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01/27/09 9:40 PM EST

'The Mayor' leaves affable legacy

Jovial Casey will forever be defined by kindheartedness, personality

It was one of the few times Sean Casey was at a loss for words.

Expected to display an overwhelming offense, the Cincinnati Reds had just finished staggering through another low-scoring loss early in the 2000 season somewhere on the road. None of the Reds felt much like talking about it -- although Casey, who already had established himself as a diplomat after only two full Major League seasons, had spent the preceding days patiently explaining the team's slump and expressing optimism.

So Casey felt satisfied that he had said enough, until he finished dressing and turned from his locker to find another expectant crew of reporters (none from Cincinnati).

"What else can you possibly expect me to say?" Casey pleaded, feeling equally surprised, dismayed and frustrated. Naturally, he summoned the resolve to talk and give everybody what they needed.

Now that Casey has retired after 11 Major League seasons, what else can possibly be said about this embraceable bear of a man who swung a bat like a baton? Tales of Casey's generosity, warmth and class -- everything that made him special -- spring like daisies from each of the five cities where he played.

Indeed, the last word on Sean Thomas Casey will have to wait, particularly since he's joining the MLB Network to share what promises to be the most enthusiastic commentary and analysis in recent broadcasting history.

Still, Casey's brief pause as he makes the transition from first base to the studio provides an opportunity to reflect on the sheer depth of his humanity, which has made him so pleasantly uncommon. His smile is as real and brilliant as the sun, and his handshake is as firm and purposeful as the steel from his native Pittsburgh.

"He is probably the most sincere person that I know, which I love about him," said MLB Network analyst Barry Larkin, one of Casey's Cincinnati teammates. "His sincerity is off the charts. He is as honest as the day is long."

"The thing I can say without any fear of argument is he's the finest person I've ever known to put on a baseball uniform," said Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who likened Casey to Hall of Famer Tony Perez in that regard.

"He's the single most impressive human being I've ever covered in my career," said 40-year broadcasting veteran George Grande, who has done Reds telecasts since 1993. "He was always there for his teammates, for his family, for the fans, for the city, for the organization, for the game -- he did what needed to be done. How many people do we run into like that in life? Not many."

"The thing I can say without any fear of argument is he's the finest person I've ever known to put on a baseball uniform."
-- Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman on Sean Casey

"He's genuine and consistent," said former catcher Eddie Taubensee, another one of Casey's ex-Reds teammates. "Not only consistent as a ballplayer, but consistent as a person."

It's often said that character is defined by what you do when nobody's watching. Taubensee offered a glimpse into Casey's character. He related that Casey often urged him to join him at a food bank in Cincinnati to sort cans and other items in the late mornings and early afternoons before night games. Casey's wife, Mandi, and Taubensee's wife, Rene, occasionally joined them.

While Casey could have been excused for conserving his energy to face Tom Glavine or Kerry Wood, he was separating peas from beans.

"He was doing it for a long time and nobody ever knew. We'd sweat to death in the sun," Taubensee said.

An ambassador for Pro Athletes Outreach, an organization that strives to recruit athletes to make a positive impact on behalf of Christ, Taubensee acknowledged the good that can come from a ballplayer publicizing his charitable efforts. Many of Casey's other efforts became publicized. But Casey's food bank visits demonstrated that giving was in his blood.

"It was part of the normal routine of the day," Taubensee said. "Sean did this without any fanfare."

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Casey attributed his behavior to learning the Golden Rule from his parents -- treating others as you would treat yourself.

"If I'm looked at [as] a good guy in life and as a pretty good player, that's a pretty good combination," Casey said.

As Brennaman recalled, Casey was a good guy even when he got upset. Never one to sugarcoat the Reds' struggles during 35 years in the booth, Brennaman occasionally has fielded complaints from offended players -- including Casey, who once confronted him over a perceived on-air slight.

"He referred to me as 'cantankerous,' which I thought was great," Brennaman said. "That was about as strong as he would ever get."

Casey's knack for saying the right thing has included his uncanny ability to remember names. Reluctantly but mischievously, another of his Reds teammates and close friends, infielder Aaron Boone, revealed a secret.

"There were many days when I was behind some of his name-knowing," explained Boone, now with the Houston Astros. "He'd see somebody coming who he thought he should know. Sometimes I'd give him the real name and sometimes ..."

Well, sometimes Boone wouldn't. "I used to have a lot of fun with him with that," he said.

Fun has followed Casey everywhere, and the airwaves should be no exception.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.