Monday, July 24, 2000

Brennaman creates stir with Rose remark

By Scott MacGregor
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marty Brennaman receives his award from Ralph Kiner, who had threatened to walk off the stage if Brennaman spoke on behalf of Pete Rose.
(AP photo)
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        COOPERSTOWN, N.Y — Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman's honesty caused a Hall of Fame-caliber stir where it concerned Pete Rose.

        Brennaman said Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Ralph Kiner -- using Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench as an intermediary -- tried to pressure him not to mention Rose during his Hall induction speech Sunday.

        The controversey was disproportionate to Brennaman's speech, a 15-minute affair that included just seven words on Rose.

        Brennaman did mention Rose, very briefly, when he talked about others from the Big Red Machine that should be included in the Hall of Fame. But it had a huge impact.

Brennaman drew huge cheers when he mentioned Rose.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        He thanked, “Those from that team that should be in the Hall, but aren't. Bob Howsam, who built two World Championship organizations in St. Louis and Cincinnati. Davey Concepcion, who was the preeminent shortstop of his time.”

        He paused slightly, then said, “And yes, by God, Peter Edward Rose.”

        That drew huge cheers from the heavily-Cincinnati flavored-crowd, who earlier had chanted, “Pete, Pete,” when commissioner Bud Selig was introduced. None of the 47 returning Hall of Famers on stage seemed to have much reaction, and none walked out, as Brennaman said he had been threatened might happen.

        Brennaman said Bench approached him Saturday night after Feller and Kiner raised objections about the inclusion of former Reds star Rose, who is banned from baseball for gambling.

        Kiner, now a Detroit Tigers broadcaster, introduced Brennaman.

        “The thing that really bothers me is I got pressure from people who wouldn't confront me directly,” Brennaman said Sunday night. “I don't give a damn about Ralph Kiner and Bob Feller. I said what's in my heart. I don't care about pressure.”

        Brennaman thanked Bench for being a good friend in his speech, but Bench's role in the pressuring bothered Brennaman.

        “He made me so mad,” Brennaman said. “He said, "You might have some people walk out.' It ruined my night (Saturday).”

        But Brennaman refused to back down. He said he didn't change a word of his speech. He also did not make mention of the pressuring in the speech.

        “I can't be intimidated,” said Brennaman, who is known for his honest, tell-it-like-it-is approach. “You're messing with the wrong guy now.”

        Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry told Brennaman to say what he wanted.

        “He said, "You say what you want to say, and take as long as you want to talk. You may never get this opportunity again,' ” Brennaman said.

        It was a shame the Rose comment caused such dissension, because it was such a small part of the speech.

        Brennaman talked of how he got into broadcasting, listening to games on the radio as a kid. His said his lack of success at other pursuits led him to the microphone.

        He said the highest he got as a baseball player was Little League for a team called Chubbs, a local restaurant in Portsmouth, Va. One day, he was playing right field and talking to a couple girls who were watching the game. The ball was hit to him, but he was too slow to react, and it went for a triple. So he soon abandoned baseball.

        Next, Brennaman said he tried acting, but gave that up when he fell off the stage during a high school play.

        So eventually, he tried broadcasting because "it was the least dangerous.”

        Mostly, Brennaman thanked people who had helped him along the way -- from his uncle that used to take him to minor-league games in Portsmouth to his broadcast partner Joe Nuxhall to his wife of 22 years, Sherri. He also thanked former Reds broadcaster Al Michaels for leaving and allowing him an opportunity.

        He had particularly kind things to say about Nuxhall, a close friend with whom he has worked for 27 seasons with the Reds.

        “It's always nice to work with a living legend, which is what I've done since 1974,” Brennaman said. “Whatever success I've had, I willingly and greatfully share it with the old left-hander. I can never begin to repay what he has meant to me. He's been a mentor, and he's also been a very, very wonderful friend. Thank you, Joe, for so much, and things you've taught me since that first year together.”

        And Brennaman thanked Sherri for being a “special kind of woman. I'm sure I don't say it enough, how thankful I am, but I am. I have a great family, and I love you all very much.” Sherri was in attendance, as were son Thom and daughters Dawn and Ashley.

        Lastly, Brennaman thanked “the great fans of Cincinnati, how great you have been to us over lo these many years. Your kind of loyalty can never be repaid, inviting us into your homes every day during the baseball season for over a quarter of century and approving of our work. You are absolutely, unequivocally the best, and we love you.”

        Brennaman concluded the speech with a twist on his trademark. Pointing to the crowd, he said, “This one belongs to you.”

        Tim Sullivan contributed to this report.


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