CINCINNATI (AP) — And this one belongs to Marty Brennaman.
With fans applauding his every mention, the Hall of Fame broadcaster called his final Cincinnati Reds game Thursday, ending a 46-year career that’s featured so many big stars and historic moments — Hank Aaron, the Big Red Machine, Pete Rose — and more than a few verbal tiffs with fans and players who weren’t exactly endeared to his tell-it-like-it-is style.
He went out in style.
Brennaman popped into the press box to shake writers’ hands before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, already showing emotion in quickly-tearing eyes. He recounted a touching phone call from Joe Girardi as he drove to the ballpark.
“A tough day,” Brennaman said. “I’ve cried three times already.”
The Reds billed it as a “Marty Party” and borrowed a favorite phrase from former broadcast partner Joe Nuxhall, declaring that “this one belongs to Marty.”
At the end of yet another tough season — the Reds’ sixth straight with a losing record — the voice that so many Cincinnati fans equate with baseball became the soundtrack to the final home game of not only a season but a career. The Reds distributed commemorative transistor radios so fans in the stands could hear that voice call a Reds game one last time .
Brennaman is more comfortable being heard rather than seen, as is a broadcaster’s role.
Fans stood and cheered when the mayor declared it Marty Brennaman Day during pregame festivities on the field. The 77-year-old Brennaman then headed for the broadcast booth and the microphone — his frequent companion for nearly a half-century — for the same play-by-play call that’s as familiar as a first pitch.
He and color commentator Jeff Brantley didn’t ignore the focus of the day, but neither did they dwell on it. When Brennaman noted that it felt hotter than the announced 74 degrees at the first pitch, Brantley said: “Could be the stress.”
Brennaman then launched into describing each batter the same way he has for decades — name, stats, how they’re trending. When Aristides Aquino homered inside the left field foul pole in the bottom of the first, Brennaman described it this way: “If it’s fair, it’s good. And it is, and it is.”
Fans were hoping the home team would win so they could hear Brennaman’s familiar line after a victory: “And this one belongs to the Reds.” The Brewers had won the first two games of Brennaman’s final series.
The Reds’ voice since 1974, Brennaman intended to quietly retire after the season. He agreed to a farewell season that would allow fans and teams to show their appreciation and celebrate a career with so many calls: Aaron’s 714th homer that tied Babe Ruth, three World Series titles and Rose’s record-setting hit No. 4,192 among the most memorable.
For one more time, Brennaman was nearly as big as the game itself.
“I first got to hear him when my dad was traded here,” said Reds manager David Bell, the son of Buddy. “I was in high school. Listening to those games was the most important thing in my life. It was 3 hours of escape. He made it really matter.”