Uecker: Time to ‘kick back’ a bit

Bob Uecker just spoke in more detail about his decision to curtail his travel schedule in 2014.

It’s obvious that this is a bittersweet decision.

“Sooner or later, you have to bend a little bit,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not saying that I won’t work games down to the end of the season, and if indeed there’s the possibility of the playoffs or anything else, I’m going to do that. But now is the time for me to kind of take a few games off once in a while and enjoy myself — not that I don’t enjoy the games, because I always do. You guys know that. I’m at home at the ballpark as much as I am in my own house.

“But I had some hip surgery in November, and I’m regrouping from that yet. We’ve got Spring Training coming up a few weeks down the road, and I’m going to work the spring games and then go from there. It’s just a personal thing. This is my 59th year [in professional baseball] coming up, so that’s enough on an everyday basis. I know I’m going to miss it, each and every game. The games that I don’t do, I’ll certainly be listening to, and I’ll miss them. I know I will. You don’t do this stuff, especially in Milwaukee, for 44 years, and not miss it.

“[For all his years in broadcasting], I know every day where I’m supposed to be during the summertime. I know where I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to go, and that’s to the ballpark. That’s the part that you miss after a while. It’s OK for the first couple of times, but once in a while to miss a game, which I never do anyway … but like I said, I’m kind of looking forward to kicking back a little bit. Other guys do it.”

He mentioned the Dodgers’ Vin Scully and the Reds’ Marty Brennaman, each of whom have cut back their travel in recent years. Uecker said that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has urged Uecker in recent years to smell the roses a bit more.

But Uecker was firm: This decision is not being driven by any concerns about his health.

“It’s not health by any means — not that I know of anyways,” he said. “If it was, I would certainly say that, too. It’s more that it’s time. It’s time to enjoy the summer a little bit, other than doing a baseball game and traveling. [It's time] to hang around and do other things. I know I’m going to miss it. I know I’ll miss friends I have. That’s the thing that you don’t think of sometimes, the friendships you’ve made on the road in all those years. I’ll miss those people, too. That’s another hard part of getting off the road and not doing as many games. … I’m certainly looking forward to taking some time off, and I’m looking forward to the club having a good year, too.”

He wished aloud for better Brewers health in 2014, and spoke with excitement about the addition of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in club history. It was Uecker who teed up Attanasio during Brewers On Deck to make the Garza announcement.

Uecker could not say exactly how many games he would skip. He had a general conversation with Attanasio several weeks ago about it, and plans to sit down soon with officials from the Brewers and 620-AM WTMJ, the team’s flagship radio station.

“[Attanasio] told me to do whatever is right for me,” Uecker said. “The games that I’m going to miss would be probably the West Coast games, unless something happens down the road or there are big games coming up. I would do that. Other than that, I’m going to travel. Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. Hour flights or whatever. I’ll do those games. And always at Miller Park, for the most part.”

He joked that, for all these years, broadcasting “has interfered with my second job, which is driving the truck.”

Seriously, though, “I’m going to miss everything about baseball. I don’t care who it is, a broadcaster, a player, people who work in the front office — once you start on the other half of your journey, so to speak, everybody misses it. You can’t help but miss being around the ballpark if you’ve been around as long as I have.”

But here is an important point:

He is not even thinking of total retirement.

“I really haven’t looked that far ahead,” he said, before laughing and adding, “Although, you know, everybody goes. Down the road, you just do it, that’s all, until either you’re tired or you can’t talk anymore.

I’m not going to embarrass myself, I know that. But there comes a time when everybody has to go. I don’t want to be taking any ‘dirt bath’ now, but everybody, sooner or later, that’s part of living, is going the other way. To be able to continue going and do this at the big league level — man, it’s a great job. I’ve had a great job, not only with baseball, but with all the other stuff I’ve done. It’s all been a big kick for me. Now, everything is recorded and you can go back and look. So it’s not like you quit and you’re gone forever. … When the time comes to get out or leave permanently, I’ll do that, too.”

A highlight of the chat with Uecker came near the end, when Tom Haudricourt joked that Uecker might be taking time off because “Major League IV” is in the works.

The answer was a definite maybe.

“I’ll be honest with you, they’re talking about it,” Uecker said. “The story line is all set, too. They’ve already asked me if I would be in for ‘Major League IV,’ and I told them I would. I’ve talked to the directors. They’re talking about it and they’re pretty serious, but that’s all I can tell you, really. If there was more, I would tell you that, too. They have been talking about it for the last year-plus. As a matter of fact, they called me during the season last year and asked me if I would be in.”

These rumors circulated around Miller Park last summer, too. The story may or may not include Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen’s character) coming back to manage a team.

Whatever the story, Uecker thinks Major League IV would be a hit.

“Major League III stunk, so Major League IV I’m sure is going to be better than Major League III, which they sold to a different company,” he said. “That thing was on airplanes the day after we finished it.”

One last thing: Uecker is, indeed, 80 years old. His birth date has long been listed as Jan. 26, 1935, but that’s flat incorrect. He was born in 1934.

Uecker says he never paid attention, but in recent years when people would ask his age, he began to notice that most sources have it wrong.

“If I was going to cheat on my age, I would certainly make it more than one year,” Uecker said. “This just gets me into the Village at Manor Park sooner.”

First, he still has some baseball games to work. Just not all 162.

“Last year, I thought, ‘I’m coming up on 80 years old, and it’s not a bad idea to kick back and enjoy yourself a little bit and take some time off and catch a few extra fish and do the things I enjoy doing,’” Uecker said. “Like I said before, it’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get away from something you love and something you’ve done for so long.”

*

Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

 

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