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uecker

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The Coolest Guy in the Room – Bob Uecker gets his day…and he didn’t even have to pay admission.

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Trish Vignola

How did a backup catcher who batted .200 during a famously forgettable Major League career wind up immortalized with a bronze statue outside Miller Park?

Few know that Bob Uecker found fame as a Major League broadcaster because of he failed as a Major League scout. Former Brewers General Manager Frank Lane sent Uecker to grade prospects in the Northern League in 1970. When the first batch of reports returned to Lane unreadable, slathered in the remains of Uecker’s last meal, Lane demanded a change.

MLB Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig, the Brewers’ owner at the time remembered Uecker as “the worst scout in baseball history.”

Well.

Selig decided to move him to the broadcast booth in 1971. Because of that seemingly small decision at the time, saving the sanity of his GM, Selig set the wheels in motion. Today, Uecker was immortalized alongside two Hall of Famers and the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

For 42 amazing seasons of entertaining Brewers fans, the Brewers made Uecker a permanent fixture outside Miller Park on Friday afternoon. His seven-foot statue joined similar tributes to Selig, who brought the Brewers to Milwaukee as well as Hall of Fame players Henry Aaron and Robin Yount.

“The baseball announcer becomes a link to their fans,” Selig said. “You go to Harry Caray, or Bob Prince in Pittsburgh, Mel Allen in New York, Vin Scully is legendary, a classic…That’s Bob Uecker here.”

Don’t forget. Although Uecker was a slouch on the field, he was never a slouch in the booth. His knowledge of the game, as well as some pretty amazing comedy chops, put Uecker head and shoulders above his cohorts.

Some highlights of the ceremony as seen on MLB.com:

– Uecker, on why he stayed in Milwaukee all these years: “It was a parole thing.”

– Costas, on the statue’s company: “If you walk on the plaza and listen closely, you can hear Henry’s statue begging to be relocated to Lambeau [Field]. When word of this got out, pigeons all over the Midwest relocated to Milwaukee to pay their respects.”

– Yount, via video message, standing in front of the Colosseum in Rome: “He’s been around so long, I think he played here.”

– NBC executive Dick Ebersol: “One thing I want to set straight right now — Bob did not have to pay for the statue. I know that’s been going around.”

– Hall of Famer, Hank Aaron: “I want to go back to the time when we were playing in Atlanta, and I was in a semi slump. You were always in a slump.”

Contrary to the stories he told over the years, Uecker was actually a terrific high school baseball player. He signed with his hometown Braves in 1956. By 1962, he made it to the Majors as a 27-year-old backup catcher. Uecker was traded to the Cardinals in 1964, just in time to win his only World Series ring. Uecker went on to play for the Phillies and finally finished his career with Braves again, this time in Atlanta.

A talent scout for the Tonight Show discovered him at a nightclub owned by jazz trumpeter Al Hirt in 1969. It opened the door to more than 100 appearances with Carson. As a sports satirist myself, Bob Uecker just went from a second rate backup catcher to the coolest guy in the room.

Carson, people!

Uecker’s appearances on Carson were followed by his popular Miller Lite commercials, a starring role on the ABC sitcom “Mr. Belvedere” and of course…the Major League series of films. Let’s face it folks. Bob Uecker permanently skewed our view of the game… in the best way possible.

“One of the great privileges of my life, and of Bob’s life, was to really know Johnny Carson well,” said NBC executive Dick Ebersol. Ebersol was head of the network’s Late Night division at the time of Uecker’s debut. “And Johnny told me on more than one occasion, including about two months before he died, in a very raspy phone call [because] he had a form of emphysema … that Bob Uecker was the most original humorist he had ever known, that it all came from Bob’s gut, from Bob’s soul. He was not surrounded by an army of writers. He was, legitimately, in Johnny’s mind, the funniest man he ever knew.”

Wow.

Ebersol employed Uecker on a series of other shows, including three Wrestlemania broadcasts. Regardless of his success, Uecker never left his spot in the Brewers’ broadcast booth. Selig revealed that even the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner once tried to secretly lure Uecker away.

What?!

Other attendees included former Tonight Show band director Doc Severinsen, Hank Aaron’s wife, Billye, and Uecker’s cast mates from “Mr. Belvedere.” Former Braves teammates Joe Torre, Johnny Logan and Felix Mantilla attended as well as former Brewers – Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas. Nearly 20 current Brewers including Ryan Braun also broke their usual pregame routine to attend.

“We have a rich tradition in Milwaukee here, and we can’t celebrate it enough,” Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said. “Today is really a blessing, and really, one of the nicest days in my years of ownership.”

Uecker spoke after the big reveal of his statue, which depicts him standing casually with his hands in his pockets. After pulling the curtain away, Uecker turned to emcee Costas and asked, “What do you want me to do?” Costas replied, “What do you want to do?” Uecker responded in typical Uecker fashion… “I want to get my money back.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. If Uecker played today, none of us would have drafted him to our fantasy baseball teams. (Ok. Maybe I would have.) The point is we would all kill for his post-baseball career. Ok. Maybe I would.

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Drafting for Need

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Drafting for Need

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

 

So close, but so far away...

Congratulations!  You have reached that point in your draft where you have a full set of position players, several starting pitchers, and a couple of relievers.  That is great for you.  However, as the picture above suggests, you have not yet finished what you started.  You need to create some depth on your team.  So does pretty much everybody else in your league, though.  The last 6 or 7 rounds of a draft may consist of 10 different people each grabbing the guy ranked the highest by the experts at Full Spectrum Baseball (that is a shameless self-promotion right there, yep).  Of course, it is quite possible that more than a few of those team owners are simply ready to get out of the basement and outside into the sunlight thing that so many people are raving about these days.

Do not be that owner.  Stop for a moment and think.  Are you drafting the best player available just because he may or may not be the best player available?  More importantly, should you be drafting to fill needs in your team?  Maybe the needs are not immediately apparent, but it is your job to anticipate some of those needs anyway.  Good luck.

If you play in a league that allows you to keep bench players, then you pretty much ALWAYS need a second catcher.  If you pay close attention to when your primary catcher will be sitting out, then you can hopefully substitute that backup catcher for a game or two.  It would be an absolute shame to reach the end of the season with only 120 games played by your catcher.  Give serious thought to who you want backing up the top guy.

  • Jonathan Lucroy, John Buck, and Geovany Soto should all make the short list of 2nd catchers available in a 10 team draft.  All 3 topped the 50 rbi mark and have the potential to hit 15 hr or more a season.

What about anticipating need at first base?  Sure, a lot of those guys are like Prince Fielder and rarely take a day off.  That does not mean you should ignore first base as a position of need.  Personally, I usually opt to stack my “utility” positions with at least 1 guy who qualifies at first base.  Even the 2nd and 3rd tier at 1B can provide you with .775+ OPS and some run production.

  • Do not sleep on guys like Carlos Lee, Nick Swisher, and Howie Kendrick.  After Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Prince Fielder, there is still a substantial list of hot names to select from, and they will go fast.  Freddie Freeman, Eric Hosmer, Gaby Sanchez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Mark Teixeira will go quickly as well.  All is not necessarily lost, though.  Lee, Swisher, and Kendrick won’t necessarily last forever, but they aren’t the first names that come to mind, either.
  • If you have a really early pick in your draft, the “Miggy Switch Strategy” might be worth considering.  To employ the strategy, you draft Miguel Cabrera as a first basemen, knowing all along that he will be eligible at 3rd base very early on.  You then use a subsequent draft pick on a full time guy at first base.  Cabrera can cover when your guy at first is injured, or you may build some depth at the corner infield spots that allows you the luxury of making a big trade at some point during the season.

If your league makes use of a middle infield (MI) position, then there your draft could force you to look for guys outside the top 15 at both the SS and 2B positions.

A quick glance at the players available at third base should tell you that there is some reasonably good depth at the position.  Even so, team owners should keep in mind the reasons why so many players are ranked close together at the position.

  • Danny Valencia provides a bit of power, but he does so without providing much in the way of steals or OPS.
  • Chipper Jones was a top 15 guy at 3B last season, but his most recent injury puts him in the “do not draft this guy”  bucket.
  • Remember Chase Headley, because his numbers were a little low last year due to the fact he only played 113 games.  He still managed a respectable number of runs scored, rbi, steals, and OPS.  Headley can definitely fill the stat sheet, and he can play multiple positions.  If he qualifies at positions other than third base, then that is a potential bonus factor.

In need of a real bargain or steal for your 4th outfielder or “UTIL” position?  Cameron Maybin stole 40 bases last year.  Nick Markakis had a bit of an off year in which his production was well below his career average.  He managed only 73 rbi, but he has topped that mark 3 times in 5 years leading up to 2011.  Austin Jackson crossed the plate 90 times last season, even though he only hit .249 with a .317 OBP.  Both numbers are well below what he posted in his rookie season (2010), so he could also be a nice addition as a 4th outfielder.

While I will not argue the merits of having top tier players in as many positions as possible, I will also go on record stating that the extra production from unexpected sources is what makes fantasy baseball really interesting.  You do not earn credibility for drafting the obvious perennial Silver Slugger winner the same way you do by getting an extra 20 hr from a utility guy or 80 rbi from your backup middle infielder.

 

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