Work in Sports
Reds announcer Brennaman elected to Hall of Fame
Posted: Thursday February 03, 2000 06:30 PM
CINCINNATI (AP) -- In his very first game as the Cincinnati Reds' radio broadcaster, Marty Brennaman got to describe Hank Aaron's 714th homer, the one that tied Babe Ruth.
That was opening day 1974. In the last 26 years, he has called Pete Rose's record-setting hit No. 4,192, three World Series championships and Reds seasons that have run the gamut.
He evolved from a self-described "homer" into a blunt-spoken announcer who has sparred with the front office, players, players' wives, umpires and even the National League president.
Brennaman, 57, won't sugarcoat or hide his opinions, not even when it comes to his selection Thursday for baseball's Hall of Fame.
Brennaman was chosen as the latest recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster. He'll be honored July 23 along with former Reds first baseman Tony Perez, who was voted in last month.
Former Reds and Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson could join them. He's the leading candidate to be chosen for induction by the veterans committee later this month.
"That might be unprecedented. I can't imagine there being another induction where there were three people associated with one team," Brennaman said. "I can't imagine it being more special than that."
He had hoped to have his daughters introduce him at Cooperstown, N.Y., but learned that by protocol, commissioner Bud Selig and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner will do it. Brennaman rolled his eyes at the thought.
"I'll have something to say about that, too," he said.
His willingness to speak his mind has been his hallmark in 26 years teaming with Joe Nuxhall in the broadcast booth. Brennaman was chosen from among 221 applicants to replace Al Michaels and admitted being a little overwhelmed when he first showed up.
Two weeks into the 1974 season, he first used a line that has remained his signature closing to every Cincinnati win: "This one belongs to the Reds."
"I said it, I thought about it and I kind of liked it so I continued to use it," he said.
He and Nuxhall fill those empty minutes during games with banter and jokes about their hobbies, lending a folksy touch to the broadcasts.
"It works in Cincinnati," Brennaman said. "It might not work somewhere else, but we're able to laugh at ourselves and talk about our golf game and my tomatoes and everything else under the blasted sun."
That includes mistakes -- those on the field and those by the front office. Brennaman often went toe-to-toe with former general manager Dick Wagner and has been confronted by players over the years for his criticism.
"I've been lucky because I don't think there's an announcer in baseball that has the freedom to say what he wants to say like I do," he said.
In 1988, Brennaman and Nuxhall were summoned to New York because then-NL president Bart Giamatti was concerned about their comments during the game in which Rose was ejected for bumping umpire Dave Pallone. Fans threw debris on the field for 15 minutes and Brennaman harshly criticized Pallone.
"I still maintain we were right," Brennaman said. "I'll never apologize for that. They accused us of inciting a riot. I don't think we did then and I don't think we did now."
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench admires Brennaman's approach.
"He knows the game. He loves what he does," Bench said. "He's at the top of the list as far as quality. You can listen to Marty. Sometimes he gets a little grumpy when the club is not playing well or someone makes a mistake.
"Marty's honest, but he doesn't try to go after you or embarrass you."
Brennaman didn't know what to say after learning he had won the Frick Award, calling it one of the more humbling experiences of his life.
"I don't think that I'm the best baseball announcer that's ever lived by any means -- I think Vin Scully's that," he said. "But at the same time, for one day in July, I'll be his equal."