What an Honor! : After the Commercial, Bob Uecker Even Has a Section of Bad Seats Named After Him
Go ahead, the next time you’re at the ballpark, as the usher leads the way down the aisle, tell somebody loudly that your seats “must be in the front row.”
Heads will turn, those sitting nearby will nod knowingly, and smiles will almost certainly spread throughout those within earshot.
Not since Yogi Berra coined, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” has baseball had a saying so easily recognized, so universally appreciated.
This utterance, born in a beer commercial, has made a cult hero out of its owner--the ever-bungling, always seemingly lost Bob Uecker (whose seats end up, not in the front row but in the farthest-reaching upper deck).
His following awaits him wherever he goes as the play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers. It awoke most recently in the Kingdome at Seattle.
“They put people up in the worst section of the stadium . . . they’ll have Bob Uecker seats . . . in the farthest reaches of the stadium, and the guys have banners, ‘Thanks for the great seats, Uek,’ ” Uecker said in a recent interview at Anaheim Stadium.
The seats may be one thing, but it’s the line that people remember.
“You can ask any of the ushers,” Uecker said. “Somebody will be in the wrong seats, not on purpose, of course, and they’ll say, ‘I must be in the front row,’ or ‘He missed the tag, he missed the tag.’ ”
Uecker’s popularity has mushroomed through the series of Lite beer commercials and has exploded into other national commercials.
And now the ubiquitous Uecker, who has made himself famous for what he didn’t do in baseball, will be on a weekly television show, “Mr. Belvedere.”
Uecker plays a sportswriter, husband and father of three, whose home is taken over by a live-in servant, Mr. Belvedere, played by Christopher Hewitt. Mr. Belvedere is brought into the household because Uecker’s wife, played by Ilene Graff, is studying to become a lawyer.
Seven episodes of the show ran last spring, and the ratings were good enough to warrant ABC to pick the show up for its fall schedule.
“It was fun, really fun,” Uecker said of his first exposure to episodic television. “I may not be the greatest in the world, but everyday I learned a little more. I’m not afraid to try anything. I’m not afraid to do anything; I’m not afraid to work.”
Uecker batted .200 and hit 14 homers in six seasons with four teams in 1962-67, and he may be the first actor to list his years in the major leagues as experience suitable for television.
“I think anybody who ever saw me play thought I was acting,” said Uecker, whose self-deprecating humor makes an easy target of his baseball career. “I don’t have to go out and lie, people know I wasn’t that good.”
But Uecker sees no need to take anything too seriously.
“What do you have to be serious about. When you’re dead you can be serious,” he deadpans. “That’s a time to really be serious. When they start throwing dirt on you . . . you can be lying in the box with it open, you ain’t gone yet. But when they start throwing dirt on you, that’s it.”
Uecker, who has made more than 80 appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” since 1969, said that nothing matches the exposure to be had from one of those beer commercials.
“It’s been tremendous, not only for myself but for every guy in the Lite program,” Uecker said. “I said this before, no matter how big you are as a player, once you’re out of the game, people will remember your name, but when you see yourself in prime-time sporting events all over the world and in prime-time movie slots at night . . . sometimes you see those spots three or four times a day.”