Though he has sometimes joked that he was born on an oleo run to Illinois, Uecker was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up watching the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers at Borchert Field. He signed a professional contract with his hometown Milwaukee Braves in 1956 and made his major league debut as a catcher with the club in 1962. A below-average hitter, he finished with a career batting average of .200. He was generally a sound defensive player and committed very few errors in his Major League career as a catcher, completing his career with a fielding percentage of .981. However, in 1967, despite playing only 59 games, he led the league in passed balls and is still on the top 10 list for most passed balls in a season. At least a partial explanation is that he spent a good deal of the season catching knuckleballerPhil Niekro. He often joked that the best way to catch a knuckleball was to wait until it stopped rolling and pick it up. Uecker also played for the St. Louis Cardinals (and was a member of the 1964 World Champion club) and Philadelphia Phillies before returning to the Braves, who had by then moved to Atlanta. His six-year major league career concluded in 1967.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Uecker's career was when he hit a home run off of future Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax. Uecker has joked that he always thought that home run would keep Koufax from getting into the Hall of Fame.
After retiring as a player, Uecker returned to Milwaukee. In 1971, he began calling play-by-play for the Milwaukee Brewers' radio broadcasts, a position he holds to this day. For several years he also served as a color commentator for network television broadcasts of Major League Baseball, helping call games for ABC in the 1970s and NBC in the 1990s. During that time, he was a commentator for several League Championship Series and World Series.
Uecker teams with Joe Block to call games on WTMJ in Milwaukee and the Brewers Radio Network throughout Wisconsin. Uecker is well known for saying his catchphrase "Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!" when a Brewers player hits a home run.
Uecker's typical home run call.
Sports expertise outside of baseball
Uecker's sports expertise extends beyond baseball. He hosted two syndicated television shows, Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports and Bob Uecker's War of the Stars. The former has since become known as The Lighter Side of Sports (albeit with a different host, Mike Golic) and remains one of the longest-running syndicated sports programs in American television history.
Uecker also appeared in a series of commercials for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League in the mid-1990s, including one in which he re-designed the team's uniforms to feature a garish plaid reminiscent of the loud sports coats synonymous with Uecker in the 1970s and 1980s. In February 2006, the Admirals commemorated those commercials with a special event in which the players wore the plaid jerseys during a game. The jerseys were then auctioned off to benefit charity.
In March 1987, Uecker appeared at World Wrestling Federation's (now known as WWE) WrestleMania III in Pontiac, Michigan, as the ring announcer for the pay-per-view's main event of Hulk Hogan versus André the Giant. He returned in 1988 at WrestleMania IV as both a ringside announcer and backstage interviewer. One famous WrestleMania segment saw André the Giant choking Uecker. His introduction of Andre from WrestleMania III can be heard in WWE's signature introduction during each of the organization's television broadcasts and home video releases.
Known for his humor, particularly about his undistinguished playing career, Uecker actually became much better known after he retired from playing. He made some 100 guest appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, and appeared in a number of humorous commercials, most notably for Miller Lite beer, as one of the "Miller Lite All-Stars". During one Tonight Show appearance Carson asked him what the biggest thrill of his professional baseball career was. With his typical dry wit Uecker replied, "Watching a fan fall out of the upper deck in Philadelphia."
Uecker authored two books, an autobiography entitled Catcher in the Wry, and Catch 222.
On April 27, 2010, Uecker announced that he was going to miss 10–12 weeks of the 2010 baseball season because of heart surgery. His aortic valve and a portion of his aortic root were successfully replaced four days later, and he returned to broadcasting for the Brewers on July 23. On October 14, 2010, the Brewers announced Uecker would again undergo heart surgery, this time to repair a tear at the site of his valve replacement.
Uecker was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2003, he received the Ford C. Frick Award, bestowed annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball". His humorous and self-deprecating speech was a highlight of the ceremony.
In 2005, Uecker's 50th year in professional baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers placed a number 50 in his honor in their "Ring of Honor", near the retired numbers of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Four years later, on May 12, 2009, Uecker's name was also added to the Braves Wall of Honor inside Miller Park.
Uecker was inducted into the Celebrity Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010, honored for his appearances at Wrestlemania III and Wrestlemania IV.
Uecker appeared in a series of Miller Lite commercials. In one commercial from the 1980s, Uecker was seen preparing to watch a baseball game when an usher informs him he is in the wrong seat. Uecker pompously remarks, "I must be in the front row," which became another of his catchphrases. The punch line was that Uecker's seat was actually in the nosebleed section. Since then, the farthest seats from the action in arenas and stadiums have been called "Uecker seats". There is a section of $1 seating called the "Uecker seats" at Miller Park, which is an obstructed-view area in the deep upper grandstand above home plate where the stadium's roof pivot comes together (in reference to one of his Miller Lite commercials). Another of Uecker's catchphrases from the aforementioned Miller Lite 'front row' commercial is, "He missed the tag!"
Uecker portrayed Harry Doyle, the broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians, in the Major League film trilogy. In the movies, Uecker's character is known for his witticisms and his tendency to become intoxicated from drinking during losing games. In the first film he also coins another popular sports phrase "Juuust a bit outside", to downplay an extremely bad wild pitch from Ricky Vaughn, thrown well off-course of the batting area. Uecker received the role not because of his broadcasting history with the Brewers but because of his popular Miller Lite commercials.