April 2010

Sounds of Silence

Sounds fill every day, hour, and minute of our lives.  Even as we drift to sleep, the world is never completely silent.  Many of these noises are identifiers; a siren signals trouble, a robin’s song is a sign of spring, and in Milwaukee, Bob Uecker’s voice means it’s baseball season.  

Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, a Milwaukee native, said it best, “He’s part of your summers in Milwaukee if you’re a baseball fan.”

It was Easter Sunday in 1987.  (April 19th to be exact.)  The Brewers were riding an 11 game winning streak to begin the season.  My family was in the car, on our way to my aunt’s house for the holiday, with the Brewers trailing the Rangers 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth.  Suddenly, the car was filled with a familiar sound, it was Bob Uecker’s signature home run call, “Get up, Get up, Get outta here, Gone!”.  A Rob Deer solo home run and a two run walk off homer by Dale Sveum later, the Brewers had number 12.

And I had a lasting memory based on voice, not vision.

Think back on the classic voices of the game, Scully, Harwell, Kalas, Caray, and Uecker; How many baseball fans directly link some of their fondest memories to the picture these voices painted?  It seems ironic how a voice has left so many indelible marks.

Dotting our childhoods were the faint harmony of balls and strikes that followed us into adulthood.  No matter what changed around us, the game, and it’s storytellers stayed the same.  A comforting constant in an ever changing world.

Which is why the next three months will feel so odd for me, and thousands of other Brewers fans.  Bob Uecker, the voice of the Brewers, will leave the team to have heart surgery on April 30th.  His absence will leave a void the size of Lake Michigan over the airwaves.

In my 30-plus years, I can not remember a summer without the guy everyone affectionately calls “Uke”.  And sadly, his time away from the game, is another sign that even baseball is subject to change.

In Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit the voices have already changed.  And unless Vin Scully decides to stay a little longer,  L.A. is the next city to retire a legend.  

A game that is rich in history is slowly turning the dial to a new future.

Thankfully, we’ll always hear the memories.