PxP: Bob Uecker
Color: Joe Block (as much secondary PxP as ‘color’)
Reviewer: Bill Johnson
Category: Play by Play
While Uecker is celebrated as a larger-than-the-booth personality, that in no way diminishes the quality of his PxP narration. Arguably in the same class as Scully, Miller, and Marty Brennaman at the top of the pyramid of active radio broadcasters, and filling a niche shaped in part by his earlier accomplishments as player, author, and humorist, Bob Uecker’s broadcast style is unaffected and informative. His unique cadence, vocal timbre, and diction accurately and entertainingly convey the essence of the game, and the listener never goes more than a few pitches without a gentle reminder of the situation – the score, the count, and baserunners – yet never in a way that feels like the announcer is merely following a checklist. Uecker’s playing experience allows him to understand the context of each on-field situation, and that in turn shapes his description of events.
Category: Color Commentary
Joe Block is as much a secondary PxP announcer as he is a traditional color analyst. Block and Uecker will, on occasion, interact on the air, but the normal profile is for either one or the other to manage the entire process. Block could be a #1 on a number of other networks, but his skill provides Uecker with in-game respite(s) at no cost to the listening audience.
Block gets high marks for his acumen and versatility. The closest analog to the relationship and role(s) of Uecker and Block is that of the Giants radio tandem of Ford Frick winner Jon Miller and his sidekick Dave Flemming. As with Flemming, Block moves seamlessly between augmenting Uecker’s descriptions when appropriate, and sliding easily into the PxP role when appropriate. This “color commentator versatility”, especially at Block’s caliber of professionalism, is quite rare across the radio airwaves.
Category: Broadcast Team Commentary
While Uecker will go “deadpan” when the opposition performs well, at the Brewers’ expense, both announcers tell the game’s story, add anecdotes, and toss to commercials with apparent ease. A Brewers’ broadcast is almost a throwback to the days of baseball when radio was the primary vehicle for sharing the action. Both announcers are also comfortable with brief periods of dead air, and do not feel compelled to continually insert words into a situation simply to speak. Additionally, and refreshingly, neither announcer tries to show an undue familiarity with the players by referring to them by respective first names (e.g., referring to “Peralta” or “the pitcher”, rather than “Wily”) or by diminishing the names by adding a “y” (never “Braun-y”, just “Braun”). This maturity gives each announcer instant credibility among the audience.
Category: Charisma and Chemistry
Because there is relatively little two-person interaction, there should not be a great deal of chemistry required in the broadcast. Because the primary PxP is a 2003 Ford Frick honoree in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and has a long history of making people smile, charisma oozes over the airwaves. Block is relatively straightforward in his announcing style, as is Uecker most of the time, but it is impossible to listen for long before discerning that the latter is inserting his dry wit into the normal narrative. Once the listener becomes aware, and begins to listen more closely, he is rewarded with an entirely different level of baseball entertainment.
Uecker and Block are both intelligent and articulate announcers, and their analysis never strays too far into the realm of speculation and assumption. Uecker has the added advantage of a long playing career, but he is sensitive to the parts of the game in which listeners might not be as well versed as he is, and he is quite talented at succinctly summarizing the nuances that might escape the general audience. Only rarely do excessive or inappropriate statistics and trivia find their way into the discussion, perhaps because there is normally only one announcer speaking and no need for air-filling dialogue. Regardless, the infrequent use of numbers gives them added weight when they are actually used to illustrate particular points.
Category: Production Values
There is almost nothing in the broadcast that distinguishes the production quality of a Brewers broadcast from that of any other major league organization. The sole, and vital, discriminator is that the broadcast surrounds and supports Uecker like an easy chair, and allows him to perform his function extraordinarily well.
Category: Commercialism and Cutaways
The commercial aspect of a baseball broadcast can never be ignored, and the Brewers do not. They do not, though, force commercial drops into game action, instead keeping them for either sponsored breaks or normal, mid-inning spots. On balance, there is nothing notable in the use of commercials in the Brewers’ broadcasts.
Bob Uecker is “The Voice” of the Brewers in the same sense that Harwell was The Voice of the Tigers and Scully is The Voice of the Dodgers. Listening to WTMJ and Uecker is both a joy and a privilege. The Brewers radio broadcast is appropriately simple, conveys the game action with the right amount of analysis, and leaves the listener smiling regardless of the final score.
About the author:
Bill Johnson has been a member of SABR since 1994, and has contributed over 20 biographies to the BioProject. He is a consultant with the Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this evaluation are solely those of the author. As such, the views expressed by the author should not be interpreted as representing the opinions of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), its board, or anyone otherwise affiliated with SABR. Likewise, the conclusions included in these evaluations are not to be viewed or interpreted as official endorsements (or lack thereof) by SABR, or of anyone affiliated with SABR, of any particular broadcasters or broadcast organizations.