking forward to going to see him in a couple of weeks when the Braves come to Milwaukee.”
Here are some more well-wishes from around the game to right here in Milwaukee:
Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who notched his 300th win in Milwaukee: “I just think he’s one of the true characters of the game. If I’m driving somewhere and the Rangers aren’t on, I’ll turn on his broadcasts and listen to him because I enjoy him. He looks at the game a little different than other people.”
Former Brewer CC Sabathia: “My thoughts and prayers go out to him. I was only there for a couple of months, but every time he was around, he was real talkative — just a funny guy. I can remember he was always talking about fishing and how he loved to do it on his days off. He’s cool. He’s a good dude.”
Former Brewer J.J. Hardy: “He’s kind of like a grandpa to me. He’s treated me that way and I guess you could kind of say we’re friends more than co-workers. But we have a pretty good relationship. It’s tough [hearing about his health issue]. He’s got that personality that everybody loves. He’s always telling stories, always telling jokes. Whenever he’s around you’re always laughing. He’s just a great guy. … He just has an impact on people any time they meet him, they remember it. It’s sad to hear about this. But the way he is, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Just like he says, he wants to be back out there the day after it happens.”
Pirates reliever Jack Taschner, a Racine native: “Games here weren’t on TV as much as they are now, so everybody listened to Uecker. I’d ride my bike to my grandfather’s house in Milwaukee and cut his lawn and he’d sit out on the deck listening to Bob Uecker. My other grandfather, I’d go to his house, and the game is on and we’re listening to Uecker. You have a lot of people in different parts of the country that talk about someone being a voice. But Uecker has been here from the beginning. He is the Brewers. Bernie Brewers’ thing — “Get up. Get up. Get outta here. Gone” — is Uecker’s home run call. Obviously, I hope the best for him. He is everything to baseball in Milwaukee. Bud Selig saved the team, but Bob Uecker is the voice.”
Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo, also of Racine: “I always listened to him a lot when driving home from games. He is just such a distinct voice. When you think of summers and baseball here, you hear that voice.”
Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum: “I’ve known Ueck since I was 19 years old. He’s a friend, a member of my family. It goes to show you that time flies and things like this happen. My prayers are with him, and hopefully things work out great.”
Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who grew up in the Milwaukee area: “We’re concerned. He’s just one of the guys, so every time you take someone out of that, you miss him. He swims every morning and I’m kind of an early riser, so from time to time on the road we’ll meet and have breakfast together. Just sitting with him and listening to him tell stories, that’s something everyone should experience.”
Counsell used to listen to Uecker on the radio, just like the rest of Wisconsin. Counsell was born in Indiana but grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay.
“My memories were listening to him, like a lot of people, on a summer night outside the house while we played baseball until it got dark,” Counsell said. “I remember listening to him in my front yard for sure.”
“It’s unfortunate, but he’s had a good spirit about it,” Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said. “No matter what, he’s always a happy person. He has a good aura about him. Whenever he’s around, it’s a good time.”
Counsell and every other Brewer said the same thing about Uecker on Tuesday: “He’s part of the team.”
“That’s the way they treat me,” Uecker said. “They’re concerned, I know they are. So am I.”