Even heart surgery can't dampen Uecker's mood

Even heart surgery can't dampen Uecker's mood

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Bob Uecker did his best to make light of the situation. But his voice and the presence of a group Milwaukee Brewers players crowding around the door of the media room at Miller Park were signs that this was no laughing matter.

Uecker, the Hall of Fame broadcaster and the voice of the Brewers for 40 years, announced Tuesday that he would be undergoing heart surgery that would force him to miss 10-12 weeks.

Uecker, 75, will have the surgery Friday morning at Froedtert Hospital to replace the aortic valve in his heart and repair his enlarged aortic root.

Serious stuff. But having made his fortune by making people laugh, Uecker couldn't help himself when he opened his hastily arranged news conference.

"I have been added to the active roster," Uecker announced in his characteristic deadpan style.

He quickly turned serious, revealing that his doctors had discovered a heart murmur last September and had been monitoring it since. His most recent tests showed that things had gotten worse.

"He's at the point where something needs to be done," said Dr. Jim Kleczka of Froedtert Hospital, who sat alongside Uecker at the news conference. "I'm afraid he would have problems in terms of this thing potentially rupturing before the end of the season."

Uecker underwent heart surgery in 1991 to repair two aortic aneurysms. He returned to work in five weeks, an experience that helped him maintain an optimistic attitude in advance of this surgery.

"It's something that has to be done," Uecker said. "And I'm ready to do it."

Kleczka said the surgery has a high rate of success and that he fully anticipates that Uecker should be able to return to the broadcast booth before the end of the season.

"I don't know if I'd call any heart surgery routine," Kleczka said. "But it's a commonly done operation. I've had patients who are feeling great just a few weeks afterwards, which is why I warned him that he can't go out and start doing a bunch of crazy stuff until we clear him."

Uecker was clearly touched by the presence of Brewers players Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Trevor Hoffman, Casey McGehee, Jim Edmonds and Craig Counsell, along with manager Ken Macha and numerous team staff members at the announcement.

"I'm a part of the club too," said Uecker, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the scoreboard video screen during the fifth inning.

"I've been here forever. When I walk in the clubhouse, I'm like one of them. That's the way they treat me. They're concerned, I know they are. So am I. They're more than friends, they're guys you live with."

No one around the team has lived with Uecker any longer than Counsell, the Milwaukee native who grew up listening to Uecker on the radio.

"I grew up listening to him," said Counsell. "I spent a lot of summer nights throwing the ball around and listening to Bob Uecker. From a fan's perspective he's really part of your summer. It's like a friend being gone and you're going to miss him and you're concerned, obviously.

"From a player's standpoint, he's one of us and he knows that. We talk every day. He tells stories and we laugh. He's one of us. When something happens, we're concerned and we're going to miss him. There's going to be a void when he's not here."

Former Brewers coach Davey Nelson, who works with the team's television crew, will fill in for Uecker on the team's upcoming road trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and Phoenix. His fill-in alongside Cory Provus for the remainder of his absence will be determined later.

Uecker, however, left no doubt that he intends to return to his job.

"I'm looking forward to getting it done and getting back to work," he said. "I've been in baseball 55 years. This is all I know, or want to know, for that matter.

"I don't ever want to quit. I don't want to become a jibberish idiot on the air, either. I'll know when to quit."

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Related to this story

In a statement released Friday, Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker's surgeon said he replaced the 75-year-old broadcaster's aortic valve, aortic root and part of his ascending aorta. Dr. Alfred Nicolisi also performed a coronary bypass during the six-hour operation.

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