I turned 25 the summer that Marty Brennaman came to Cincinnati. Waite Hoyt was the guy I listened to calling Reds games as I grew up. His voice filled the air at backyard family gatherings, in the car on the way there and back, or whispering from the small table radio in the bedroom late at night in those pre-transistor days. When Hoyt left the radio booth after the 1965 season due to a change in the sponsorship contract, I experienced many of the same emotions expressed about Marty’s retirement this week.
However, in the interim between Hoyt and Marty Brennaman I came to very much enjoy the work first of Jim McIntyre then Al Michaels as the Reds primary radio voices even as I occasionally missed Waite’s rainy day stories. And of course somewhere along the way the Ol’ Left hander had switched from the mound to radio booth to add his opinions.
Recall we didn’t see more than a maybe a couple of games a week on TV in those times. We couldn’t tell for ourselves who was hustling or dogging. We couldn’t tell who made a great play or failed to make a play they probably should have made. The radio guys were our eyes reinforced overnight by what the beat writers said in the papers the next day.
From the games that were on TV and few games I was able to attend in person, I’d decided the calls of the radio guys felt right. I trusted their “words eye view” as McIntyre would announce he was on hand to give us as he signed on for each game. So, when Al Michaels left, the new guy, Marty Brennaman, arrived with several very big pairs of shoes to fill for me. Fortunately it turned out he was or soon would become one of the very best at painting those words eye views.
Listening to Marty I would literally picture the game in my mind as he described the action:
“Geronimo cuts it off at the track. Relay coming to Davey. Runner around 3rd, coming home. Concepción sending the ball on to Bench. They’ve got a play aaand…. OUT! THEY GOT HIM! They got him! What a play! That’s 8-6-2 if you are scoring along” (which I often was).
Then everyone in the room, backyard, or car would erupt and discuss the play as if we had been there ourselves. Because we’d seen it our minds as surely as if we had been there. Oh, for those days and the people they were shared with.
Thanks Marty. Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten quite as cranky as you did at times in latter years; but every day I age myself, I understand that more. And I really wish you would have been more open to some of the insights of emerging analytics. But as a story teller of baseball games, you stand alone above the crowd. Thanks again and godspeed in retirement.