As you are well aware of, Marty Brennaman’s career is over as the Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster. 46 years in the books, including three World Series calls are behind him. It all came to an end last Thursday in the Reds final home game of the 2019 season. The executive decision was made to wait until the season was over to give everyone a little more time to get their thoughts together. Some of the Redleg Nation writers wanted to type out longer, more thought-out pieces on Brennaman, and we will be running those soon. Today, though, we are going to run some of the “shorter” thoughts from some of the writing crew here at Redleg Nation.
I have only fond memories of Marty Brennaman.
I remember a hot summer day driving in the car with my late Mother. I was only a kid, but it was my first real taste of Marty (and Joe at the time). We were listening to the staticky Reds broadcast in my mom’s fire engine red Jeep Cherokee when she decided to pull over and shop the nearest nursery (she loved flowers). I decided to stay in the car. I waited…and waited…and waited. I waited long enough to be upset. But I wasn’t. I passed the time with Marty and Joe – my new friends. I was captivated and entertained. I’m not sure why I’ve held onto this memory for so long – but it’s one that sticks out whenever I think of Marty, summer, and the Reds.
I also have some thoughts on Marty’s arguments against analytics (mostly because I can relate with him). In my opinion, I think Marty gets a bad wrap for having a strong stance against analytics and how its changed the way baseball is played. I think Marty understands how analytics can be used to improve a teams chances of winning – he just doesn’t like it. There’s a difference between being ignorant and being informed but not liking something. I think Marty falls into the later category. As a person who truly believes in analytics, their usefulness, and as someone who works with data and analytics on a daily basis – I kind of see where he’s coming from.
Guys like Marty and I miss small ball, bunting, stealing, and complete games. Baseball isn’t as fun as it used to be. We get analytics and the use for them, we just don’t like how they are effecting the product on the field – and that’s OK.
Normally this is a tribute I would reserve for someone who has passed away, but Marty Brennaman has had a life very well lived. He became the voice of the Reds almost at the exact time when I began following the Reds with unbridled passion as a pre-teen. Reds games became something that I planned each day around, and his voice was the way I followed the action every day during the summers (except for the occasional TV game back in those days).
Decades later, hearing his voice is still a reminder of happy days as a youth. Much like certain songs that catch your attention and make you smile when you hear them, Marty was the voice of summer for much of my life. I went to the University of Dayton to major in broadcasting with the urge to become the next Marty Brennaman. (Didn’t work out.) ?
I’m sure he’s had similar effects on generations of Cincinnatians. When you take stock of someone’s life, and you can say that person has had a positive impact on the lives of countless thousands of others, that deserves a salute. His work will live forever, synchronized with memories of three world championship teams and some of the greatest players in the history of the game. If you measure the success of one’s life by the number of other lives he or she has touched in a positive way, Marty Brennaman is in rarefied air.
During the last month of the season, I started to notice a theme running through most of the stories I heard about Marty Brennaman. Most fans listened to Marty and Joe because their parents or grandparents listened to Marty and Joe. Listening to baseball on the radio has been passed down from generation to generation, especially in Reds country.
My mom grew up listening to Marty and Joe because her dad, my grandfather, loved Sparky Anderson and the Big Red Machine. I never got the chance to meet my grandfather, but I’m sure we would have been listened to Reds baseball together if he had been alive when I was growing up. When I started liking baseball, I watched a lot of games on TV, but I always listened to the radio as well, because, like every baseball-crazed kid, I wanted to listen to the game after I went to bed. I’ve been listening to Marty since I was 11 years old.
Everything came full circle on Thursday afternoon. I went with my parents to Marty’s final game. We had our ballpark giveaway radios tuned to Marty and laughed along with him and the Cowboy as they entertained Reds fans for the final time. It’s a moment I will remember forever, and what I will remember most is the time spent with my parents as Marty provided the soundtrack. It’s the legacy he will leave–being the voice for thousands of families during those lazy summer nights.
I will miss Marty. There are many memorable calls that he had, but it is not about memorable calls as to why he is a legend. He is one of the best radio announcers in any sport, let alone baseball, and has built loyalty with his listeners by putting his listeners first. There are also few people who could so adequately and concisely describe what is going on while also keeping the listener engrossed. Marty inspired me to build a career around sports.
I’m 35-years-old. That’s important here, because it means that I truly missed the good ole days of baseball and radio. By the time I was 10-years-old, half of the Reds games were available on television via Sports Channel (and subsequently Fox Sports Ohio). And the number of games available on television grew every year moving forward. For as good as some radio broadcasters are – following the game with video was just better.
My generation, and the one that followed, doesn’t quite have the same connection with the radio crew like the one that came before us. We didn’t take in a large majority of Reds games through the radio. The radio call was there when we were driving, not so much when we planned to take in the action of the game. We probably missed out on some real good ones because of this.
Marty Brennaman didn’t always do the best job in my opinion at stuff that wasn’t describing the game as it happened. When he would talk about the stats, or about the value of players – it often was not what the baseball world was telling us was correct. The front offices were using different, and better ways of valuing players and he wasn’t keeping up. It would often rile me, and many others up, because at times it was very simply incorrect. And at other times it would just feed bad information and shape a portion of the fanbase’s opinion on a player in a bad way that wasn’t based in reality.
But let me tell you this much: If there’s a play to be made and it was, Marty Brennaman was among the best to ever call it. The description, the tone, the flow of the words – heck, the words themselves – the man was incredibly talented. If you needed a big call, he was there. And he would absolutely nail it. He’d hit it out of the park. Brennaman was a staple of Cincinnati Reds history, and while everything wasn’t always smooth sailing, the organization is much better because of his time spent with it.
I think Doug’s last paragraph nailed Marty, in describing the game he was the best. I started listening to Marty and Joe in 1975, that was the year I moved to Cincinnati to go to graduate school, since then they were an almost nightly experience for me. When I moved to North Carolina in 1983 I would often go outside and listen to the game in my car radio because for some reason it picked up the signal better until about 10 when I could pick it up on the radio in the house.
And I agree with Jeff, that it wasn’t that Marty didn’t understand analytics he just didn’t like what it did to the game. I feel the same way every time Joey hit a ball hard on the right side only to be thrown out by the second baseman playing short fielder in right. Baseball is just different from the days we grew up.
Interesting Post. My thoughts, which probably cut against the grain somewhat from what was said above:
I do not think that Marty was especially good at calling the action on the field. Perhaps that is the minority opinion. I know this: rarely a game went by wherein he was not forced to correct himself on the fly. And a high drive that is…. caught. That ball is going to be… CAUGHT… No! DROPPED! And he is OUT! No! SAFE! I do not think it is an unfair standard for a radio person to anticipate what will happen or at least to wait until it has happened before telling the fans what has transpired. These frequent miscalls became a running joke in my household.
Not everything is negative, of course. I loved his chemistry with Joe and then later with Jeff Brantley. It seemed to me like Marty mellowed somewhat over this past season even as his rapport and and radio chemistry with Brantley became better and better. Listening to the games with their ball busting was true entertainment and for that I am happy to tip my hat to Marty. Next year will definitely be a more factual, more informed call with Mr. Prall but I think it will miss some of the easy camaraderie that Marty brought with him to the booth.
I do not often see this angle but I’ll just say it as someone not actually from Cincinnati: what this really is about for me is that Marty is the last ongoing link to the Machine times. There were the prime years for that group and then later times when players like Perez and Rose were brought back for victory laps and finally stints as managers. All of that is long gone but Marty stayed and, with him, the last vestiges of what must be the best sports era in Cincinnati’s entire history. I think the city and Redleg Nation rightfully mourn that passing. It was possible to hear Marty last week and remember him calling games at Fenway in 1975 and now that is over. This truly is the new frontier.
My two cents and looking forward to other epitaphs.
“I do not think it is an unfair standard for a radio person to anticipate what will happen or at least to wait until it has happened before telling the fans what has transpired.”
You are certainly entitled to your opinion, that is what this forum is for. But calling the play as he sees it is part of the announcers job. Many times I have watched a play on TV or in person and thought He caught it, oh no he dropped it. Nor with things like wind or ball park dimensions you can’t always tell if the ball is going out or be caught against the wall. Marty called those plays as if you were there watching it, you would have that same reaction. To me that is good play by play not a robotic voice making sure everything he said was exactly right.
I have no respect for Marty after he dissed Ken Griffey Jr his whole time with the reds.He spoke truth but he could hide behind his microphone and get away with it! Good bye and Good Riddance!!
I graduated a year behind Marty’s daughter at Anderson and he was always generous with his time (occasional announcing football games late in the season when she was a cheerleader). The few times I have met him he has been nothing but gracious. I many not agree with him all the time but he was a master at his craft and will be sorely missed (i still like the Tommy and Cowboy set up for the booth. They seem to gel nicely).
I live in the Chicago area and the Cubs’s Pat Hughes is the standard by which I judge Marty. To that end, I think Marty’s just another guy who overstayed his welcome. I
As Doug mentioned, the last umpteen years Marty was more wrong than right with the statistics and giving his opinion on players. Too often the criticisms were expressed in ways that conveyed a player’s shortcomings as a character flaw rather than the failings of a player who is competing at the highest level of his profession.
Honestly, you have to wonder if Votto even had a kind parting word for him given how Marty spun an entire narrative about Joey not being worth his salary for the walks and lack of RBIs and not expanding the strikezone and…….to have a paid member of the Reds organization trashing their best player despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. This very site was calling for his dismissal just a couple seasons ago. To me, it’s a stain on his career. Marty had a job for life and he abused his privilege.
Wow. Sultan. I am a neighbor and close friend to Pat Hughes. He would 100% disagree. In fact he would say you are just plain wrong.
Anyway I was born in Cincy and raised in Indy. Jim and Joe on the radio 1969. Al and Joe 1971. Rough first year for Al. Marty and Joe 1974. I got to ask Marty about august 1974 collapse vs Dodgers at Wrigley one night. He recalled every nasty bit.
Anyway Mr Howsam accurately predicted the end of competitive baseball with free agency. So we get one title in 30 years. Seems about right.
We were so lucky to have Marty watch over our 30 years of just average baseball. What more could he do ?
Btw in the Wrigley press box on his break in 2003 he was just awesome. Good luck Marty !
I’m 60 and remember going to sleep with a transistor radio under my pillow listening to Marty call those late west coast games. This was before the Hall of Fame induction, before MLB Network, before cable tv, before the internet, when maybe only a handful of Reds games a season were televised. We’d listen to Joe and Jim, then Joe and Al, then Joe and Marty call Reds games, even taking our radios to the games at Crosley Field, then Riverfront Stadium, reading Bob Hertzel’s analysis the next morning in the Enquirer. Starting pitchers were expected to pitch 9 innings each night. The best hitter was the one with the highest batting average, the best slugger hit the most homeruns. All these things are long gone. And that’s ok. Baseball is the greatest sport ever and will continually evolve. Now Marty has joined these other parts of the past. And one day what we know now will be gone.
Mark, I am 57, and also did the radio under the pillow thing many, many times. Great memories.
I’m 59, and I also echo these comments. Marty and Joe were an absolute treat for me in my younger years. Unfortunately, I lost respect for Marty (to the point of not wanting to listen to him) in his later years because he allowed his personal politics to creep into his broadcasts.
I think Marty was one of the best at calling the game: top tier. I grew up with Waite Hoyt and the Burger Beer Baseball Network and in the early days Waite did not travel with the Reds but broadcast away games from the ticker, whatever that was. Waite Hoyt, one of the all time great Yankee pitchers, was a storyteller and he had a lot of them to tell since he played with Ruth, Gehrig, et al., and us Reds fans were fascinated. Marty Brennaman follows in the great Cincinnati broadcasting tradition.
Waite Hoyt calling the game on the radio was the sound of summer.
Yes it was. Back in the day we sat on the front porch and often discussed the game with the neighbors.
I’d like to know which writers didn’t care for Marty or, at the very least, are glad he’s retired.
I will miss Marty and his, “This One Belongs To The Reds”.
As someone who consumes 90% of my Reds baseball via radio, I have listened to a LOT of Marty. He is definitely someone who has two distinct pieces in my brain- first is thinking of the Marty/Joe era, my brother and I listening to WLW on a stereo in our shared bedroom in the 80’s… which forged a bond we still have. Marty is part of that soundtrack and it was wonderful.
Later years Marty, he absolutely took away my enjoyment of listening at times, and became someone I wouldn’t want my own children to emulate in terms of how he talked about players or how the game changed. I just read a great line in a book in which the narrator said something to the effect of how sometimes older generations continue to think they can vote against the present as if it’s simply an option to ignore. He was definitely doing that.
Marty was neither perfect, nor all bad. It was time for him to step aside, and I was sadder than I thought I’d be last week. Nostalgia is a tough beat.
I think Joe sort of kept him in line. In later years, Marty turned into an old crank. ?
like myself I think Marty got bored with the game towards the end. his style of calling a game was perfect for Riverfront stadium with the astro turf, the high hops, the balls bouncing around in the alleys and the speedy players of the 70s-90s.
GABP, not so much. the home runs are usually so far gone there is very little drama on the calls. there is just lest drama in the game now. all about the strike out, walk, double play and HR now and I think that would eventually get boring to call.
I don’t know… there are a lot of GABP Specials that scrape that wall into the first row! Drama at its best right there!