Legendary Lessons from the Soundtrack of Summer
by Dale Reeves
Yesterday afternoon I heard Marty Brennaman announce the last few innings of the last professional baseball game he would broadcast over the radio. He has done this in the city of Cincinnati for the past 46 years. Forty-six years! Unfortunately, yesterday he did not get to utter his signature phrase against the Milwaukee Brewers, “And this one belongs to the Reds.” Except for five years spent as a youth pastor in Houston, Texas, I have spent most of my life living in Cincinnati. I remember as a child going to visit my grandfather and grandmother on their farm in Maysville, Kentucky. They never owned a television, but almost every night in the summer, after my granddaddy had finished milking the cows in the evening, he would take his bath, change his clothes, and then sit down in his easy chair to turn on Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman on the radio. Granddaddy King had to rely on the vivid word pictures that these two announcers created to be able to follow along with the Redlegs every night.
I remember hearing Marty Brennaman broadcast his first game for the Reds, on Opening Day 1974 at Riverfront Stadium, when he called Hank Aaron’s historic 714thhome run, equaling the major league baseball record at the time, held by Babe Ruth. I remember hearing his excitement over the air as he broadcast Tom Browning’s perfect game. (If you’re not a baseball fan, just know that a pitcher hurling not just a no hitter, but a perfect game —meaning no hits or walks), is very, very rare. I remember Marty calling Pete Rose’s 3,000thhit as well as his 4,192ndhit, breaking the record long held by Ty Cobb. Through his 46 years of broadcasting over the air, Marty called games for 813 different Cincinnati Reds players. In the days when Marge Schott was the managing general partner, pres and CEO of the Reds, she had the team flying on some commercial airplanes. I happened to be on a plane to the west coast once when the Reds were flying to LA. As I passed Marty Brennaman who was seated in first class, I got a polite nod of the head.
One City, One Voice
As I watched the postgame celebration on TV for Marty yesterday afternoon, announcer Jim Day exclaimed, “No one has had more of a connection to a fan base in one city than Marty Brennaman.” Jim talked about how Marty played the “soundtrack of our summers” as he came into our lives year after year. Coming home from a vacation, and nearing the skyline on the Ohio River, if the Reds were playing at a particular time, you knew you could tune into the radio and hear the familiar voice on the air waves of the Queen City—and all seemed well with the world.
Marty has been very honest with his shortcomings and flaws, and his wife Amanda is his third wife. Years of traveling away from home for extended periods of time takes its toll on marriages. Marty wanted to be credible and authentic in what he shared in his broadcasts, and he was very open to talk about things in the game of baseball that he did not care for. He tried to call it the way he saw it. And several times this year he said he would not miss the game of baseball, but he would miss the people. Managers come and go, players come and go, employees come and go, bosses come and go, but real lasting relationships are the things that mattered most to Marty. And, I believe in business, sports, or the church, relationships must be paramount.
The apostle Paul challenges us in Romans 15:5-7, “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (NLT).
As Hall of Famer Marty stepped up to the mic yesterday, he told all of Reds Country, “I was one of you. Thank you for accepting me. You people have bestowed love and protection on me.” Baseball players, managers, announcers, owners, and fans definitely do not live in “complete harmony” as Paul urged the church, but when a great season came together as in the three world series runs that Marty announced, the city heard one united voice behind the winner. That’s the way the church should be all the time, as we unite behind the one voice of Christ speaking to his church to be about his mission.
A Dying Breed
As I thought about Marty winding down his career this summer, one word kept coming back to me—loyalty. That’s a word we don’t hear much about these days. Companies aren’t as loyal to their employees as they once were. Employees aren’t as loyal to their companies as they once were. I know several of my friends who reached a certain age and they were strongly encouraged to pack it in, take the offer from the company to move on or to retire. After serving many years faithfully with one company some of them got their walking papers, and they felt devalued. They may have sacrificed time with their families to travel for their company, they may have been rewarded financially very well, or maybe they were never paid what they really deserved to be paid. Marty stands as one who was loyal to the Cincinnati Reds brand though the good seasons and the bad.
In the words of King Solomon, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!Tie them around your neck as a reminder.Write them deep within your heart” (Proverbs 3:3, NLT).
Loyalty. Faithfulness. Credibility. All things valued very highly by Marty Brennaman, and for that Marty, I want to thank you. Thank you for serving the community. Thank you for loving on many sick children through the Dragonfly Foundation. Thank you for making this your town, thank you for putting down your roots here. Thank you for not choosing to move on to greener pastures, but being faithful right where you felt you were supposed to be.
Photos by Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati.com