Brennaman treasures friendship with Seaver

Hall of Fame pitcher's family announces dementia diagnosis

March 7th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The friendship between Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman and Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver goes back well before the years either man was associated with the Reds.

That made Thursday’s announcement from the Baseball Hall of Fame that Seaver is completely retiring from public life because he was diagnosed with dementia a tough one for Brennaman.

“It’s a sad thing to know what’s happened to him because there are a lot of things I would think would be not as devastating for a guy like him as dementia is,” Brennaman said. “But the memory of what he was and how he went about his business to those who knew him will always be there.”

The Seaver family revealed the diagnosis via the Hall of Fame.

“The family is deeply appreciative of those who have supported Tom throughout his career, on and off the field, and who do so now by honoring his request for privacy. We join Tom in sending warmest regards to everyone,” the Seaver family said.

Seaver, 74, was an iconic Major League pitcher from 1967-86 who won 311 games with 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 ERA over his career. A 12-time All-Star and the winner of three National League Cy Young Awards, he was part of the Mets' 1969 World Series-winning club.

It was during the early portion of Seaver’s Mets years that Brennaman was the voice of that team’s Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va.

“The Mets would come in every year for an exhibition game and I got to know him a little bit then,” Brennaman said. “Of course, when I came to Cincinnati, we’d visit when he was a Met and I was doing those games. Then, of course, the trade came.”

Amid a contract dispute with Seaver, the Mets traded their franchise’s greatest star to the Reds on June 15, 1977, for Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry.

From 1977-82, Seaver was 75-46 with a 3.18 ERA in 158 starts for Cincinnati. He went to two All-Star games in ’78 and ’81.

“I got to know him extremely well,” Brennaman said. “I think the first thing that jumps out at you is what a professional he was in every sense of the word. At the same time, he was the most fun-loving guy, as fun-loving as any player I’ve ever been around. He had a good time doing what he did. But on the day he pitched, he would sit there at his locker during the New York Times crossword puzzle and you didn’t say anything to him. That was the day he went to work. And he took a very serious demeanor.

“He was not unkind to people, but the less you had to say to him that would require him to say something to you on a day in which he pitched ... he was just not of that ilk. The other four days, he was just a regular guy in the clubhouse. Obviously, the numbers point to the fact that he was just a marvelous pitcher.”

On June 16, 1978, Seaver threw the lone no-hitter of his career vs. the Cardinals and Brennaman had the call.

Brennaman was aware at the time that Seaver had previously pitched five one-hitters, with two no-hit bids ending in the ninth inning.

“I just felt like it would have been a shame for him to go into the Hall of Fame never having pitched one,” Brennaman said.

Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. The Reds inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2006. About four years ago, Brennaman and his wife, Amanda, had dinner with Tom and Nancy Seaver at a restaurant in Calistoga, Calif., where the Seavers live.

“All he wanted to talk about was his wine, because that was his passion in life,” Brennaman said. “Guys would tell me he’d go to Cooperstown every year. Everybody there is talking baseball and he wanted to talk about the wine business. And the wine is sensational and it’s very expensive. He was such a joyous person doing what he ultimately did, which is something he always wanted to do.”

The Seaver family's statement noted that he would continue to work on the vineyard at his home.