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Uecker gets prime seat

Bob Uecker finally made it to the front row _ in Cooperstown.

The longtime Brewers announcer was chosen Thursday for induction into the broadcasters wing at the Hall of Fame. He parlayed humor about his career as a backup catcher into popularity far beyond baseball.

"When I got the call this morning, the first thing I thought was, "Am I going to be in the regular ceremony or are they going to do something in December?' " Uecker said.

He'll be at the big one, all right, to get the Ford C. Frick Award. He'll join former players Eddie Murray and Gary Carter and Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy for the festivities in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 27.

Not bad for someone who hit .200 with 14 home runs and 74 RBIs in six seasons and was on the 1964 St. Louis team that won the World Series. But it was his humor that zoomed him to prominence, and he turned his jokes into roles on television and in movies.

His line _ "Must be in the front row!" _ in a beer commercial in which he gets shunted from the box seats to the bleachers became a national catch phrase.

At Miller Park, the Brewers sell "Uecker Seats" _ high in the upper deck and obstructed _ for $1.

His wry description on a wayward pitch _ "Juuuust a bit outside!" _ in the movie Major League still is often repeated by announcers and fans.

Uecker, 68, joined the Brewers in 1971, when current commissioner Bud Selig owned the team. Selig wanted him to work for the Brewers, but didn't have an opening for an announcer.

"So I hired him as a scout," Selig said Thursday. "We sent him up to the Northern League and the next thing I know (general manager) Frank Lane comes raging into my office, asking what kind of scout I'd hired. I wasn't sure what he meant, and then he threw down Bob's scouting report. It was covered with mashed potatoes and gravy."

Despite his reputation as funnyman, enhanced by a top role in the TV show Mr. Belvedere and about 100 appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, Uecker is much different on the radio.

His broadcasts rarely include the stand-up humor that has made him a favorite on the banquet circuit, and he's known for being self-effacing.

"When I sit down to work, I'm doing a straight broadcast. Fans don't want to hear some guy telling jokes and getting in the way of a game," he said.

Uecker made it to the majors in 1962 with the Milwaukee Braves and batted .250 in 64 at-bats. He would never hit higher than that in any season, and he later played for St. Louis, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

"Career highlights? I had two," he joked. "I got an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax and I got out of a rundown against the Mets."

The Frick Award, named for the former broadcaster who became commissioner, was picked by a seven-member panel of announcers: Bob Costas, Joe Garagiola, Curt Gowdy, Ernie Harwell, Joe Morgan, Vin Scully and Curt Smith.

"I think that people who only knew him primarily from the Tonight Show appearances, or the Miller Lite commercials or Mr. Belvedere couldn't realize what a good broadcaster he is and what an institution he has been in Milwaukee for 30 years," Costas said.