Titanic Memories Echoing the Voice of a Legend

James Collier

For The Ashland Beacon

 

   One sentence that Cincinnati Reds’ broadcaster Marty Brennaman said early in his career became the words fans loved to hear.

   “This one belongs to the Reds!”

   One may not know the man behind the microphone, but few would not recognize the phrase Brennaman made famous throughout his 46-season tenure in Cincinnati.

   Brennaman had quite the memories to reflect upon throughout his days with the Reds. His first day on the job, April 4, 1974, a man named Henry Aaron hit his 714th career home run to tie Babe Ruth. It came on his first pitch to open the season and Brennaman was behind the microphone.

   What a first day on the job.

   For me, that day was a few years before my time, so my only recollection of it was hearing the replay. Still yet, it does not make it any less memorable of a call.

   However, there are several moments in Marty’s career that I remember to this day as it just happened yesterday. Tom Browning’s perfect game in 1988, a World Series sweep of Oakland in 1990 and the banana phone during rain delays just to name a few. But one day that resonates with me more than any came Sept. 11, 1985.

   The call of 4,192.

   I was a young lad at the time, sitting on the floor in my parent’s home anticipating Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s hit record as I watched on television. I remember that bat as if I were in the batter’s box. After all, I was watching my idol trying to break a record; many thought would never fall. Marty’s voice was as big as the scene that night, talking about the flashbulbs lighting up around the stadium. Joe Nuxhall was just ready to celebrate. As Eric Show cut loose of a 2-1 slider to Rose, a sharp liner sailed into left field and Marty made the call.

   “There it is. Hit No. 41-92!”

   I remember it like it was yesterday.

   Fast forward to a few years back when my family and I visited the Reds Hall of Fame before catching a game at Great American Ballpark. It was our first visit to the HOF and the memorabilia was amazing. Some that I knew all about and some that I had never heard of. Either way, it was a great time learning about baseball history.

   As we made our way through, my two sons spotted the pitching game and immediately turned their attention toward seeing who could throw the fastest pitch. I, on the other hand, found a display that was nothing short of a dream. It was the “You make the call” booth where fans can sit at the microphone and pick from a number of moments in Reds history to broadcast. There were a couple I remember, clinching the 2012 National League Central title was one that comes to mind but as soon as I sat down, there was only one button I wanted to push. Make the call of 4,192.

   As a young broadcaster just starting to find his bearings in the business, this was important to me to do this in a manner that was fitting to the moment. I’m calling the famous hit of my baseball icon and doing it in fitting fashion that might echo my baseball broadcasting icon of Marty. The video started to roll to set the scene, however, I did not need that. I knew what was coming. A deep breath and it was time to start.

   I was nervous, honestly, so I can only imagine how Marty felt that evening. As the 1-1 pitch missed inside, I knew what was coming. The next pitch was my moment, and I had to nail it. The pause and the pitch, and the hit. I made the call, 4192. What a memory.

   As soon as the experience ended, chill bumps filled my arms. I took a moment before I stood up just to catch my breath. I cannot fathom the emotions that filled Marty that night at Riverfront Stadium. When I exited the booth, a group of about 10 people stood outside and started to clap. I was honored but not worthy of the applause.

   There is no denying when I broadcast a baseball game, my call emulates that of Marty. If I was going to find someone to emulate, why not pick one of the best. Marty always had that way of making the listener feel as if they were sitting at the game, although they were at home or in the car tuned in. Marty was the “Bob Ross” of broadcasting, never missing a detail along the way.

   After a broadcast this past summer, a former coach in the area grabbed me after the game to discuss my call. He commented on my delivery of the game but something he said was the ultimate compliment.

   “You tell me about the wind direction, the sun and shade, the smell of the concessions around,” he said. “It’s like listening to Marty.”

   As a broadcaster, the greatest compliment one can receive is a listener saying they closed their eyes and felt like they were at the park. I was overwhelmed by the compliment as not only did I feel like I had done my job well, but I had just been referred to the same person whom I considered my idol.

   Marty always had a way with words. Whether describing a play, barking at a fan’s ridiculous comment or question or his famous one-liners that was Marty, he was always very straightforward with his thoughts in what you see is what you get mannerism. I think this is why I related to him so well.

   One of my favorite lines Marty always fired off was, “I was here when you got here and I’ll be here when you’re gone,” as he often referred to flashy players who often thought they were much better than they actually were. Unfortunately, the legend made his final call last week in a 5-3 loss to Milwaukee in Cincinnati and us as fans did not get to hear his final words one last time.

   But as Marty and his wonderful wife settle into retirement together, I say “Thank you” for all they have done. And to Marty, you may be gone, my friend, but your legacy will live forever.

   At least as long as this broadcaster cracks a mic to welcome in another audience to a game.

 

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