A little more than a decade ago, longtime Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman won a place in thousands of Cubs fans’ hearts for years to come. Well, maybe not exactly their hearts.
He calls it a mistake now, painting Cubs fans with a broad, unflattering brush — as in ‘‘obnoxious’’ — that night in 2008 at Wrigley Field. He heard from a lot of Cubs fans in the aftermath who dissociated themselves from those who threw dozens of baseballs on the field that night, disrupting play and drawing the Wrath of Marty that might be more renowned and beloved in Cincinnati than Skyline Chili.
‘‘Far and away the most obnoxious fans in baseball in this league,’’ he called Cubs fans at the time. ‘‘The kind of thing . . . that makes you want to see the Chicago Cubs team lose.’’
‘‘I heard from a lot of really die-hard, good Cub fans that said, ‘We were disappointed in what you said because we’re not part of that,’ ’’ Brennaman said during a recent conversation about this final season of his storied broadcasting career.
‘‘It made me understand that the single biggest mistake I made was grouping them all together. I didn’t [single out] the young people that come in here and get drunk and raise hell and have a big time.’’
Brennaman, who will turn 77 on July 28, is retiring after a 46-season, Hall of Fame radio career. He is one of the last of a dying breed of big-personality, blunt-talking broadcasters and the biggest name in a National League Central booth these days as he and the Reds open a three-game series Monday at Wrigley.
Just know this much as he heads off into the sunset: He has no beef with (most) Cubs fans or Chicago. Heck, his daughter is raising three kids with her husband in the Chicago suburbs.
‘‘I gotta be honest with you, pal: That’s the reason why I got pissed off at that damn headline the guy wrote in the Tribune when I retired,’’ Brennaman said of the Brand X daily across town headlining the ‘‘obnoxious’’ quote. ‘‘That pissed me off because that crap’s over with.’’
It was the only time his anger rose during a lengthy conversation in which he otherwise seemed wistful and relaxed.
Just one more reason to appreciate the voice baseball will miss after this season.
Sun-Times: Did you really turn down a chance to work Cubs broadcasts for WGN after the 1989 season when Dewayne Staats left?
Marty Brennaman: ‘‘I said: ‘Thank the folks up there for me, but I’m under contract.’ I never regretted it. The only job I ever gave serious thought to [leaving the Reds for] was the Red Sox’ job [in the 1980s]. I’m a history buff, and I love [Boston]. . . . But I don’t know, I just couldn’t leave Cincinnati. I turned down the Giants, the Red Sox, the Cubs [which son Thom eventually got independently], the Yankees — a lot of jobs.’’
ST: The White Sox?
MB: ‘‘Kim Ng called one day and said: ‘I’m calling for [former co-owner and friend Eddie Einhorn] to see if you’d be interested in coming to Chicago to do the White Sox’ games.’ I thanked her for it. I said, ‘Give my best to Eddie,’ and I never pursued it.’’
ST: You’ve been critical not just of Cubs fans and opponents but even of iconic Reds players such as Joey Votto and Ken Griffey Jr.
MB: ‘‘I don’t think I could get a job today in this business if I was trying to. I’m not critical of anybody’s style. If they want to be a cheerleader, that’s fine. That was not my style, saying ‘we’ and all that crap. That imposes upon people thinking that you’re part of that down there. I’m not part of that; I never have been. That’s a closed fraternity. . . . There are too many guys [these days] that have to be concerned about everything that comes out of their mouth for fear of some type of reprisal. I’ve been lucky that way.’’
ST: Some word association: Wrigley Field.
MB: ‘‘I love this place. I think they’ve done a good job of maintaining the old ballpark feel, just like they’ve done at Fenway Park in Boston. I give them a lot of credit. They could have completely redone this ballpark to the point where very few people would recognize it from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.’’
ST: Former Cubs and Reds manager Dusty Baker.
MB: ‘‘I love Dusty Baker. I had a great relationship with him. I thought he was a great manager. But I thought he was too much of a players’ manager. . . . I think a manager can fall on his sword too many times for players.’’
ST: Former Cubs and Reds manager Lou Piniella.
MB: ‘‘That’s one of the reasons why I have such great respect for Lou Piniella: He would call a player out. Maybe you can’t do that today, I don’t know. If there was a level of intimidation that made players respond to him in the manner in which they did, so be it.’’
ST: Modern analytics.
MB: ‘‘I’m not a big fan. But I’m an old-school guy. I don’t look down my nose at them, like I think they do at us if we have anything negative to say about analytics. And it’s time for me to go. I don’t have to worry about it after this year.’’
ST: Ryne Sandberg.
MB: ‘‘I’m not taking away from the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame player. And I think he’s a great person. But there was an element of home cooking that he got from official scoring that very few players, if any that I can recollect at all, got from their home scorer. And he would never leave his feet to field a ball. Never. And I had a problem with that.’’
ST: St. Louis Cardinals.
MB: ‘‘The only two teams I’ve ever had any problems with were St. Louis and Chicago. I made some bad comments [after a Reds-Cardinals brawl in 2010]. The problem was borne out of the fact that when it came to [Cardinals manager Tony] La Russa, I never cared for him, and he never cared for me. I used to refer to him sarcastically as ‘Mr. Baseball.’ ’’
ST: La Russa’s gone now.
MB: ‘‘I continue to rip them. I didn’t just stop one day.’’
ST: Maybe you were a perfect fit for that Cubs job, after all.