When Marty Brennaman, Rabble-Rouser, Got Spanked By The Commissioner
This is semi-ancient baseball history, but for those of us who haven't thought a whole lot about Cincinnati Reds play-by-play man Marty Brennaman until the last 48 hours or so, we can enjoy this as if it were fresh and new.
In late April, 1988, the Reds were hosting the New York Mets in old Riverfront Stadium. Umpire Dave Pallone, who had a long history of conflict with the Reds in general and Cincy manager Pete Rose in particular, was working first base. In the bottom of the third inning, Rose and Pallone got into a chest-to-chest confrontation over a disputed play on the bases. Rose and Pallone got their fingers in each other's faces, Pallone told Rose, "Get your fucking finger out of my face," Rose shoved Pallone with his forearm and then, after Pallone had given Rose the official heave-ho and turned to walk away, Rose shoved Pallone a second time, in the back.
Here's where Marty enters the story.
As related by James Reston, Jr. in "Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti":
In the broadcast booth above, Reds announcers Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall heaped scorn on the umpire. Brennaman called (Pallone) an incompetent, a terrible, terrible umpire, and reported that in the battle of fingers, Pallone's finger had grazed the face of the saint of Reds baseball. Garbage poured down on the field: golf balls, coins, cigarette lighters, marbles, hot dogs. A whiskey bottle exploded on a seat near an usher. When toilet paper fell near Pallone, the incendiary broadcasters remarked upon the aptness of the symbol.
By Reston's reckoning, this marked "the most terrifying moment of fan riot since the Rose-(Bud) Harrelson incident at Shea Stadium in 1973." Rose was eventually suspended by Giamatti for 30 days. Rose and his attorney flew to New York to meet with Commissioner Giamatti in person and appeal the suspension, but before he met with the manager, Giamatti chose to meet with the broadcasters.
While he took no action, (Giamatti) let (Brennaman and Nuxhall) know that inciting a riot was not part of their job description.
Moral of the story: in the world according to Marty Brennaman, throwing batting practice balls on the field is bad; throwing cigarette lighters and marbles, if it's done in the name of defending the honor of your manager, is something else entirely.
(Credit for bringing this story to my attention goes to the somewhat addled caller who phoned in to the Steve Cochran show on WGN Radio late Friday afternoon. If you're reading this, thanks for the lead.)
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