Revisiting Bob Uecker’s best (and worst) onscreen appearances
Our weekly search of Ueck’s IMDB page turns up surprising news.
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Robert George “Bob” Uecker is nothing short of a national treasure. The backup backstop’s brief and forgettable catching career has been utterly eclipsed by the triple crown of humor, wit, and self-deprecation he’s treated baseball fans to since 1971. It’s only natural that Uecker’s iconic voice and incomparable personality would transcend the baseball diamond and cross over into other realms of entertainment. In addition to his Hall Of Fame-caliber work calling Brewers games, the pride of Milwaukee regularly appeared on the The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson (who gave Uecker his “Mr. Baseball” moniker), wrote two books, was brought on to contribute color commentary to World Series games, and was rightfully cast beside Rodney Dangerfield in Miller Lite commercials.
Of course, Uecker’s wide-ranging fame also earned him some choice parts in films, not to mention recurring roles and memorable cameos on beloved TV shows. But save for a brief Futurama voiceover cameo and the occasional appearance in charmingly terrible local ads, Ueck’s reel has been a bit light since the late ’90s.
Fortunately, our weekly search of Uecker’s IMDB page recently yielded a new result. Evidently, the beloved broadcaster is set to appear in a low-budget motion picture called The Engagement Ring. Directed by Gary T. Smith—whose past credits include a series of mid-’90s religious television programs and The Breakfast Club TV series—and co-starring monotone Clear Eyes pitchman Ben Stein and the dude who Happy Gilmore shot in the head with a nail gun in Happy Gilmore, this $1.2M (potentially God-based) flick is likely to be a stinker. But if anyone can save a doomed movie, it’s Bob Uecker. Occasionally.
While we wait for The Engagement Ring to come out (whatever route is quicker than straight to video), The A.V. Club takes a look back at some of Mr. Baseball’s best and worst onscreen appearances.
Mr. Belvedere (1985-90)
Uecker appeared in all but three of the successful series’ six-season, 117-episode run. Co-starring as dad George Owens, who was (get this) a sportscaster, Uecker’s character and the celebrated sitcom’s titular English butler didn’t always get along. Yet they always managed to patch things up within 24 minutes.
WWF WrestleMania III and IV (1987-88)
Recognizing his appeal in one sport, WWF (the former professional wrestling federation, not the save-the-pandas charity) sought to expand Uecker’s coverage to (sort of) another sport. In the heyday of the scripted sport, Mr. Baseball moonlighted as Mr. Wrestling for two WrestleMania events. Few of his bits were groundbreaking, but his ability to act as if Andre The Giant knew how to act really showed his range as an actor. He was inducted into (the re-named) WWE Hall Of Fame in 2010, enshrined alongside such great wrestling figures as Pete Rose, Drew Carey, and Donald Trump.
Major League (1989)
Bob Uecker was born to play Cleveland Indians radio announcer Harry Doyle. That’s probably because Doyle essentially is an exaggerated and R-rated version of Uecker, and the type of person many imagine the Brewers announcer is off the air in real life. Major League is heralded as one of the greatest sports movies ever made, and Uecker’s eternally quotable—“We don’t know where Hayes played last year, but I’m sure he did a hell of a job!”—and whiskey-swilling ways are the primary reasons the film is a classic.
Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco (1996)
After playing a dad who was a sportscaster, briefly serving as a wrestling announcer, and portraying a disgruntled color commentator for a perennially losing team (that wasn’t the Brewers this time), Uecker decided to go out on a limb and take his acting to new places. That’s right—the role of dog baseball broadcaster.
Portraying no-nonsense German shepherd Trixie Uecker, he, “Sparky Michaels” (Al Michaels), and “Lucky Lasorda” (Tommy Lasorda) call a little league baseball game, until “Chance” (voiced by Michael J. Fox) interrupts the action, prompting Uecker to quip, “And let me tell you, it’s a sad day in the sport of baseball and all of canine kind when something like this happens.” Just awful stuff.
Major League II (1994) and Major League: Back To The Minors (1998)
Major League wasn’t the first film franchise to try to capitalize on the success of its first film by tacking on two more atrocious and unwanted installments. But few trilogies fell off as dramatically in their second and third attempts. Between trying to pass off Omar Epps as Willie Mayes Hayes in place of Wesley Snipes in Major League II, and thoughtlessly shifting focus to a Scott Bakula-managed Minnesota Twins minor league affiliate (for a film with the words “Major League” in its title) in the third, Uecker’s continued presence is about the only silver lining of these abominations.