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Players, fans excited about Uecker's return

Players, fans excited about Uecker's return

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers are struggling to get back into the NL Central race, but here's something for their fans to look forward to.

Bob Uecker, the Brewers' beloved radio voice for the last 40 seasons, is expected back behind the mic on Friday night when the team returns to Miller Park to host the Nationals. The 75-year-old has been on leave since undergoing heart surgery on April 30.

For now, there are no indications of how heavy a workload Uecker will carry for the rest of this year. He is expected to provide some details in a Friday afternoon news conference.

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His broadcast partner, Cory Provus, expects that when Uecker does call games, he will resume his regular routine.

"He'll have the [Brewers manager Ken] Macha show [during pregame programming], and he'll call six innings and I'll call three," Provus said. "I'm really excited about it. I think everybody should be. I'm looking forward to hearing the first 'Get up, get up, get out of here! Gone!'"

That's Uecker's signature home run call.

"I really think of Bob as being Milwaukee's third major league sports franchise," Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said. "His level of popularity really reaches that. The interest in his returning to the booth has equaled any significant move we've made, whether that's business or baseball. He is Brewers baseball, and we've had a huge hole in the booth without him.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be getting him back."

Uecker revealed his health issues with a touch of his trademark humor on April 27 and underwent surgery at Froedtert Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee three days later. Surgeons replaced Uecker's aortic valve and a portion of his aortic root and performed a coronary bypass on one vessel.

The ballclub, meanwhile, went on its first road trip without Uecker in 19 years. He also had surgery in 1991 to repair two abdominal aortic aneurysms and made a full recovery in about five weeks. Until this year, it was the longest Uecker had been away from baseball since his hometown Milwaukee Braves signed him in 1956.

When he underwent his most recent surgery, doctors projected a 10-12 week recovery. The team noted in its announcement Wednesday that Uecker is indeed returning within that timeframe.

"We've missed him," said Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo. "He's a big deal for this team. He's always coming around the clubhouse, checking in with guys to see how things are going. It's good to hear that things are going well for him, and we're going to be glad to have him back."

Ditto for Provus, who handled pregame programming and play-by-play in Uecker's absence, with color analysis by Fox Sports Wisconsin's Davey Nelson. 

Nelson will continue to fill-in when needed for the rest of the season.

"It's going to be emotional [having Uecker back]," Provus said. "His absence has been a big deal to his fan base and to all of us. I'm thrilled he's coming back. I'm even more thrilled that he's healthy.

"He's coming back because he's healthy. It's not like he's coming back because he has to. That's vital. We all wanted Bob back, but we wanted to make sure Bob was healthy enough to come back. He's gotten the green light from everyone. That's the best thing."

A fixture on Milwaukee's airwaves for 40 years, Uecker was the recipient of the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 2003. He also gained national popularity with prominent roles in the movie "Major League" and the television show "Mr. Belvedere."

Uecker is an employee of the team, and he famously has a year-to-year contract via an arrangement set up with then-owner Bud Selig years ago and continued under current principal owner Mark Attanasio. Uecker has always resisted discussing retirement.

"I don't want to quit," Uecker said before his surgery. "I don't want to become a gibberish idiot on the air, either. I'll know when to quit. I'll know when to stop all the other activities. But, no, I don't feel like I can't work anymore. I look forward to coming to the park every day. That's the highlight of the day.

"I don't think I'm ready [to quit] until someone tells me to, Mark or someone. Then we'll probably have a scuffle."

He was kidding, of course.

Uecker knew his health issue was serious. That's why he planned to defer to the doctors regarding his return to the booth.

"When they think I'm ready to travel, I'm going to go," Uecker said. "And I'll keep going."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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