Bob Uecker called his 40th consecutive Brewers Opening Day game on Thursday and revealed that, if not for one fortuitous doctor’s visit, his streak would have ended at 39.
Uecker underwent major heart surgery last April to repair a leaking aortic valve, and his return was slowed by a staph infection. By October, Uecker was feeling well enough to accept an invitation to speak at a dinner in Florida, but before traveling, he went in for one last check-up. That’s when his doctor discovered that the infection had opened another leak in Uecker’s aorta. He immediately scheduled a second surgery.
“Had I not gone for that check-up, I would have died,” Uecker said. “No doubt. Oh, no doubt. They found that hole where the staph infection had settled in and ate a hole in the new valve they put in. It was pumping blood out of my heart chamber.”
The second surgery was difficult, but deemed a success, and Uecker returned to a normal broadcast schedule in Spring Training. He’s scheduled to call all 162 games in 2011 with broadcast partner Cory Provus.
“I don’t know if I’m back to normal,” Uecker said. “My chest is a little sore yet, where they break you open. once was OK, twice is a little harder. Other than that, I feel good. … I feel stronger. I’m back swimming again [one mile per day]. I love doing that. I felt strong this spring, working-wise.”
After dropping 24 pounds last season, Uecker is back to an Opening Day weight of 190.
“That was my ‘sitting weight’ when I played,” he deadpanned.
That sense of humor never suffered during Uecker’s trying 2010. He’ll put it to work on the Brewers Radio Network this season, just like he’s done every season since stepping into the booth midway through the 1971 season. He’s done every Opening Day game since, and calculated that Thursday marked his 56th Major League opening day if you count his days as a player.
“Fifty-six years,” he said wistfully, “and I’m still not in the lineup.”
— Adam McCalvy