There’s not a lot to add to what I’ve already typed about Marty herehere, and here, but as the final game approached, I was confident that new material would write itself. It did.

(Note how we professional sportswriters throw all AP style out the window and simply call him “Marty” here at Redleg Nation:  We know you know who we mean. That in itself is a tribute.)

Since it’s my job to think about the Reds, I thought I was emotionally immune to Marty’s final game–in a sense I just wanted to get it over with rather than continuing to drag out the lasts and the overwhelming emotion–but then my sister made a long post on Facebook which tagged transistor radios, our grandparent’s back porch, the Corolla we shared, and her renewed gratitude for West Coat games while rocking my then-baby nephews to sleep at night. Well, then I was ruined all at once instead of in an ongoing trickle of feelings: She had exactly encapsulated the whole city’s attachment to Marty.

It didn’t happen in the World Series games or the record-breaking calls. It developed over lifetimes, in the front seats of cars, working late, and when little Reds fans don’t yet know who or what they’re even rooting for yet.

In one of the highest honors a public figure can command, Marty’s name–and, even more tellingly, references to him but without his full name, for everyone would understand–appeared on store signs throughout the city. “HEY MARTY,” read the marquee of Wardway Fuels at the corner of Bridgetown and Glenway, “WE’RE HIRING.”

But Marty’s final game was his ultimate tribute.  The crowds and media attention took on the appearance of Opening Day, but the morning was chilly and distinct melancholy mixed in with the revelry.  He provided normal play-by-play on a very abnormal day–and left reminders of the love-hate relationship some fans have with modern Marty. He spouted off a last-moment mini-rant about Pete Rose which stirred Twitter anger. He spoke dismissively of Joey Votto’s third strikeout of the game, ignoring his significantly significant advanced stats, and one of the finest players this franchise will ever see left the final 2019 home game of the season to a chorus of boos from fans clutching giveaway radios. Then Marty cried and told Jeff Brantley he loved him and everybody was friends again.

After the game, Marty mentioned that he appreciated his adoption as one of Cincinnati’s own. Such an observation is proof of his membership. You can be born here, but you can never really leave; you can try to enter via marriage or a move, but as my husband can attest after living here over 5 years, the threshold of true acceptance can’t be forced, bought, or won. It’s earned.

Marty Brennaman earned it.

Here in 2019, we’ve cycled from the massive radio cabinets of my grandparents’ generation, to the flickering television of my parents’, to the insta-digital realm of my own, and now right back to the rise of audio-only podcasts. Marty Brennaman’s career has spanned the lifestreams of every single person who has experienced every single form of audio.

A game-ending walkoff grand slam would have been the fairy-tale ending to an unparalleled career, but it didn’t happen. And that’s okay… fitting, really. The fairy tale story was up in the broadcast booth– one man who bound us together and drew us in one pitch at a time.

10 Responses

  1. Scott C

    “It didn’t happen in the World Series games or the record-breaking calls. It developed over lifetimes, in the front seats of cars, working late, and when little Reds fans don’t yet know who or what they’re even rooting for yet.”

    Aptly Said! I can add nothing but Amen

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks so much Scott. Hope to see you again in the comments throughout the off season 🙂

  2. RedNat

    Thank you Mary Beth for your perspective. So much can be written about Marty. He was my voice. he was the average reds fan’s voice. he was the voice of the reds greatest era (1975-1999) and the voice of its worst era 2000- to the present. people criticized him for being grumpy and cranky at the end but can you really blame him? it was like eating filet mignon for 25 years then having to eat ramen noodles for the next 20 years.

    plus I think ,(like a lot of us old timers) that the game has changed so much and frankly has become a little boring. I think Marty was getting bored at the end. unless you are really into the advanced statistics which he wasn’t, the three outcome game would be more of a challenge to call on radio.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yes, I think Marty didn’t want to adjust to the analytics era, and that’s fine. Baseball is for everyone– they just have to find their place. He decided he didn’t want to be in the broadcast booth in an era of WAR and BABIP, and that’s fine. But as Jim reminds us in his piece today, baseball is, in the end, a story.

  3. Eric

    Yeah, he piped up with the whole Pete Rose thing, and all I could do was just shake my head. Really, Marty? …Today???


    …and thank you, Mary Beth, for that image of the Wardway Fuels sign. It’s the kind of thing that out-of-towners like Mark and me really do enjoy, since we don’t get to just happen across it.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thank YOU Eric! Somewhere on the Internet is a picture of that sign. I’m partial to towns being themselves 🙂 I’m glad you are too.

  4. Mary Beth Ellis

    Can’t thank you enough for this. To be considered worthy to stand next to Baseball Vader is just about anything a sportswriter could want. Your words are a big boost to me. I truly appreciate it and hope you stick around RN for the offseason (I’ll be here!)

  5. Indy Red Man

    Adam Duvall! Only the 2nd pinch hit HR in Braves history! He also threw out the go ahead run yesterday although their pen blew the game.

    I admit I got a little carried away with him as a Red, but most of RLN never warmed to him. Any team could use him in a platoon vs LHP and he’s also good defensively. I’m rooting for Tampa, but if Adam & Billy got a ring then that would work too!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      At first I was going to type that I really don’t feel anything one way or the other about Duvall since his career with the Reds happened while I was living away.. but then I checked… and nope he got here after I got back. Now I feel old and sad.

  6. Armo21

    Well said Mary Beth…I will not miss Marty, but appreciate that others will…Love the Wardway Sign reference and Kevin Ward is the best if you have not met him.