So long, everybody …
How many times these lullabied words were the last utterances I heard before drifting off to a night of restful or fitful sleep, depending on whether Marty Brennaman’s routine sign-off followed a Cincinnati Reds’ win or loss.
Barring a rainout, the venerable Hall-of-Fame voice of the franchise since 1974 will call his final play-by-play broadcast Thursday afternoon as the Reds host the Milwaukee Brewers.
Plenty will be written and spoken more grandiosely about this notable event, but I feel obligated to add to the homage.
Quite literally, tens of thousands of hours of my life have been spent hanging on the words of this man, whether emanating from the former Riverfront Stadium or Great American Ball Park. I’ve even taken to calling him my surrogate father, but only half-jokingly. It’s 50/50 as to whom I’ve spent more quality time with, Marty or my dad.
I often wonder how much of my own personality was shaped by this major force during my formative years and well beyond. For better or worse.
Just as generations of young men growing up in Indiana were bound to internalize some of the more boorish characteristics of a figure such as Bob Knight, countless youngsters learned the art of acerbic critique from the mouth of Marty.
But that would be far too unfair to stop there.
They also learned the arts of professionalism and accountability; he hardly ever missed a broadcast until the twilight of his career and owned up when he misspoke on any given topic.
They learned the importance of family and friends. By all accounts, Brennaman is a loving father and grandfather who passed his on-air talents on to son Thom. Marty and longtime radio partner Joe Nuxhall were virtually inseparable for over three decades.
They learned the love of country, evidenced by Marty’s heartfelt readings of patriotic poems before Memorial Day and Independence Day games.
They learned about conviction. A Marty opinion was seldom withheld. During his National Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in 2000, he lobbied for the same distinction to be bestowed upon Big Red Machine shortstop David Concepcion and – somewhat more controversially – “by God, Peter Edward Rose.”
They learned the love of baseball, America’s Pastime, from someone who never played the game at an advanced level. Yes, millennials, baseball is exciting, and anyone who faithfully listened to Reds broadcasts knows when you heard the inflections in Marty’s voice, you instinctively leaned in to put your ear to the radio or spun the volume dial up.
And, perhaps most importantly, they learned how to laugh and enjoy life. Marty’s distinctive cackle could often be heard on the airwaves, even more often over the past decade with radio partner Jeff “the Cowboy” Brantley. Most of the time, listeners weren’t privy to the inside jokes, but still enjoyed the contagious laugh. Much of Marty’s everyday life was imparted to his audience, i.e. his concerted effort to give up a smoking habit, his picking up the game of golf relatively late in life, or even his plans to travel in retirement.
So, like the day when I woke up to the passing of Nuxhall in November of 2007, Thursday won’t be easy for me.
In fact, I feel a lump forming in my throat as I write this.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Brennaman.
This one belongs to you.