Hal McCoy: Retiring Reds broadcaster Brennaman reflects on final Opening Day

Hall of Famer says emotions will hit him more toward end of the season

As difficult as it might be to imagine, Opening Day 2019 was the same for Marty Brennaman as his other 45 Cincinnati Reds openers.

Amidst so much pomp and circumstance that accompanies Opening Day in Cincinnati, Brennaman sat down behind his microphone in his nearly private domain, a cluttered WLW radio booth in Great American Ball Park.

Despite knowing it was the last time, the last Opening Day for the retiring Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster, Brennaman went about his business as he always did, the professional who exudes the no-adjectives-held-back, positive or negative.

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The only difference was that instead of him doing interviews, the media interviewed him.

Brennaman, though, insisted there were no emotions forced upon him by the fact it was his last Opening Day broadcast.

“Yes, Opening Day is special to me, but this one is no more special, even though it is my last one as a broadcaster,” he said. “It is special because you and I have been around long enough to have been at opening days in other ballparks.

“Nothing equals this and I mean none of them,” he added. “I don’t care if it is New York or LA or Chicago. From that standpoint alone, I believe it is the biggest single day on the calendar year in this town. Nothing equates with Opening Day in Cincinnati.”

About his emotions, Brennaman maintains it is not about him or his feelings, not now, not on Opening Day.

“All the stuff that is going to happen for me won’t happen until the last two months of the season,” he said. “That will be rough. That will be tough. I will have a hard time dealing with that.”

What does a baseball lifer who has broadcast more than 6,500 games do when the microphone is no longer in front of him, when there is no baseball game spread on a green expanse in front of him?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m married to a woman 30 years younger than I am (Amanda) and she will not allow me to sit around and do nothing. We’ve started traveling this winter, spent two weeks in Europe and will do a lot of that. We’ll spend a lot more time at my condo in Siesta Key (Fla.) than I ever spent.”

Brennaman remembers with sadness what happened to his father after he retired and it was a worst-case scenario that he doesn’t want repeated.

“My dad had no plan and he sat around and did nothing all day and in three years he was dead,” said Brennaman. “That’s the thing that really concerns me. If I have to work extra hard to find something to keep me active, something that gives me a reason to get up in the morning, then I will do that. I want to be around for a long time.”

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That, of course, means getting to the first tee of the closest golf course when the dew is still on the greens and it means a continuation of his voracious appetite for reading novels. On the road, seeing Brennaman without a hard-bound novel under his arms is a rare occurrence.

As it happens for nearly everybody going into retirement, there were fears and doubts about the unknown. Brennaman, though, got the boost he needed from former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, who sat in a radio booth for 67 years before retiring last year.

“Vin called me the night after I made the announcement about my retirement,” said Brennaman. “Like he told me, ‘you are looking at a whole new world. I want to re-enforce for you that you made the right decision. I did it for 67 years and now I have never looked back, never looked back, not one time that I made a wrong decision.’

“I am going to remind myself what he told me and go forward and live another life,” he added. “Quite honestly, 20 years from now I don’t want to be known only as a former baseball announcer. I have other interests in life.

“I am a patron of the arts, we have subscriptions to the Broadway shows here in town, we like to travel and do a lot of different things. My life is not just baseball. I’ll miss the people terribly. I don’t think I’ll miss the game a whole lot. Hell, I’ve seen more than 6,500 games. That has nothing to do with not loving the game, it’s the people. The hardest burden I will have to overcome is missing people.”

There are, of course, some memorable Opening Days in Brennaman’s memory bank, beginning with his first year, 1974.

“Three batters into the game Henry Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714, a three-run home run off Jack Billingham at Riverfront Stadium,” said Brennaman.

“Then there was Opening Day in 1979 when Tom Seaver was supposed to pitch and for whatever the reason he was scratched and Frank Pastore had to pitch and pitched a shutout. We had a terrible snowstorm that morning and by game-time at 2:15 there wasn’t a speck of snow on Riverfront.”

One of his Opening Day memories involves the only year the Reds didn’t open at home. There was a strike that delayed the start of the season in 1990 and the Reds opened the year at Houston.

“Barry Larkin tripled off Charlie Kerfeld with the bases loaded in the 11th inning and they won that game and they never vacated first place.”

While Brennaman devours books and there is one fabulous book inside him, he always has maintained he won’t write a book.

He should, he definitely should.

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