The funniest man in sports
Bob Uecker's Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech and WWE Hall of Fame speech are both absolute gems. He is a sports commentary legend who is better at stand up comedy than most comedians.
Bob Uecker is now 91 years old. He’s broadcast play by play at Milwaukee Brewers games since 1971. Johnny Carson facetiously dubbed him ‘Mr Baseball’, because despite being part of the St Louis Cardinals s squad for the winning 1964 World Series (I highly recommend October 1964 by David Halberstom, one of the great sports books ever written) Uecker was never a star. He batted .200 for 14 career home runs over seven seasons. Much of his schtick revolves around how average a player he was. For example, he hit a home run off arguably baseball’s greatest ever pitcher, Sandy Koufax, and Uecker joked that he feared that home run would keep Koufax out of the Hall of Fame. Of course he was a much better player than he’d ever let on, but there’s no comedy in being a perfectly adequate but unspectacular roster player for four franchises over six seasons (1962-67). Here’s how Uecker would rather tell it (from WWE Hall of Fame speech):
People say, ‘You can talk the way you do because you were always a great ballplayer.’ Well, I wasn’t. Signed for a very modest $3000 bonus with the Braves, which aggravated my old man because he didn’t have that kind of money to put out. But the Braves took it. And from there, I went on … I was with the Braves twice actually. They didn’t believe I was as bad the first time … and the second time I proved it. I went to St Louis Cardinals where I won a World Championship for them,1964.[cheer] Showed up for every game, which I think showed great team spirit. And those I didn’t show up for I always tried to catch on the radio.
Bing Devine was the general manager of the Cardinals at that time. He asked me to do him a favor that would really help the club. I said, ‘Sure, I’m a team guy.’ He said, ‘We want to inject you with hepatitis. That will allow us to call somebody up to take your spot.’ I said, ‘Can I sit on the bench?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’ll put a plastic thing around you. Maybe you can go over and shake hands with some of the Yankee players and infect them?’ We went on to win the World Championship that year.
His comic gifts have made him an icon in Milwaulkee. He was also picked up as a commentator by professional wrestling, where his wit and storytelling talents were right at home. I have him inked in as my dream guest on the Speakola podcast, but so far, no luck.
His WWE Hall of Fame speech was 13 years ago today. It’s magnificent that Uecker is still calling baseball games. His induction speech into Baseball’s Hall of Fame is arguably even funnier. It is just stand up comedy. In the sometimes ridiculous world of professional sport, where humour is either absent or ham fistedly delivered, Uecker spins divine lies, beautiful tall stories, and they’re just wonderful. Here’s how he began his Cooperstown speech in July 2003. It isn’t just the best ever start to a sports speech. It’s the best ever start to any ‘lifetime achievement speech. ‘Oleo margarine run’ — impossibly good!
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