By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — As he began his farewell press conference Tuesday afternoon with the Cincinnati media, Marty Brennaman’s voice was shaky and tears rimmed his eyes.
He began by saying, “I’m going to miss everybody in this room.” His voice quivered and he fought the tears and said, “Here I go. . .” But he recovered gracefully and became full-blown Marty Brennaman.
When he calls his last pitch Thursday afternoon, there will be enough tears in Cincinnati Reds country to overflow the Ohio River.
“When I call my last pitch Thursday I will cease to be relevant,” he said near the end of the conference.
No more false words were ever spoken. Marty Brennaman, not only the voice of the Reds, but the heart and soul of the team to his legion of listeners, is forever etched in the lore of the team.
He is like legendary broadcaster Waite Hoyt and Brennaman’s long-time partner, Joe Nuxhall. They are gone but not forgotten.
Senior citizens still talk about listening to Waite Hoyt during rain delays as he recounted his time with the New York Yankees and teammate Babe Ruth.
Middle-aged fans remember Nuxhall, the ol’ lefthander, finishing games by saying, “This is the ol’ lefthander, rounding third and heading for home.”
And Marty? His legacy are his last words as the Reds conclude a victory: “And this one belongs to the Reds.” It is hoped, that late Thursday afternoon, Brennaman can say for the last time, “This one belongs to the Reds.”
Once he does that, once he leaves the Great American Ball Park radio booth, he is finished behind the microphone.
Brennaman said when he told the Reds this would be his last year, that he was retiring, one team official asked if he might do 35 to 40 games next year. Said Brennaman, “Do you know the definition of retirement? If you don’t, I’ll open it up to the page where you can read it.”
That is Marty Brennaman, the feisty guy who says what he feels and always had a point of emphasis after he says it.
Brennaman said he nearly retired last year and planned to tell nobody. He was going to do the last game of the season, then call the Reds the next day and say, “That’s it. I’m done.”
But he came back and made the announcement before the season that this was it. And it was the right thing to do. Not only have the Reds made retirement special, but Brennaman has had a well-earned triumphant farewell tour around the league.
And the gifts keep piling up.
His most cherished from a team is the number ’46’ from the old-style Wrigley Field scoreboard, signifying the number of years he has broadcast Reds’ baseball.
“That thing is heavy and I had to clean bird droppings off it, but it is pretty special,” he said.
But the best gift, he said, the best gift of his entire life came from his wife Amanda. On Monday, she presented him with a juke box, a replica Wurlitzer from the 1950s, “Something I’ve always wanted, the best gift I’ve ever received.”
After the press conference, Amanda had a box of old 45 r.p.m. vinyl records to put into the Wurlitzer and Brennaman was rummaging through them like a kid opening gifts on Christmas morning. The records were given to Brennaman by Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty.
About the game he has witnessed for 46 years, Brennaman has some strong opinions. What’s new? Brennaman’s broadcasts are filled with strong opinions, many of which didn’t make him a popular guy in the clubhouse. But he didn’t care because he had to be true to himself.
“I was given the right to broadcast the games the way I want to broadcast them,” he said. “The element of criticism comes into that approach and I like to think the fan knew that if I said something that I truly believe it and it is not something that the powers-that-be would appreciate.
“Like you guys (writers), if you don’t have credibility, you don’t have anything,” he added. “If people don’t believe what you write, if everything is a puff piece, even in the worst of times, then people aren’t going to buy what you are doing. And I feel the same way about what I did. If I leave with nothing else but credibility, I’m a happy guy.”
Of the game itself, Brennaman says, “I am not as big of a fan of the game as I used to be,” he said. “Some of the rules that have been implemented, some of the things that have been talked about but not acted upon, are bad by the powers that be in this game.
“Bunting has become a dinosaur, hitting-and-running has become a dinosaur, stealing bases has become a dinosaur. It is all about home runs and walks and strikeouts and I’m not a big fan of that.”
Brennaman admitted that last year, “I rooted like hell for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Yes, they had big hammers like Betts and Martinez and other people, but when it got to be two strikes they shortened their swings and hit the ball the other way. They hit-and-ran and stole bases. I’m a big fan of that.
“I’m not going to miss the game,” he said. “I know the positive impact the game has had on me and my family. People like you-all in this room are what I am going to miss the most. That’s the toughest hurdle I’ll have to deal with.”
Brennaman laughed and said some people probably believe that after Thursday he will cease to exist, as if he died. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m just not going to do baseball any more.”
So what will he do Friday?
“I am going to play golf with a couple of my grandsons, both of whom have a chance to be very good golfers,” he said. “And on Friday night I’m going to the Anderson High School football game.”
That’s when Marty Brennaman officially becomes a retired senior citizen, although he proudly adds, “I’m in the best shape of any 77-year-old person I know.”