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Uecker Doing What He Does Best in New Show--Having Fun

November 06, 1987|Larry Stewart

Coming to television next year, probably in January, will be the "All New Bob Uecker Sports Show," a spinoff of "Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports."

Uecker was in the San Diego area last week to tape 12 segments at a bar in Pacific Beach. Uecker and his guests, such athletes as Brian Bosworth, Carl Lewis, Johnny Bench, Steve Sax and Terry Forster, drew packed houses on four successive nights.

Robin Taylor, 23, of El Cajon showed up one night to get Bench to sign the scrapbook she has been keeping on him since she was a catcher on her fifth-grade softball team and her friends called her Johnny Bench. But Uecker, baseball's most famous .200 hitter, was the big draw.

On cue, the crowd each night would yell, "Ueck, Ueck, Ueck," during the four-plus hours of taping.

And Uecker each night after the taping would stick around and shake hands, sign autographs and chat with his fans.

"You know why they like me?" Uecker asked a reporter during a ride back to La Costa, where Uecker was staying. "I'm one of them. I'm just an ordinary guy looking to have a good time."

That is what Bob Uecker is all about. His Miller Lite beer commercials and, more recently, a major role in a TV sitcom, have made him rich and famous, but get him away from the crowds and you'd never know it.

Home is still Menomonee Falls, Wis. He is still a radio announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers, a job that takes up much of his time but accounts for only a fraction of his total income, estimated to be around $2 million a year.

"I'll never give up announcing baseball," Uecker said.

He spends a lot of time in Los Angeles shooting the ABC sitcom, "Mr. Belvedere." But he hasn't bought a home here.

"I don't think I'll ever buy a house in Los Angeles," he said. "I'm not into the Beverly Hills scene."

What Uecker is into is enjoying life. "I haven't changed," he said. "When I'm home in the summertime, even after working a Brewer night game, I usually get up at 7 a.m. to go fishing."

A boat manufacturer gives Uecker the use of a 34-foot fishing boat. "I spend a lot of time on Lake Michigan," he said.

Uecker was asked, "If you had a choice, would you rather have been a .300 hitter, a bona fide baseball star, or . . . "

"I'd take this, in a second," he said, anticipating the rest of the question.

"There are a lot of baseball stars, and, hey, how long do baseball careers last, anyway? I'm having a great time."

Added Uecker: "You know, I wasn't such a bad player. One year in the minors I hit .319."

He'd better not spread it around. It might ruin his career.

Joe Torre, the Angels' television commentator who was Uecker's teammate and roommate when both were with the Atlanta Braves in 1967, arrived at the bar to appear as a guest on one of the shows.

Uecker, during a break in the taping, went outside to greet Torre, giving him a hug.

Later, while the cameras were rolling, Uecker and Torre talked about the time Torre, the regular catcher, got hurt, forcing the Braves to use Uecker.

Said Torre: "Ueck told me I'd better get well fast because the more he played, the more his major league career was being jeopardized. He said he didn't want to be exposed. So, for my ol' buddy, I was back playing before I was ready."

It didn't do a lot of good, though. Uecker's six-year baseball career, during which he appeared in only 297 games, ended after the 1967 season.

During the ride back to La Costa, Uecker said: "You know why I do this show? Because it's fun. I've had a great time the past four days.

"I've seen some old friends like Joe and made some new ones like Bosworth.

"I haven't had any time off since the All-Star break. This was our first week off from 'Belvedere' since the baseball season ended, but I'd rather do this than take a vacation. I'm not the type who goes to Hawaii to lie on the beach for a week."

The show is not a big money-maker for Uecker. He does it for a small Philadelphia company, Steve Rotfeld Productions, which created Uecker's "Wacky World" show four years ago.

The new show, produced by Rotfeld and Rasha Drachkovitch, is a step up from the old one. Rotfeld said, ideally, he'd like to sell it as a late-night show instead of as a weekend afternoon show.

The bar scene works well for the show, which is livened up by a rock band from Rochester, N.Y., called Nik and the Nice Guys.

There is comedy, of course, but also some semi-serious sports talk. And there are production numbers. Tackle Henry Lawrence, who was waived by the Raiders Wednesday, may now be headed for a singing career. During one of the taping sessions, he does a fantastic rendition of Otis Redding's "Dock on the Bay."

During other sessions, Sax shows off his talents on the drums, and ESPN boxing commentator Al Bernstein sings a few of his own songs.

But what makes the show special is its host, Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker. Just an ordinary guy having fun.

Basketball commentator Dick Vitale, among Uecker's guests in San Diego for the tapings, had a scare last summer.

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