After 46 seasons, Marty Brennaman earned a reputation as the voice of both the Cincinnati Reds and its passionate fan base. That long and distinguished career made him a clear choice for 2019 Ballpark Digest MLB Broadcaster of the Year.
It was a personal honor to help in selecting someone that I have so much respect and admiration for as this year’s recipient. Marty represents the freedom to express views, thoughts and opinions in a manner that doesn’t necessarily reflect those of his radio station WLW, Major League Baseball or the Cincinnati Reds. (Only joking with that disclaimer. Partially.) Besides painting an eloquent picture of the game, Marty might be one of the last Major League radio broadcasters who has the freedom to freely criticize without the fear of repercussion. He is 100 percent authentic, and his broadcast has been the height of entertaining for almost five decades.
Brennaman had been the voice of the Reds since 1974. Over his 46 seasons behind the mic, he earned the trust, respect and love of the Queen City and its baseball fan base. His style blended brutal honesty with a full grasp of baseball’s daily chess match, with a smooth delivery, a raspy voice, a pure joy and love for the game, and a constant broadcast partner in the late Joe Nuxhall at his side.
“Joe and I were together for 31 years,” said Brennaman, “and that equals the longest any broadcast duo has done major-league baseball.”
Their chemistry on the air worked to entertaining perfection, a good-cop, bad-cop repartee. Joe, the former player, brought his MLB experience, anecdotes, and a glass-half-full perspective, while Marty served as the voice of the fan and the captain of the broadcast.
“I had a special relationship with Joe,” Brennaman recalled. “Our styles portrayed us as who we really were.” The two partners were equally close off the field, living in the Queen City year-round. “We went to dinner and played golf on most road trips. He was the number-one name in Cincinnati sports.”
Brennaman announced before the 2019 season that it would be his last, retiring to spend more time with his family and enjoy life while he was still in good health at age 76. “It’s something I’ve thought about a long time,” he told me. Though reluctant to accept the attention, he was honored throughout the season, culminating with the Reds playing a video tribute to his career before his last game. “I didn’t want any of that stuff,” he said. “They didn’t owe me anything.” The tributes continued on the road, including a gift from the Chicago Cubs of the number ‘46’ from Wrigley Field’s iconic hand-operated scoreboard.
One of the final broadcasts for Brennaman was also special, teaming up with his son, Thom, the lead TV commentator for the Reds (as well as national TV broadcaster of both MLB and NFL games), one final time. Marty felt instant chemistry the first time the two shared the airwaves years ago. He described their relationship as “two brothers” and is deeply proud of his son, whom he considers an “excellent” broadcaster.
Marty Brennaman’s career has been remarkable: He was at the mic for Hank Aaron’s historic 714th career home run, tying Babe Ruth’s record; three World Series championships in 1975-76 and 1990; Tom Seaver’s 1978 no-hitter; Pete Rose becoming the all-time hit king in 1985; Tom Browning’s perfect game in 1988; and Ken Griffey Jr’s 500th homerun in 2004 and 600th in 2008. In 2000, he was honored with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award.
Marty will be remembered most for earning credibility as an observer of the Reds, with honesty as a trademark. It’s difficult to survive in broadcasting now without sugar coating the ups and downs of a season. The Reds and their ownership “allowed me to do my job,” Brennaman said. The result was 46 years of amazing radio from one of the most iconic broadcast legends to ever describe baseball on the radio.
Photo courtesy Cincinnati Reds.
Past Ballpark Digest MLB Broadcaster of the Year winners
2018: Pat Hughes
Best New Logo/Branding: Fayetteville Woodpeckers
Best New Food Item: Crabzilla, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Best New Concessions Experience: Pensacola Blue Wahoos
MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler
Promotion of the Year: Funko Fridays
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1M): City of Baseball Museum
Ballpark of the Year: Las Vegas Ballpark
Team of the Year: Las Vegas Aviators
Best Ballpark Renovation: American Family Fields of Phoenix