This one belongs to WVXU! As part of our Opening Day preview on Cincinnati Edition, Marty Brennaman talks candidly about his decision to retire, his "very emotional" final season, his favorite Reds teams and the "chance meeting" which prompted Brennaman to apply for the Reds Radio job strictly out of courtesy for his boss in Norfolk, Va.
"I had no intention" of applying for the Reds opening when Al Michaels left after the 1973 season, Brennaman said during a far-ranging interview with Howard Wilkinson, Cincinnati Edition host Michael Monks and me to air at noon Monday on WVXU-FM (91.7), WMUB-FM (88.5) and wvxu.org. (After the show airs, I'll put a link to the 25-minute interview here.)
Brennaman loved calling professional basketball games in 1973 for the Virginia Squires of the old American Basketball Association based in Norfolk. In basketball's off-season, he did baseball games for the Triple-A Norfolk Pilots.
At baseball's winter meetings after the '73 season, Pilots General Manager Dave Rosenfield ran into Reds executive Dick Wagner, who needed to replace Michaels. Rosenfield suggested they consider Brennaman, his 31-year-old play-by-play man.
"Had that meeting not taken place, I would have never come to Cincinnati because I really was enamored with the pro (basketball) game. It was exciting to me to be traveling the country broadcasting basketball and rubbing elbows with players … like Julius Irving and like George Gervin," Brennaman said in an interview taped last week.
"The only reason I sent the tape (to the Reds) was that Dave thought enough of my work to recommend me to Dick, and I felt it would be disrespectful to him not to do it."
When I asked him if he ever thinks about the happenstance which brought him to Cincinnati 46 years ago - and took him to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown - he said:
"I think about that often, especially where I am now, a season away from retiring, and how it all came to pass," he said.
"Unfortunately, I'm not a very religious person, but I believe there is a power greater than us. And I believe there are certain ironies in your life, and certain decisions that are made to take you down the path that you will end up being on."
That "chance meeting" brought the Virginia native and University of North Carolina graduate to "the greatest place I ever lived. I can't imagine that I'd be happier in any other city in the big leagues than I have been in Cincinnati, Ohio," he said.
"It's just been an overwhelming ride for me in every respect ... And even more important, when opportunities have come up over the years to leave here, and go to bigger markets with other clubs, every time I was confronted with making the decision, it was always 'No, I'm happy here. I don't want to leave here,' " said Brennaman, who turned down the Yankees, Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Dodgers and Giants.
Brennaman, who turns 77 in July, also revealed that he wanted to retire quietly after the 2018 season, but the Castellinis convinced him to return for the 150th anniversary season of the 1869 Red Stockings, the first all-professional baseball team. Actually, the Reds wanted him to stick around for five more seasons!
"The club originally talked to me originally about staying until I had 50 years in, and I said, 'That ain't happening! I'll be 81 years old! That's not gonna happen!' Other guys that I know would have jumped at that. Well, I don't care about that," he said.
He's been overwhelmed by the fans' reaction to his retirement – and Opening Day is still three days away.
"The feedback from fans has been tremendous," he said. "It's gratifying to know how deeply people feel about my work, and what I meant to their lives … It's been really, really emotional for me to get the feedback I've gotten from the fans."
Brennaman also told Cincinnati Edition about his favorite teams, the Big Red Machine, new manager David Bell and the team's recently completed spring training camp. Wilkinson remarked how owner Bob Castellini noted that Brennaman's 46 seasons will represent nearly 33 percent of the Reds' rich history.
"It is staggering – one third of all the games that this club has ever played, and you're talking about the one that goes back to 1869. Yeah, that's an impressive number," Brennaman said.
"And 45 years, going on 46, have gone by in the blink of an eye!"
The annual Cincinnati Edition Opening Day preview at noon Monday will include a Reds discussion by Reds historians Greg Rhodes and John Erardi, author Randy Freking, Wilkinson and Monks.