Gallagher spills it all in his Dundurn memoir
Gallagher spills it all in his Dundurn memoir

John Gallagher Makes His Pitch...At The Ball Game

What a thrill it is to see Cooperstown, NY, all resplendent in Expos red, white and blue for Tim Raines induction ceremony.

I lived at Parc Jarry during the '70s. Fifty Cent's to get in from the "bank of Montreal young Expos club?"

Cha! I absolutely adored the Expos.

Luv the shot of the 1982 All-Star game in Montreal.

Best unies in MLB history. Three Hall of Famer's in that pic. I wonder how they didn't win 3 or 4 World Series in a row.

Sniff . Oh, wait, I know.

Because Tim and most of his teammates snorted enough cocaine to kill a small village. Either way, Congrats Rock. Oh, and speaking of the 82 All-Star game… Adult supervision required for this next bit from my upcoming book.

The following story actually happened. It really did.

The ABC Monday Night Baseball crew was broadcasting the game. Al Michaels, Don Drysdale, and Howard Cosell, with their bright yellow sports jackets, were hard to miss, and impossible to get to for interviews. But there, leaning up on against the tarp minding his own business at Olympic Stadium was “Mr. Baseball” Bob Uecker.

Bob was and still is one of, if not, the most humorous and entertaining men in the business. And, because the doors hadn’t opened to the public, and it was just the players, the media, he was all by himself taking it all in.

Bob had yet to score it big as Harry Doyle in the Major League movie franchise and (unfortunately) on the sitcom Mr. Belvedere, but his Miller Lite ads (I must be in the front row) and multiple appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show made him an easy and approachable subject for an aspiring radio announcer from Halifax.

I just hoped he’d say yes.

“Got a second Mr. Uecker ?”

“Sure kid” he responded as he read the call letters on my microphone flag, “C100 and CJCH…”Where’s that, kid ?”

“Halifax, Nova Scotia, off the air” I said. Then a long pause ….”Nevvvvverr FUCKING heard of it .“ Classic. Every other word was ‘fuck ‘ this and ‘fuck’ that. I would see and hear later that he was notorious for his foul (language off) air.

Anyone who’s ever seen Ottawa born comedian and former SNL cast member Norm McDonald on David Letterman telling his Uecker stories can attest to that.

When he found out I was originally from Montreal, all he wanted to talk about were the city’s famous strip clubs.

“How about the fucking tits on the French chicks at Chez Paris, eh kid?” On and on he went, and it was hilarious. But he was a pro, so when I hit the record button on my tape recorder, he was all business. The interview started as a garden variety “one on one” but I soon realized this was not going to be your average ‘friendly banter.'

This was Bob Uecker in pre-game mode. It was like he was just getting warmed up in the bullpen getting ready for the big mid-summer classic on national TV. And, he warmed up to the cub reporter from out east for some reason.

Lucky me!

The man was a gem. I didn’t even have to set him up. He just launched into his routine. The stories? The quotes? "Career highlights?” he asked.“

I had two. I got an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax, and I got out of a rundown against the Mets “BING (but) I didn't get a lot of awards as a player.

But they did have a Bob Uecker Day Off for me once, in Philly."BANG !" I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for three-thousand dollars. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn't have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up.

"BOOM! "One time, I got pulled over at four a.m. I was fined seventy-five dollars for being intoxicated and four-hundred for being with the Phillies." AND BINGO WAS HIS NAME!

It was like he was on the Tonight Show only with a different Johnny. Just then, it happened. Here comes the payoff pitch. In the middle of the interview, the all-star game umpires, Doug Harvey and Marty Springstead, as is custom, were sizing up Olympic Stadium for the managers of the National and American Leagues. The basic stuff: the field dimensions, where the foul areas are and how many feet down the lines to the outfield wall. That type of thing.

Now, these were no ordinary all-star game managers, and neither were the two honourary captains of each team that tagged along.

So here come, (think Regis Philbin) are you ready for this, Tommy Lasorda of the L.A. Dodgers, from the defending NL champs, along with Brooklyn’s “Duke of Flatbush” Duke Snyder of the National League and Billy Martin from the defending A.L. champs, and Yogi Berra of the A.L.’s New York Yankees.

You couldn’t help but notice them as they walked by Bob and me, but “Uek” being “Uek,” he decides to stir the pot a little bit. A lot.

As they passed right by us, Uecker says to all of them, and this is all on tape mind you, “Look at these fucking clowns here…I bet you all fit into the same miniature fucking clown car on the way here. Where’s your fucking rainbow wigs and red plastic noses?”

My microphone went limp. I stood there in shock. But it got better. A lot better.

If you think for a second that any of these men – who, save for Springstead were all hall of famers – were going to take that flack from a career 200 hitter turned TV celebrity, you’re sorely mistaken.

Here they come, starting with battlin’ Billy Martin.

“What the fuck did you say to me ?”

Soon, all of them were taking shots at Uecker, all in jest mind you. Everybody loves the guy. You want to talk about banter? The air hovering above the 8 of us was getting pretty blue with the F-bomb, Mofos, and c&%*sucker remarks, but it was hilarious.

Ok, I thought to myself that there would be some serious editing back in the studio, but I’m not going to stop Billy, Tommy, Yogi, The Duke and two of the game’s best umpires from some good spirited pre all star game riffing. And hey, Uecker started it.

I’m standing there thinking that this is pure gold. I couldn’t ask for a better double foursome. It was just out and out luck. Why couldn’t this have happened to Howard Cosell who was standing 20 feet away or any of the hundred or so accredited media types with film crews and sound men?

Well, the umpires did have a job to do and after a few minutes whisked everybody away. But not before a couple of ‘fuck you’s’ to Uecker. And the strangest thing happened. Yogi Berra is shuffling off, and he turns back to me and asks, “where are you from, kid, I don’t recognize your station (again from the call letters on the mic flash)?” “

Halifax, Nova Scotia “ I said proudly, again. To which Yogi leans in and says “Nevvvvvvverrr heard of it.”

I guess that famous scene with Donald Sutherland who used the same line in the film M*A*S*H was a big hit with ballplayers because that was twice I heard it in less than 10 minutes.

 I thanked Bob for his time.

Heck, I should have knelt down and kissed his 1964 World Series ring. He had inadvertently set all of that up just with a few wisecracks. But, hey, as they say, timing is everything.

He gave me a wink and wished me good luck in my career.

Great day.

As is today.

And in the words of Pop music legend Frank Sinatra, "this could only happen to a guy like me," followed by another rock and roll king, Tim Curry who sang, "I do the ROCK, myself."

— John FK Gallagher on his Facebook page this week. His memoir, Big League Babble On :The Misadventures of a Rabble-Rousing Sportscaster and Why He Should Be Dead By Now, is to be published by Dundurn Press in November.

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