Published on Winchester Sun, October 3, 2019
A week ago today, veteran baseball announcer Marty Brennaman called his last game as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds. I listened to that broadcast, as I have listened to thousands more over the last 45 years.
I was 12 years old in the summer of 1974 when Marty joined former Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall in the radio booth at the brand-new Riverfront Stadium.
This may be hard for anyone under 30 to imagine. There was no Internet, no cable networks, and no 24-hour news cycle. My insatiable appetite for news and information about my beloved Reds came from the newspapers, magazines, and the Reds Radio Network.
It was the radio that my friends and I turned to hear about the exploits of the Reds. These were not the hapless Cincinnati teams so familiar to anyone following major league baseball over the past three decades. This was the era of the dominant Big Red Machine.
We couldn’t watch them most of the time, but we could see it all in our minds. And it was Marty and Joe who deftly painted those pictures for us with their words.
Pete Rose scratching out another hit or running to first base at full speed after drawing a walk. Joe Morgan stealing yet another base. Johnny Bench cranking out another home run or cutting down a runner at second base with his missile arm. Dave Concepcion making a spectacular play at shortstop. Don Gullett’s fastball. Tony Perez, George Foster, Ken Griffey, and all the rest.
Warm summer evenings were accompanied by the vivid descriptions and commentary, delivered by those golden voices and punctuated by commercials for Marathon Oil and Hudepohl beer.
I like to say that Marty and Joe were the narrators of my youth.
We lost Joe in 2007 at the age of 79. He had been mostly retired for three years, although he never could stay away from the mic entirely. I’ll always remember how he signed off from every broadcast: “This is the old lefthander rounding third and heading for home. Goodnight, everyone.”
That was my cue to turn off the radio and go to bed.
Marty Brennaman is nothing if not opinionated. He’s never been accused of being a “homer” — someone who never criticizes the home team. Whether calling out the front office or the manager, or even individual players, Marty spares no one.
Whether Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame — he should be, says Marty — or whether the game is getting too long and too dull with its emphasis on strikeouts and home runs — also yes. (He’s right on both counts.)
Marty’s catchphrase was “…and this one belongs to the Reds!” He would utter that phrase many times during the reign of the Big Red Machine, as the good guys won lots of games.
During his time behind the mic, Marty called many historic moments. Three World Series Championships for the Reds. Hank Aaron’s 714th career home run, which tied the immortal Babe Ruth. The 4,192nd career hit of hometown hero Pete Rose, which broke the eminent Ty Cobb’s career record. Tom Seaver’s only no-hitter and Tom Browning’s perfect game.
All of these feats are as much a part of my adolescence as they are part of baseball history. It’s a shared experience that transcends our daily human existence.
Not surprisingly, there isn’t much in my life that hasn’t changed dramatically since I was a boy listening to those broadcasts. Other than my surviving siblings and lifelong friends, Marty Brennaman may be the last major link to that time I have left.
Those lazy, carefree summers are long gone. The innocence and wild-eyed optimism of my youth have largely been supplanted by the day-to-day realities of life. Baseball is not the same game — and Reds are a pale shadow of those great teams of the 70s.
But until last week, I could still tune in to the soundtrack of my youth and hear that same familiar voice. Like hearing from an old friend, it could transport me back to an age of bicycles with baseball cards pinned to the spokes, comic books, model cars, playing Wiffle ball with my friends, and telling lies about our exploits with the girls we had crushes on.
True to recent form, the Reds closed out their last homestand of the season and Marty’s career with a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He did not get a chance to say his famous catchphrase one last time.
Marty’s smooth voice crackled with emotion as he closed out his last broadcast by thanking the Reds community and the city of Cincinnati for the love and support he received over the years. It wasn’t the most eloquent thing he’s ever said, but it was straight from the heart. I might have choked up a bit myself.
This game, like 86 others during this long season, did not belong to the Reds.
But my youth largely belongs to you, Marty Brennaman.
Pete Koutoulas is an IT professional working in Lexington. He and his wife have resided in Winchester since 2015. Pete can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @PeteKoutoulas.