And this one belongs to Marty Brennaman.
Brennaman, the radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds for 44 years, is unplugging his microphone and walking out of the broadcast booth for the final time after the 2019 season.
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As they say, he ain’t nothing but the real thing — a real Radio Guy. Although given the opportunity many times, he refused to do games on television. And he refused to use the modern head-set microphones, preferring the old-style hand held mic.
The most amazing thing about Brennaman is that he was always been from the mold of what you see is what you get. And if you didn’t like it, don’t let the door hit your posterior on the way out.
Although small in stature, Brennaman was always the biggest man in the room. When he walked in, whether it be the expansive clubhouse or the smallish manager’s office, he drew the attention because he commanded it. It was his Type A personality, his earthy sense of humor, his deep radio voice, his always on the tip-of-his-tongue opinions.
Mostly, it was respect.
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An amazing thing about him, among many amazing things, is that he was employed by the Reds and paid by the Reds, but he pulled no punches on the air.
Most broadcasters paid by their teams are ‘homers,’ see-no-evil and speak-no-evil about the home nine.
The first time I met Brennaman was in the winter of 1973 at Suttmiller’s Restaurant in Dayton, part of the Reds Winter Caravan. They introduced Brennaman as the new voice of the Reds. I interviewed and asked him about his style. He said that of course he would be partial to the home team.
So in my story, I said he would be like most broadcasters, “A homer.” In a phrase Brennaman uses often, “He didn’t like that a little bit.” In pointed words the next time he saw me he said, “I ain’t never been a homer and I aint gonna be one now.”
And he stuck to it. He is not a homer. Not even close. He is always fair, but if he player messes up, Brennaman quickly points it out. No syrup on it, just a straight, “He messed that one up.”
While Brennaman’s game descriptions are spot-on and incisive, he also is a fun-loving guy. He and Jeff Brantley and Jim Day and whoever else is in the booth have a good time, a lot of inside gags and self-deprecation.
There was the time they turned the radio booth into a shrine to Elvis Presley. They had a large ceramic likeness of Elvis in the booth, until the day catcher Joe Oliver threw a baseball into the booth during batting practice and decapitated Elvis.
There was the time they turned to radio both into a shrine to professional wrestling. It survived until Brennaman had pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage in the booth and interviewed him on the air.
Owner Marge Schott stormed the booth and had Savage removed and the wrestling posters and trinkets removed.
The booth, though, was Brennaman’s domain. When Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Martinez, known to throw head-high fastballs, Brennaman called him a head-hunter when Martinez pitched for the Montreal Expos.
Expos General Manager Kevin Malone heard it in his private box and stormed Brennaman’s box. He didn’t get far. Brennaman threw him out.
The next day a sign appeared on the door to the radio booth that said it was private and nobody uninvited was to enter without invitation.
One of the funniest incidents involving Brennaman were the first words out of his mouth as the Reds broadcaster. And he tells this one often.
It was spring training, 1974, and the Reds were training in Tampa, Fla. at Al Lopez Field. Brennaman replaced legendary broadcaster Al Michaels for the ’74 season.
So when Brennaman came on the air for his first game broadcast in spring training, he said, “Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to Al Michaels Field.”
Brennaman may have been nervous about replacing Michaels, but he soon more than acquitted himself in the booth and like his partner, Joe Nuxhall, became a Cincinnati icon.
Brennaman won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting in 2000 and was inducted in the the Baseball Hall of Fame. I always contended that Nuxhall should have gone in with him at the same time because everybody knew Marty & Joe on the radio. The two were a tandem and as crusty as Brennaman can be he still gets tears in his eyes when he talks about Hamilton Joe.
Nuxhall loved golf and talked about it often. Brennaman had never played and often made fun of Joe’s love for chasing a white ball down a groomed patch of grass.
Nuxhall finally convinced Marty to give it a try and a love affair was born. Brennaman is now an avid practitioner and his annual charity golf tournament has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Reds Community Fund during its 14-year run.
After the 2019 season, instead of saying, “This one belongs to the Reds,” Brennaman’s favorite phrase will be, “Fore!”