Mike Bauman

Bauman: Uke a welcome ray of sunshine

Bauman: Uke a welcome ray of sunshine

MILWAUKEE -- These are tough times in Cream City.

Record rainfalls. Widespread flooding. Thousands of people with waterlogged basements. Many people whose homes are no longer livable. At a major East Side intersection, there's a 40-foot-by-20-foot sinkhole that swallowed an entire SUV. These are not the good old days for a city that prides itself on running quietly and efficiently, and likes to view its water principally in the form of Lake Michigan.

Looking for, you'll pardon the expression, a ray of sunshine on the local scene, one popped up on Friday. Bob Uecker, pretty much on cue, returned to the radio broadcasts of Milwaukee Brewers games.

Nearly three months after undergoing extensive heart surgery, "Uke," the voice of this franchise and in many ways the spirit of this franchise, is back on the job, at least part of the time.

Uke will not be going to your house to pump out your basement, but if you turn on the Brewers broadcast, he will say something that will make you either smile or laugh out loud. He will do that many times. It will not make all the moisture go away -- there was more rain forecast for early Saturday morning -- but for a few minutes, you will be given a chance to get outside that situation and have at least a chuckle.

"I'm ready to rock and roll," Uecker said on Friday during a news conference. "I feel good. It's just been a long haul."

Uecker marveled at the wonders of modern surgical procedure but did not go completely high-tech in his description of it. In explaining some of his replacement parts, he said, "They used pig stuff, whatever it is. They went to Usinger's and picked one out and put it in."

Usinger's, for you outlanders, is one of Milwaukee's most successful makers of sausage. Uecker appears in commercials for Usinger's. I believe he just appeared in another one.

Uecker will not be back at his post on a full-time basis just yet.

"I don't know how much I'm going to travel," he said. "The doctors don't really want me to travel. I'm going to pick the trips. Chicago, something close. San Francisco, I like that, I'll go there."

Again, there's always a one-liner waiting with each sentence from this fellow. But part of what Uke was saying in his return to Miller Park was a completely serious reminder of what he's about. In listing how he missed every person who populates the park and the friendships he had formed over the years, Uecker said:

"Every day that you can't go to the ballpark, it's terribly boring. It really is."

Uecker joked that he had been "renting people" to hang out with him during his enforced time away from baseball. But the deal is that Uecker legitimately loves every minute he spends at the ballpark. And when you listen to his broadcasts, his nonstop, wall-to-wall sense of humor lets every single listener in on that genuine enjoyment.

He's a National Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster to the rest of the baseball world, and that is as it should be. But in Wisconsin, on a nightly basis, Uke is a part of the family. For four decades he has been doing these broadcasts, and if his heart eventually required some repair, his work on the air has never gotten old.

Uke's welcome any time, but he's especially welcome now, when around town, smiles are in short supply.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.