When I began this column, I promised profiles of major league broadcasters from time to time. Today, let me introduce you to Joe Block, (born John Joseph Block,) who broadcasts with Bob Uecker on Milwaukee Brewers games on WTMJ, AM 620 in Milwaukee.
Joe Block originally hails from Roseville, Michigan and graduated from Michigan State. His first baseball job, which neither his web site nor Wikipedia mentions, is a year with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League in 2000. That’s where he assisted Jim Lucas and myself as our broadcast intern. I saw a ton of potential in him, raw recruit though he was. I told him early on, “I’m going to give you as rough a ride as possible. I’ll show you what a major league ego can be like. If you survive, you could make the majors.”
Since I’m blind, this made it doubly easy for me to make Block’s life difficult. Jim let Joe handle a number of games with me. On the air, if Joe for example didn’t tell me where the runners ended up after an extra base hit, I would say on the air, “Where are the runners?” A sighted man could figure it out for himself and say it without throwing the play-by-play man under the bus. Joe particularly remembers one of those moments in Savannah, in his debut on the air. My favorite moment of acting like a major league moron came on the eve of the South Atlantic League All-Star game. Joe had recorded a tape of stats I would need for the game. I called him at 2 A.M. demanding he bring the tape at once. He knew, and I knew he knew that I wouldn’t play the tape until the next afternoon before the game, but he brought me the tape. I was waiting outside my apartment for him, somewhere around 2:15 AM. When he got out of his car and gave me the tape, he memorably said “This looks like a drug buy.” Between his tape of stats and research I was able to do on my newest acquisition-a computer-the All-Star game was my proudest moment with the RiverDogs.
Joe still had a long road to the majors including two stops in far-flung Montana. After a year in sunny Charleston, I can’t imagine him working in those snowy outposts, but he did it, which shows what a guy will do to get to the top. He worked with both the Great Falls Mustangs and Billings White Sox in Montana. He reached AA with the Jacksonville Suns.
Joe reached the big time in the NBA before finding a home in major league baseball. In the NBA he served as backup play-by-play man and full time studio host for the New Orleans Hornets. The studio host would have been unheard of in the ’70s or ’80s but is an increasing presence. While some teams like the Brewers and Yankees still don’t have one, most teams use one to host pregame, postgame and rain delay features. Joe’s first job in major league baseball was in fact as studio host for the Dodgers in 2011, Don Mattingly’s first year as their skipper. This was a long step up after spending 2010 in Billings.
After a successful season in 2011, Joe took the risk of his life, making a more frightening move than facing a Nolan Ryan fastball without a batting helmet. He proposed to his girl friend Bethany. On that night his luck was in, and she said yes. A couple of months later though, news came that would rattle the foundations of most baseball relationships. KABC would not keep Joe Block for 2012. What next? Joe and Bethany would discover that his big break was around the corner, and back on his home ground, the midwest. He joined the Brewers for the 2012 season and broadcasts with them to this day. On occasions he is even the lead broadcaster, as Bob Uecker takes nights or even entire road trips off letting Joe have the reins. Bethany, a registered nurse by trade works in the city, and with their dog provides an essential anchor in life’s ocean for Joe. I was more proud than you can imagine when I heard Joe broadcasting for the Brewers in 2012. When Bob Uecker retires, Joe ought to be Milwaukee’s number 1 broadcaster. But that’s just as I see it.0