There will never be another Marty Brennaman
My first memories of the great game of baseball date back to when I was a 7-year-old kid growing up in Reno.
I barely remember Bob Robertson slugging a pair of home runs in a single game in the 1971 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they defeated the Baltimore Orioles.
In ’72 my memory grows a little clearer as I remember listening to the great Al Michaels call Johnny Bench’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning and later calling George Foster scoring the winning run on a wild pitch as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pirates to advance to the World Series.
In the fall of 1973 I remember walking into my house after school just in time to catch Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson wrestling on the ground at second base after Rose slid in hard as he tried to break up a double-play in the NLCS.
By 1974 I was hooked on our National Pastime and officially a Cincinnati Reds fan.
On a beautiful, unusually warm day in late February I recall my dad telling me that I may want to turn the radio on as he believed the Reds’ first spring training game was going to be broadcast.
With that news I grabbed by glove and ball, my “Pitch-Back” ( a contraption that allowed you to pitch a ball into a net which would relay the ball back to you), a pack of Fruit Stripe bubble gum and a transistor radio and went out to the front yard just in time to catch the beginning of the game.
Much to my surprise when I dialed up WMOA 1490 expecting to hear the familiar voice of Michaels, instead I heard the new voice of the Cincinnati Reds, 29-year-old Marty Brennaman.
Michaels had left the Reds to join the San Francisco Giants broadcasting team and the Reds had hired Brennaman to join Joe Nuxhall as the Reds radio broadcasting team.
Four-and-a-half decades and nearly 7,000 games later, Brennaman will call his final game on Thursday, leaving thousands of Reds fans left with a lifetime of memories.
Back when Marty started, you were lucky if you got to see one game a week on television as you had to hope The Big Red Machine was the chosen team on the NBC “Game of the Week” and catch up on the week that was with Mel Allen’s “This Week In Baseball.”
That meant hours after hours listening to Marty and Joe call the game on the radio while you tried to picture the action in your mind.
Marty was always the professional while Joe was the full blown Reds fan who could be heard yelling “Get out of here! Get out of here!” in the background as Brennaman made the call on a potential home run off the bat of a Cincinnati hitter.
Brennaman came to the Reds after serving as a broadcaster for the minor league Tidewater Tides and also the American Basketball Association’s Virginia Squires.
The Virginia-native likely could never imagine a more incredible start to his career as a big league announcer as Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in the very first inning of his very first game.
That call could have well been the signature-call for many announcers but by the time Marty wrapped up his third year with the Reds, he had also called a pair of World Championships as Cincinnati won in both 1975 and 1976.
He was once again behind the microphone when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1985 and also called Tom Browning’s perfect game in 1989, one of four-Reds no-hitters he brought to life for Reds fans.
Another championship came along in 1990 and he also called Ken Griffey Junior’s 500th and 600th home runs.
Brennaman’s legacy wasn’t only reserved for baseball as in a moonlighting job calling the NCAA college basketball tournament, it was none other than Marty who made the radio call of Duke’s Christian Laettner’s miracle buzzer-beater that beat Kentucky in the 1992 Regional Championship, one of the most memorable college basketball plays of all-time.
Things haven’t always been so great for the Reds franchise as they have not won a World Series in nearly 30 years, but regardless we tuned in each and every night hoping to hear Marty exclaim “And this one belongs to the Reds!” as he called the final out to every Cincinnati win.
Some of my most fondest memories are ones that are not near as glamorous as you might expect.
I remember how my elderly blind Aunt Mina absolutely adored Marty and Joe and never missed a Reds game on radio.
I can only imagine being able to touch someone like that over the airwaves without ever meeting them.
I remember my buddies like Mark Eschbaugh and Keith Wharton and I dreaming of being the next great broadcasting team while playing Bantam League or while playing an all-night game of Strat-o-Matic.
I can’t count the number of times I have been a few minutes late to work as I sit in my truck waiting to hear Marty’s call of the game-winner from the night before on Johnny Wharff’s 7:50 sports report on WMOA.
And I remember a night in 2012 when after losing a bet with Reds bench coach Chris Speier, the “Poofy Headed Fancy Boy” as Marty was affectionately nicknamed by some of his peers, had his head shaved in front of a large crowd at Great American Ball Park and turned it into a way to brighten the lives of cancer stricken young children in Cincinnati who had lost their hair as well but not by their choice.
I have no doubt in my mind that whomever the Reds pick to take over for in 2020 will do a fine job and Reds fans like myself will continue to tune in night after night, but I know without any doubt there never will be another Marty.
Mike Morrison can be reached at (740) 373-2121 ext. 543.