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Farewell, Marty

Everyone is weighing in on Marty Brennaman in his last week. He might be sick of all the attention, or maybe he isn’t! But I’m sure he’s wanting to get Thursday,  his last broadcast, over with at long last. There’s been only a couple of times I wept during a baseball game, both times I was in attendance. The first was in 1972 when Johnny Bench hit his home run against Pittsburgh, and the second was Pete’s 4192. Once his son came and joined him on first base the sprinklers went on a bit.

I will be on the road Thursday evening, and appropriately I’ll be listening to the Reds on WLW while I drive. To me a ballgame makes the driving seem easy and go by fast. It’s possible at Marty’s final sign-off, if he gets through it, I’ll probably not have dry eyes. I’ll have company I’m sure throughout Cincinnati. There’s no way you can listen to a great broadcaster for that long and not be jolted by his goodbye. It’s proper and bittersweet that Marty will join all the old legends- Scully, Carey, Buck, Harwell, Hoyt, and his buddy Joe Nuxhall for all time. But the dude’s not dead! His timing is perfect for getting out, and we’re all happy for him, but unhappy for ourselves.

In all the years (45) I’ve listened to Marty he never once made me cringe, although he was close a few times on the ‘Banana Phone.’ I can’t remember an instance that I felt he didn’t give me his honest opinion. He always appreciated when the game was played the right way. He had the utmost respect for the game of baseball. He was a fan of the Reds, our city, he’d bitch about the players and the politicians just like you’d hear at the counter of Skyline Chili. But he was always 100 percent professional about calling the action. His friendliness with Nuxie and now Jeff Brantley, and his ability to give and take the needle endeared him to listeners. It was never forced. We’re all getting older and that hurts, and nobody likes to lose a friend, even when they are moving on to better things. The end of baseball season stinks anyway.

For 45 years I anxiously awaited to hear Marty on the radio during the first spring training broadcast. That meant I made it through winter, that there was hope for warmer days and maybe this would be the Reds year. One of the best things about Marty was he pissed off fans, players and managers of teams we hated by saying the things all us Reds fans were thinking. That might have been his most controversial trait, and he took a fair amount of criticism for it. Like he, or I cared what Tony LaRussa thought. Or Cubs fans. Towards the last decade he was like that old uncle that would delight you with story after story but also bitch and complain about everything while doing so.Finally,  I’ve read from enough fellow broadcasters to know how incredibly generous Marty was both in front of and behind the microphone. He helped everybody in the business, made them appear comfortable on the air no matter how green or nervous. The next group of broadcasters we’ll be listening to will be a lot better because of his influence and tutelage.Its been awhile since the Cincinnati Reds have given us a real thrill.  I guess maybe while bitching and complaining about the team I took Marty for granted,  didn’t realize how good I still had it as a Reds fan. In these last days I’ll think all the way back to 1974, when I was a high school pitcher,  and try to figure out where the time went. And I’ll be grateful.

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