In 1975 and 1976, I followed the Big Red Machine as best I could from Kent State. It was hard to do. WLW radio, which I’ve heard from 20 states or more east of the Rockies, just didn’t come in very well in Kent. I had a buddy from Dayton who was a huge Reds fan. Neither of our high powered stereo receivers of the day would pick AM radio up in the dorms. We would drive in my 1966 Mustang to the highest spot in Kent, and pull in WLW. It was our first listen to Marty Brennaman, through the static. As the Reds came down the stretch in 1975, we found ourselves in the car, with beers and snacks, struggling to hear the game but always high-fiving when we heard “…this one belongs to the Reds!”
Of course we watched the playoffs and the classic World Series wins on TV, we both had exams the next morning after the Carlton Fisk game. I didn’t do well. Yesterfday at 12:00 I flipped on channel 183 on Sirius Satellite Radio while driving through Eastern North Carolina on my way home to Cincy. The Reds vs. Brewers came in loud and clear, Marty’s last game, and I thought about those days in Kent.
How hard it was to hear one of the greatest teams of all time. It seems like several lifetimes ago to me, and it’s almost beyond comprehension that Marty broadcast Reds games this entire time. I’m sure his close friendship with Joe Nuxhall and Jeff Brantley, along with all his mates on the broadcast team, the players and everyone he touched and everyone who touched him made each year special. On his last broadcast today he was emotional, professional, thankful. Each listener shared the emotion, and the thankfulness.
We all brought our own memories, and I could practically hear the music from Field of Dreams as I remembered listening to games with my Dad while growing up, and as much as I could while I was still in college when he died. I also listened to games with his twin brother before he died. And of course all my buddies, who now email and text me from all over the country during baseball season. All three of my boys grew up looking at my transistor radios and hearing “The Reds are on the radio!” blaring from their tinny speakers. Someday when I’m gone they may well remember me with a smile as they hear a Reds broadcast. Such is the connection of baseball through the generations. How can it not be emotional? Although I referenced Field of Dreams, and it was that kind of day today, for most of Marty’s career he came closer to Bull Durham. Funny, irreverent, full of characters, but always respectful of the game. In Bull Durham there’s love of baseball but also a sense of how fleeting being part of the game can be.
Somehow Marty stayed in the game for 45 years. Very few men can say that. In the film “The Truman Show”, viewers are hanging on every word of the show to see what happens. When Truman says goodbye and the show ends the viewers who were so caught up in the emotions of the ending suddenly wonder what else is on and blithely change the channel to move on with their viewing lives.Next spring we’ll move on, the emotions of today will fade, and Tommy Thrall and Jeff Brantley will welcome us to another season of Reds baseball. I bet Marty will be listening.