Ask me and I will tell you I distinctly remember the trip down I-71 on a sweet summer evening like it was yesterday. A moment you wish you could bottle up and save for … well … forever. A moment a young man doesn’t forget, shortly removed from eighteen glorious holes on a beautifully manicured piece of earth with his favorite golfing buddy—his father.  How the subject of Franchester Martin Brennaman arose I will never remember. What I do recall is reminiscing with my father on the subject of the the great Al Michaels and how lucky we all had been to have had him calling games for the Cincinnati Reds in those nascent Big Red Machine days; how crushed I remember being when he left to become the voice of the San Francisco Giants; and how I just knew nobody, and I mean nobody, would ever come along and take his place.

I will also never forget what Dad said next: “And then Marty came along and made us forget all about Al Michaels.”

Which, of course, is exactly what he did. You see, Marty Brennaman wasn’t just the voice of the Reds, he WAS the sound of Baseball itself in Cincinnati, Ohio, every bit as much as the crack of the bat or the thump of a ball plugging into a well-worn mitt on a bright Saturday morning. If you’re a fan of a certain age, I can almost guarantee you are nodding your head in recognition as you remember sitting in the driveway in the cool of the evening with the car radio on and the engine off, mere yards away from the family room recliner, but still unable to part company with Marty and Joe.

You listened for many reasons, not the least of which was that Marty told it like it was. I’ll never forget the night an umpire, I believe it was Eric Gregg, blew a call. It was Brennaman who, after surveying the diamond, said what no one else would—a moment as jaw-dropping as hearing your mother quote Lil Wayne—this umpiring crew was not just out of position and out of shape, they were downright fat. Oh, yes he did. And all true. The man didn’t mince words. Marty was as honest and real as the infield dirt. We loved him for it.

When I moved to New York City years later, I performed contortions of Cirque du Soleil-like proportions in order to listen to Marty’s familiar voice. All it took was the following—a clear night in Brooklyn, few feet of wire attached to the back of the receiver fed out the window and onto the ledge positioned just so, bent at an excruciatingly precise direction—to bring Brennaman into my apartment some 700 miles away.

But life intrudes after all, and but for a couple of weeks visiting family each summer, Marty was no longer a part of my baseball experience for many years.  When technology brought WLW and Reds Radio back into my east coast life, I discovered a different Marty Brennaman. Maybe it was the toll taken by the loss of the ole Lefthander. Maybe it was years of adulation; the all too human failing of hubris. All I know is that this Marty seemed more strident, less forgiving. I would almost cringe listening to the beat reporters make their daily second inning sojourn to the radio booth, tip-toeing around the great man as if he might chew them up at any moment. To my ear, those encounters with the local writers felt tense. Awkward. Off.

I had missed much of the whispers about Griffey Jr. and his strained relationship with Marty. I heard the talk of years of rough treatment of Homer Bailey.  But, I only discovered this different side of Brennaman first-hand when the subject turned to Jay Bruce. Jay’s cold streaks seemed to irritate Marty to a degree of unfathomable depth to me. Each at bat had the potential to become a cross-examination, ending with Jay walking back to the dugout. When will Jay Bruce ever get it?

His disdain for advanced metrics, the almost sneering tone whenever the subject came up, shocked and saddened me. When Marty criticized Bruce for being a poor hitter with runners in scoring position, how could Marty not know that Jay was actually hitting twenty points over his career average with RISP? This Marty not only didn’t know everything, he didn’t know what was transpiring on the field below him at this very moment.

Where had the Marty Brennaman of my youth gone?

Now, plenty of people want nothing to do with the Sabermetric movement. I get that. Different strokes. But, Brennamen isn’t just anyone. He’s the voice of the Reds. If it was my opinion that Marty had a responsibility to keep an eye open to a new, progressive part of the game that was taking over front offices all over Baseball, changing the way organizations chose, developed and paid players—well, it was more than clear that Marty didn’t share that view one whit. Baseball folks saw a Hollywood movie with a pretty-boy actor having fun at the expense of hardworking baseball men of a certain age. They had seen enough. Sabermetrics?  Get that $%#$! out of here!

Which is a bit of a problem. Fifty-thousand watts of clear channel pouring out to Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and points beyond give Brennaman an evangelical reach. Mix in forty years of shared nights and Sunday afternoons and you have a rather potent cocktail, not to mention a large pulpit from which to preach to the faithful.

Which is why the latest crusade against the manner with which Joey Votto chooses to go about the business of hitting a baseball is so breathtakingly wrongheaded.  There are enough fans out there that suddenly can’t deal with the ungodly amount of money Joey Votto is set to make in the next decade. Marty could help diffuse much of the irrational jealousy that hangs in the air like heavy, summer smog. Instead, logs are being tossed onto the fire:

“I definitely fall on the old school side. He’s not paid to walk,” says Reds Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman. “Walking is a byproduct of being a good hitter. He’s paid to drive in runs.”

Many voices much smarter than mine would beg to differ. You would hope a man of such influence would listen with an open mind. Old School has it charms. Here? Not so much. The sloth-like and sedentary WALK has become a cudgel with which to bludgeon a rich athlete. OBP has become the couch potato of stats in the minds of the people who hold the keys to the kingdom. It’s deeply ironic that the baseball man whose approach to hitting Votto reveres above all others—Ted Williams—is not Old School enough for Marty & friends.

Last night in his pre-game interview with Dusty Baker, Marty once again leveled a shot across the bow at Votto, asking Baker why he wouldn’t consider moving Joey into the 2 spot, given that Votto placed walking above driving in runs.

Ouch. And so it goes.

If you are wondering, yes, I still listen, but without the same sense of awe. Maybe the boy in me got old. Perhaps it’s my ears that have gone tone deaf. But something is missing.

When Marty finished a game, it didn’t just belong to the Reds. Marty made it feel like it belonged to each and every one of us, no matter how far flung we were out there floating around in the Reds’ universe, be it the driveway or some barracks in Afghanistan. It’s not that way anymore. Now I just look around ….

… and he’s gone.



Join the conversation! 88 Comments

  1. Wow what a fantastic, fantastic essay! Thank you for this, Mr. Fitch!

    • Sir Richard, you are my hero. This was the most succinct, deep, complete addressing of the Redlegs’ history vis a vis Marty (and Michaels)I’ve read in years, and particularly about Marty’s spoilage whilst on the air.

      Born a Yankees/Mantle fan in ’52, I shopped for “my own” team in ’65, and opted for Frank Robinson’s ‘Legs.

      Clearly, that didn’t last long, but my Redlegs obsession has been intense and thorough ever since.

      I watched the Cardinals’ Jack Buck go through similar souring as he aged, and by the time he retired, he was a rancid and destructive to the team’s overall welfare as Marty is now.

      Time was that Marty meant that we were all in the thick of it. But for way too long, he’s been disgusting. Does he really think that trashing wonderful players EVERY time they fail reflects some kind of savvy expertise on him?

      If we lose either Homer Bailey or Jay Bruce because of Marty’s caustic trashing of these still-young, ever-improving remarkable players, then I say we tie a pork chop around his neck and leave him on the curb, and with his Hall of Fame plaque taped to his forehead.

  2. Nice write-up, Richard. I enjoyed reading it.

    Flying to Florida for a family vacation when I was a kid (circa 92-93) Marty was in front of us on the plane. I heard his voice first and asked my dad if that was Marty in front of us. He stood and looked, sat back down, got out a legal pad and a pen, handed it to me, and told me “Yep. Go talk to him.” I did, and he was very kind. He said “Nice to meet you” and said he hopes I enjoy the flight. He signed the legal pad with the pen my dad had given me. That was a great memory.

    It makes his criticism of two of my favotire Reds of all time (Votto and Bruce) all the tougher to stomach. Also, since I chose to do my undergraduate work in mathematics, I’m of course one of the “stat geeks” he likes to disparage.

    Oh, well! All good things must come to an end.

    • @CDAL:

      Great piece.

      Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs posted blog titled “Joey Votto: Run Producer” today.

      Know we’re beating a dead horse here, but:

      As a personal aside, last night was quite satisfying to watch in person. Some STL press thought Wainwright had difficulty getting loose during pregame warmup (hard to believe given 100+ heat index at game time). And lest we think the ‘Pick is alone is causing frustration, here’s how Post-Dispatch‘s Bernie Miklasz described the Redbirds’ manager as the “increasingly and bizarrely petulant manager Mike Matheny” who “resorted to spitting out one-word answers and tapping impatiently on the interview podium in a childish response to reasonable postgame questions.” Good stuff!

  3. I’m 23 now, and grew up falling asleep to Marty and Joe on the radio. Even in the meager pickings of the late 90’s/early 2000’s, the game was fun to listen to. It no longer is that way. I had hoped that the Cowboy’s goofy antics would mirror Joe and bring back the good ole days, but it hasn’t worked.

    I no longer seek out the radio call. I moved to St. Louis this year to start my career, and it’s been tough living in Cardinal country. The fans here get baseball. The media is objective, yet positive about their team. And the TV/radio guys; they get it. Fans tune in to hear the game, and they understand that is number one goal. Goal number two you ask? Enhance the fan experience. Objective analysis of stats, free from excessively negative, or positive, spin. It’s a different experience.

    I’ll never become a Cardinals fan; that would be blasphemy. But the fact remains that Cincinnati’s media coverage is outdated. Never a positive story to be had by the “professionals.” Between Marty and John Fay, coverage is unlistenable and unreadable. Then, last night. C Trent is usually fun to follow, mostly objective, and knowledgeable. He must not have remembered Brandon saying he will do what is asked of him in the lineup. Cleanup meant driving in runs, not necessarily getting on, and C Trent complains about a 1% drop in OBP in switching Phillips in the 2 for Frazier. Are you kidding me? Phillips openly said his role is dependent on his spot in the order, and the 2-hole means getting on.

    To sum up my long winded rant, I long for one thing; Joe Nuxhall’s untamed fanboy attitude to return to the booth to cancel out Marty’s sour tone of recent years. Then, my nostalgia for the radio calls of my youth will return.

    • @meyer12: Everything except what you said about Rosecrans is right on. But Rosecrans has never been objective. His history with BP goes back years, and he is one of the ringleaders in the bash-the-fans narrative we’ve put up with for too long.

    • I moved to St. Louis this year to start my career, and it’s been tough living in Cardinal country. The fans here get baseball. The media is objective, yet positive about their team. And the TV/radio guys; they get it. Fans tune in to hear the game, and they understand that is number one goal. Goal number two you ask? Enhance the fan experience. Objective analysis of stats, free from excessively negative, or positive, spin. It’s a different experience.

      This really resonated with me. I live in Oakland and I’ve told many of my friends (A’s and Giants fans) that they would be shocked and appalled if they heard the Cincy radio broadcasts.

      Out here it’s the same, on both the A’s and Giants stations. Really solid and objective analysis of what’s going on on in the game and in the season, but skewed POSITIVELY about the home team. The guys on the radio obviously LIKE the teams they are covering, which makes it enjoyable for fans.

      With the Reds on radio, what you get is terrible analysis (or none at all, instead replaced by talk of late night snacking, down home folksiness, or some guy no one knows) and a distinctly NEGATIVE view of the Reds. If I had never heard him before and I listened to Marty, I would be convinced that he hates the Reds.

      It really is a totally different experience out here, and it’s a shame people in the Cincinnati area don’t get something similar.

  4. This was spot on.

    I wish there was a way to dig up old audio of Marty calling games where Joe Morgan would bat 3rd, walk 120 times a year from the 3rd spot in the lineup, and not be among the league leaders in RBI.

    Somehow, I’m convinced he probably sounded a bit less sarcastic then than he does now.

  5. I’m not from the old BRM or post BRM days but I can tell you that Marty and Joe were still magic in the early to late 90’s. I can remember slipping into bed on a school night and flicking the on switch on my tiny radio that my Dad didn’t know about just enough so that their voices would whisper to me on a west coast trip while I lay there and grinned because we were sharing a secret. I think that as time goes by all things change and even our heroes are no exception. The important thing is to remember that great men still must pay homage to the same forces even we lesser souls do but that shouldn’t diminish what they’ve done.

    Marty and Joe and the Reds will always be magic for me, nothing he says or does at this point will change that because I can separate who he was from who he has become. I can’t fault him for changing just like I shouldn’t fault myself for it. Life doesn’t give you that option because we’re all mortals.

    Wonderful piece with a lot of thought and feeling in it Richard and this is one of many reasons I come here every day even if I post a little less now than I used to because the negativity and pessimism gets a bit overwhelming.

    • @Mwv: Thank you. Disappointed that you’re here less often. Always like reading what you have to say. People like you are needed here to counter the negativity. Thanks for reading.

  6. I reached my own personal Rubicon during Tuesday night’s disaster. Brantley made some remark denigrating Sabermetrics (I don’t remember exactly what it was), and Marty responded in that venomous laugh thing he does “you’re gonna get the geeks all stirred up”. At which point I turned off the radio and threw the remote across the room.

    Richard, I shared your experience almost word for word. Al Michaels was fantastic, and it really took me 2-3 years before I grew to appreciate Marty’s more conversational way of calling a game (even though it wasn’t *nearly* as conversational as it has become in later years).

    But now, I don’t feel welcome to that conversation anymore. My input is no longer desired. It makes me very sad.

  7. Actually, Jim McIntyre called Reds games with Nux for a year or so before Marty came to the Reds. I recall talking to McIntyre, who was generally a critic of the Morgan-May trade, saying it wasn’t good for the team.
    Despite that, I loved this memory. Nice work.

  8. Beautifully put. It’s like your favorite Uncle getting Alzheimers (not that I am in any way suggesting Marty has some reduced mental capacity). But something beloved has been lost, the person who once was is still there physically but no longer the same. I grew up listening to thousands of nights of Marty and Joe. When the Reds were on TV I turned on 700 WLW and watched with the TV volume off.

    More often than not now I watch the game and just tune out the announcers. Occasionally I will switch to the opposing team’s feed when listening to the game on MLB At Bat. I only listen to Marty when I am in the car and have no other option.

    I just can’t take his snark, petty disdain for knowledge, and relentless negativity on whichever Reds players are his whipping boys at the moment. To stir up the fan base over Joey Votto, by all accounts an impeccable professional and the best player to roam the fields in Cincinnati since Barry Larkin, is just disgusting.

    • @Jason1972:

      I just can’t take his snark, petty disdain for knowledge, and relentless negativity on whichever Reds players are his whipping boys at the moment. To stir up the fan base over Joey Votto, by all accounts an impeccable professional and the best player to roam the fields in Cincinnati since Barry Larkin, is just disgusting.

      Wish I’d written that. Petty disdain for knowledge. Nice.

  9. “To my ear, those encounters with the local writers felt tense. Awkward. Off.”

    I’ve felt that way ever since they started that segment, but to me it felt more like Marty didn’t want to do those segments to begin with, not because of Marty’s “hubris.” I worked in the radio business for 13 years, and to me that segment always smelled like something the sales people forced on Marty.

  10. Good use of column space. Meanwhile, does anybody affiliated with RLN have anything to say about Brandon Phillips–on the record? (Be careful–he might attempt a public humiliation.)

    • @jamesp50014: My personal opinion is that I like both C Trent and BP. C Trent is a great blogger who probably doesn’t have quite the professional discipline you want in a beat writer. I think he pushed BP’s buttons a little, however BP’s reaction was absolutely childish and unprofessional. He also made his manager look stupid. BP should apologize.

    • @jamesp50014: I think there’s a post in the queue from one of the other editors.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I know it is editorial prerogative to focus on whatever one likes and to exhibit whatever biases one may like. And I know this was probably an off-day editorial that was already in the hopper before BP’s comments. AND I know that off-day editorials are often full of red meat for readers–but, as just one reader who doesn’t eat red meat, I’m disappointed in the proportion of ink spilled to criticize one member of the media while, at the very same time, another media member is having the sort of experience that demonstrates just how tough a job it can be. AND who, who by the way, is right there on the front lines, facing the people he criticizes every day.

        I’d like to see as much ink devoted to this event as there is to criticizing the broadcaster or savaging the manager. But, I understand if my position is in the minority. Just saying.

        • @jamesp50014: Obviously a matter of opinion. Keep in mind the editors of RN rarely act or plan as a group. We write what moves us at the time. It’s not like a newspaper editors meeting where we sit around a table in the morning and decide what we should “cover.”

          To me, the conflict between Brandon Phillips and C. Trent Rosecrans was a 24-hour news blip. It doesn’t indicate much of anything about either person. Sure, it’s the story of the day for all the talk shows, but it’ll have no lasting impact or meaning. It warrants nowhere near the amount of “ink” than the long-term strategies of the team’s manager or decade-long slide into negativism of the team’s Hall of Fame broadcaster. But that’s just me.

          I posted my opinion on the BP/C.Trent skirmish as a comment or two yesterday. And we do have a post in the queue on it. Nothing really stops anyone from posting their comments on it in any thread.

  11. I didn’t hear the pre-game interview with Baker. What was Dusty’s response to the question of Votto hitting 2nd?

  12. Thanks for writing and posting this. I listened to my first Reds games in the ’80s. I can remember sitting in parking lots and driveways, killing the car battery, listening to Marty and Joe. Lots of people have similar stories because those two guys were great and affected hundreds of thousands of people. I listened consistently until I got to college, and then I was away for several years. The Griffey trade brought me back full-on.

    Once they started pushing Joe out of the booth and hired the milktoast Steve Stewart, everything went south. Joe wasn’t sharp (ever, but it was fine until his age really affected him), and he was even less sharp when he wasn’t in the booth all the time. Before I knew it, Joe was gone (and Stewart didn’t last).

    Marty’s hubris has been there for years. I always could hear his disdain for fans and his arrogance when they went to the Banana Phone™. Now they do a nightly feature called “Ask Marty” and they get his “expertise” on any topic whatsoever. Maybe it’s meant to be a joke. I don’t think Marty sees it that way. I wonder if he’s bought his own hype too much. Hubris is rough on a person.

    Joe never had an arrogant bone in his body. When he died, I sat at the computer and cried like I’d lost my granddad. I bought that book about him that the Enquirer put out and cried again while reading it. His “the wind, the pitch” echoes in my head and I know I’ll never hear it again. If I hear recordings of his calls, I tear up. Nothing ever sounded like Joe being a homer and balancing Marty out.

    I caught a glimmer of Marty and Joe the night Marty had his head shaved for charity on the field. Joe wasn’t there, but he was. Anything that takes Marty down a peg in a good natured way is an echo of Joe. If someone would take the vinegar out of him on a nightly basis like Joe used to do, the broadcasts would be listenable again. As is, they just hired another Brennaman and it’s like eating a lemon and pickle sandwich. Brantley, Welsh, Kelch, and even Grande have tiny shades of the ol’ left-hander in their styles, but they’ll never replace him.

    • @John: My favorite thing that Joe did was shout “get out of here!” behind the play by play call. That’s how I knew it was well-hit. And the Star of the Game show in its prime.

      • @Steve Mancuso: My favorite Joe calls involve lots of yelling, little (if any) attempt at analysis, and pure joy because his hometown team did something well.

    • @John: I think the book you’re referring to is “Joe: Rounding third and heading home.” It is a great piece and was actually published by Orange Frazer Press in Wilmington, OH (I’m from Wilmington). We were fortunate to have the old left-hander do a book signing in our downtown for it.

  13. Waite Hoyt introduced the Old Cossack to the Cincinnati Reds and started my life-long love of the game and all things Cincinnati Reds. I enjoyed listening to Waite with as much enthusiasm as I enjoy(ed) listening to Vin Scully. Waite could tell a story with the best, rivaled only by Scully. Alas, all good thing come to an end.

    After Waite left as the voice of the Reds, I can recall no enthusiasm for or even specific memories from Frank McIntyre other than longing for the next Waite Hoyt, but I do recall my euphoric glee when Al Michaels began his brief time as the voice of the Reds and the utter betrayal I felt when he left for greener pastures. Michaels was the consumate professional behind the microphone. That feeling of betrayal led to a very skeptical reception of young Marty Brennaman, but Marty and Joe quickly brought me back to that comfortable home of the Cincinnati Reds.

    Marty and Joe simply enjoyed what they did in the radio booth and invited their audience to share that enjoyment. I always relished Marty’s candor. I will always believe that the change and deterioration in Marty’s broadcasts began when he and Joe were summoned to the Commisioner’s office for daring to be candid with their opinions and being summarily reprimanded and warned that their careers were in jeopardy if they continued with such behavior. From that point forward, their broadcasts were not as much fun and Marty became increasingly bitter in his presentation.

    • @Shchi Cossack:
      I don’t go back as far as you Cossack, but I do feel that some of the perceived change in Marty is just the passage in time, candor becomes overly-critical becomes Mr negativity…the question is though has he changed that much or have we the listener changed more? I don’t know. Just a thought.

      I do think that the dismantling of hte BRM and the lean years of the early 80’s followed by various owners that didn’t seem to care too much about baseball took some toll on both marty and joe. I think though that trying to pin all of the negative fan vibe in Cincy on Marty’s lapel (as some insinuate) is foolish at best. The negative people are always the loudest and will always be with us.

      • @Lost and Found:

        I think though that trying to pin all of the negative fan vibe in Cincy on Marty’s lapel (as some insinuate) is foolish at best. The negative people are always the loudest and will always be with us.

        I don’t get the same sense of ‘trying to pin all of the negative fan vibe’ as you mention. What I hear laments for what is gone from Marty’s broadcasts and how he has replaced it within the broadcasts. I liken it on a personal level to the cynical, grumpy grandfather who used to be the funny, adoring grandfather. We simply miss the the manner of the grandfather who we still love but who is not the same grandfather we remember fondly.

      • @Lost and Found:

        I was trying to figure out where to put this same thought….I think the terrible teams in the 80’s (after the immediate and legendary success the team enjoyed in his first years) really took a toll on Marty and jaded him. I think that Joe was able to mask it for a long time, but when Joe was gone, he didn’t have a filter any longer and it showed.

  14. Long time reader, first time poster.

    Thanks so much for this piece – it’s nice to have some color on what was always confusing to me. I’m currently based in Nashville but grew up in the Memphis area, just out of reach of the Reds radio broadcasts. Even worse, Memphis is a Cardinals town. I was always somewhat jealous of the joy that I’d heard many Reds fans got from listening to Marty, one of the game’s great radio voices. The Dodgers had Scully, the Phillies had Kalas, the Tigers had Harwell, and the Reds had Marty.

    I was so excited when technology (XM – though only for home games) allowed me to experience what I’d only heard about previously. Hearing “This one belongs to the Reds”, albeit all too infrequently during the mid 00s, was such a treat during those first few years that I had XM. I used to get so frustrated when it was a road game – with the other team’s radio broadcast.

    Now? Eh. If I’m in the car during the game, I tune in. If it’s a road game nowadays, I’m not terribly upset. Marty – and increasingly, Brantley as well – is incredibly negative. It’s not just the “sports math geek” stuff. It’s everything. Am I happy during every minute of the game? Absolutely not. But I also find joy in the many good things about this team. Based on his radio persona at least, I’m not sure he’s capable. The good, happy guy is in there – e.g. his head shaving last year and corresponding fundraising for the Children’s Fund. I just wish we’d see (hear) it more often.

    • @TennesseeRed: Welcome! Please keep participating.

      My best friend in Nashville is, unfortunately, a Cardinals fan. Ernie Harwell definitely belongs on that list. I lived in Ann Arbor for nearly 20 years and even though Sparky was the manager, I never became a Tigers fan. But I loved listening to Harwell. He used to describe a batter who took strike three: “And he stood there like a house on the side of the road.”

      I hope Brantley can resist the gravitational pull toward negativity, but Marty casts a large presence. The Cowboy is the only reason that I listen to the radio broadcast at all.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I don’t know for sure the reasons why Brantley is in the booth, other than perhaps an attempt by the Reds to find a new version of Dizzy Dean … some sort of countrified blue-collar guy with some dugout insight.

        Brantley knows his baseball but it seems like he’s held in check by the shadow. My problem with him is whether he can deliver that knowledge. The trend is toward dull, as the ESPN national announcers clearly are. I watched part of that the other day and Magrane was doing analysis. I shut off the sound. Geez-us, he was terrible.

        You need to listen to Hawk Harrelson to get a true appreciation of Marty and Brantley.

  15. I thought everyone on here wants Votto to hit second.

    • @StealYourBase: I think the overall attitude was we wanted SOME-body to hit second who could reach base. I think we all wanted Joe Morgan, truthfully.

  16. Speaking of Tuesday night’s game (and boy how I wish I wasn’t), did anybody else feel like the TV coverage was a game-long advertisement for BA-RISP as “the only stat that matters”? Was there an inning Thom didn’t bring it up? Or follow it up by saying “that’s no accident”? Heck, even the trivia question was RISP-related.

    And am I a conspiracy theorist for wondering if there was an organizational agenda behind it all?

    Probably. Thom was probably the lone gunman. Or maybe I imagined the whole thing.

    • @RC: RISP is the mainstream booth announcers’ concession to sabremetrics. It’s a stat they can understand and they hope the fans will too. That’s all any of the booth guys across the country use now. I watch a lot of games on MLB … and they all wrap around RISP. Some of them talk about OBP, but very few. It’s hard on the head.

  17. I wish someone would ask Marty or Jeff if they want people who disagree with them to listen to their broadcasts. How many times can they expect to deride “stats geeks” and hope that we keep listening? It’s made me turn off the radio broadcast a few times. I *really* like Brantley otherwise but he just won’t/can’t stand up to it when Marty is taking on, you know, modernity.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I agree with this, and this is why I have become so fond of Jim Kelch. I can remember countless times Kelch taking a stand against Marty, Marty losing his cool in the conversation, and Kelch keeping his calm and soldiering on, knowing Marty was being asinine. Jim Kelch is a champion. Best thing to happen to the broadcasting crew in awhile.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I too, like Brantley, especially when he’s talking the finer points of pitching. But last night in the first inning he immediately went off on the “good things that happen when you put the ball in play.” I thought, well, Stockholm Syndrome right there.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Brantley made the remark dissing advanced stats, that set Marty on his “geek” put down I referenced above. Jeff’s response to it was something to the effect that “*I* know what it takes to win games”.

      I think maybe he doesn’t stand up to Marty because he doesn’t disagree.

      And I really wish that Marty would come to the realization that he’s not just taking on “modernity” (which he clearly is) – he’s also taking on a chunk of his (and the team’s) fan base. Why does he want to keep doing that?

  18. Growing up in the age of the steroid users (I’m 21), I grew up a Larkin fan, a Griffey fan…but my loyalties lied with Mark McGwire and those majestic blasts that he produced daily. My first foray into baseball was his race with Sosa, and when he got to 70, I was thrilled. To this day, my parents torment me with pictures of my 6 year old self wearing a Cardinals hat. Once McGwire retired, I fell into football and hockey, and baseball was an afterthought. My parents, as lifelong Reds fans, would listen nightly, but there was always negativity. That is all I remember, is Marty’s growing grumpiness. My two older brothers love Marty, remember him as Reds baseball, as Cincinnati. I’m not so loyal to Marty and can hardly stomach him anymore. Thom has become much of the same. I didn’t grow up loving Marty, and quite honestly I cannot wait until he moves on. His cynicism and self-righteousness make enjoying a radio broadcast borderline impossible.

  19. You nailed it. Thanks for a great read.

    Marty just sounds like a grouchy old man that thinks he knows more than everyone.

    • @WedgieSanders:
      Your comment is really on point. My youngest son (40) said that I was a grouchy old man who thought I knew everything. Here is the answer I gave him; 1. I won’t be around too much longer so I have a lot to share,2) I complain about certain things because I want to see people grow and succeed and become better than they have ever imagined and not make my mistakes,3)I have seen too many people, like Marty has seen too many ball players, who failed to be the best they could be because people are afraid to try and covince them to change. The problem is that I often just get to the facts and results and leave out the warm and fuzzy adjectives. People don’t like to hear the hard truth because it will hurt. I to have listened to Marty for a long time and he is telling truth it just doesn’t resonate today, and lets face it Reds fans were ruined by the 70’s because what we witnessed was a rare and historic era and there wasn’t much to complain about.
      In life it is what you do today and tommorrow that counts not what good you did 10 years ago or last weekend. The game is today the pitch is now and the win or loss could be the next play. What have you done for me lately is the real world.

  20. i use to love west coast trips when i young, because it meant i got to fall asleep to marty and joe calling the nights action on the very same radio that in just a few short hours would be rudely and apologetically reminding me it was time for another day of tween angst. for a few hours that was all that mattered. they could make guys like nick esasky and tracy jones, pedestrian players who have long since been forgotten by the game, seem like kings to a young boy. now it seems marty has nothing but contempt for even the best players in the game. maybe it was the loss of joe that caused his curmudgeonly temper, maybe it wasn’t. what i do know is every time i hear that marty go off on a tangent, it makes me a little sad, not only because it further removes me from a childhood that’s quickly becoming a distant memory, but because a man, the greatest voice of the cincinnati reds, has become so angry and jaded that if it wasn’t for that signature voice, would be unrecognizable to me. maybe it’s me, maybe i’ve changed, and marty’s not much different then he always was and i just chose to hear what i wanted to hear, then again, maybe it’s not.

  21. I have been a Reds fan since I was a young catcher and Johnny Bench was the Man. No Thurman or Carlton for me. Between JB and the Big Red Machine I was hooked then and still am now. But I’ve never lived in Reds country. Massachusetts through college and Atlanta ever since. So the joys of listening to the Reds on radio were always fleeting – occasional visits to Ohio (wife’s family). But the best of all was late night WLW. After it gets really dark in Boston or Atlanta, if you know the details of the setup (like Richard’s dangling antenna), AM radio travels from Cincinnati to… everywhere. So I heard the second half of a lot of night games listening to Marty and Joe, hoping to hear “And this one belongs to the Reds.” Even without living in Reds country Marty and Joe were the voice of the Reds and the voice of baseball (though Vin Scully should be a National Historic Landmark and in the humanity Hall of Fame).

    My very favorite memory of this sort of thing was in Boston on a night where the game was delayed by rain in Cincinnati. That meant I could listen to the first pitch, a rare treat. And it turned out that night against the Dodgers not one batter reached base. Not one. And Tom Browning went into the history books. And Marty and Joe called it all. So I’m a bit like Mwv. There’s no way to tarnish those memories, and Marty Brennaman will always be the voice of the Reds and baseball. But it does make me sad to read that so many of my fellow fervent fans no longer derive any pleasure from Marty’s call. I know there’s still a fine man in there. Look no further than last year’s on field barber shop.

    There’s no moral here, just a tip of the cap to Marty Brennaman, and an honest respect for those of you who struggle with his broadcasts these days but are still great fans of the Reds. Our team. Thank you all for this site and these connections, and for another home for this grateful Reds fan. Riverfront, GABP, WLW, Marty, Joe, Fox Sports Ohio, and Redleg Nation. My apple pie and Chevrolet. Thank you and go Reds!

  22. I grew up in Virginia so I didn’t grow up with Marty. I get that he’s a talented play-by-play, but DC has equally talented individuals. It is after all the second most important TV market in the country after NY. So I didn’t get the adoration poured out on Marty when I moved here.

    I moved to the Cincinnati area from Virginia in March of 1996. He has been this way since I’ve moved here. I just don’t think people saw it until recently.

  23. My earliest memories as a Reds fan are from 1974, the same year that Marty became the voice of the team. In a sense, Marty the announcer and I grew up together, which makes the past few years all the more difficult.

    I don’t think you can dismiss Joe’s absence as a huge factor. As a kid, I never much like the innings he did. They were unpolished, his grasp of language was sometimes an issue and it was sometimes difficult to tell what was going on. But at some point, I came to appreciate what he brought to the dynamic. He never took himself seriously, he softened some of Marty’s edge and he loved the Reds more than just about anything. It was Marty and Joe; not Marty or Joe.

    I get the sense Marty doesn’t enjoy the games very much these days. I get the feeling the broadcasts aren’t as much fun to listen to because Marty isn’t having any fun. Because Marty has gone from announcer to icon in Cincinnati, there’s no one there to tweak him a bit.

    There are couple of web sites out there with audio clips of Reds games from the 70s and 80s and the Marty doing those games is vastly different from the one we hear today. On some of the early clips, he even refers to the Reds as “we,” which is something I didn’t remember from my childhood. I’d post a link to them, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to do that.

    This may not be the greatest analogy, but at home, I have an old dog. She has been a terrific dog – lots of fun to be around and fairly well behaved for a dog. Now, she is old and mostly blind and not in the best of health. She doesn’t have a lot of energy these days, but occasionally she’ll still show a few glimpses of what she used to be. One day, sooner rather than later, I know she’ll be gone and the dog I will miss is the one that was full of fun and energy. But there are still a few magic moments.

    It’s the same reason I listen to the broadcasts, although not nearly as frequently or with as much enjoyment. Because there are those moments when a big event occurs or the game is on the line. At those moments, he stops focusing on what he doesn’t like and who isn’t performing to his standards and we get a glimpse of a younger Marty. And for a few fleeting minutes the magic is there.

    • @iw1967: I vaguely remember hearing Marty say that he stopped using “we” because someone — a player, I think, told him to stop saying it because he wasn’t on the team. Marty said something like “and that’s when I came to realize I’m NOT part of the team, I’m just the radio guy,” or something like that. I think he felt it was a sign of respect.

      • @Baseclogger: Now that you mention it, I remember hearing that as well. I think it might have been Johnny Bench who said it.

        Of course, Marty has said he used to hang out with the players after the games back during the Big Red Machine days and got pretty close with Rose and Morgan among others. This went on for a few years until the front office had Dick Wagner pull him aside and tell him it was affecting his credibility as an announcer. Marty said he didn’t want to hear it at the time, but came to understand the team was correct.

    • @iw1967: That’s a great analogy. I just lived it. In January, I had to put down my 15 year old Australian Shapherd. In his prime, this dog was truly amazing – he knew at least 50 commands, and all just because he wanted to (I never gave him a treat).

      But his decline was slow, and fairly long. His last 3-4 years were of steadily decreasing mobility, energy, vision, hearing, etc. The saddest thing about letting him go is realizing that the dog I was missing hadn’t been around in years.

      That’s how I feel about Marty.

  24. I have no doubt that Marty and Joe were two of the reasons I started paying attention to the Reds in my youth even though I lived 100+ miles from Cincinnati. (It probably didn’t hurt that the year was 1975, and I’d come to understand the Reds had a pretty good team.) Just like the stereotype — I remember lying in bed with the radio on, just hoping I could stay awake long enough to hear Marty declare this one belongs to the Reds, and maybe even catch Joe’s star of the game interview. But I think I was one of the first Reds fans to start being annoyed, beginning in the mid-90s. The problem for me wasn’t so much his bitterness toward individual players (or knowledge), it was that he started sounding more and more excited when the opposition would do well or when the Reds would fail. I never thought he was actively rooting against the Reds, but I thought his skepticism/cynicism had overtaken him, to the point where he was basically saying “see? I told you the Reds suck” whenever possible. I found it increasingly difficult to listen, and basically stopped listening altogether sometime later. I do occasionally tune in and don’t mind listening for brief periods, but that’s all I can stomach. (As an aside, I also long ago became annoyed by his tendency to be overly wordy and to use words he didn’t quite understand, such as when he’d say things like “there’s been a preponderance of rain today, so the field is very wet.” Because I rarely listen now, I have no idea if he’s still misusing “preponderance” that way, but I know he can still likes to play around with big words from time to time.)

  25. The Oakland A’s are close to sweeping a four-game series from the Tigers in Detroit. Scherzer about to lose his second game of the year. Didn’t get the run support today. And Cabrera left the game with a hip injury.

  26. Lovely write up. As someone who was born with Marty radio-chattering in the background of the delivery room; it’s nice to hear that even other folks who have more experience than I are finding him to be more bitter than he used to be.

    I listened to Marty again two months ago (damn you I75 and the long drive from Lexington to Columbus!). Hearing him made me realize that I sounded just like him. Always complaining about how much the team was failing, never taking the time to appreciate that they’re 15 games OVER .500; something I would have begged for in the early 00’s. If there’s anything I can be thankful to Marty for this year, it’s for making me look in the mirror and realize I was every bit as bad as him. My experience has been so much more positive since the All-Star Break; even as things are getting tight now.

  27. Marty’s not the only one getting old. It just occurred to me that this is his 40th year as voice of the Reds and I’ve been around for all of it.

    At least my first memories of Al Michaels are of him doing regional college football games on ABC.

    • @iw1967: I posted up on the thread about Jim McIntyre … and forgot that he was before Michaels … so getting old does not have its rewards. But I am sooooooooo old that I recall my dad listening to the games on the radio back in 1948. Burger Beer. Liberty Bell March was the intro music. (You might recall it as the theme for the Monty Python series.)

  28. Hell hath no fury like a saber-geek scorned. Wow! Lighten Up Francis.

    • @Sergeant2: I actually really admire your loyalty to Marty.

      That said, what Marty really needs is a guy to tell him to “Lighten up, Francis.”

      • @CP: Who’s Francis?

        • @Johnu1: Everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.

          • @Baseclogger: I laughed out loud. But I refuse to do that “lol” thing. I got to spell it out.

          • @RC: Excellent. I was afraid someone might think I was making a serious threat there. (And FYI: I’ve never in my life written “LOL” to indicate something is funny. True story.)

      • @CP: Obviously I’m with you Sarge. Is Marty cantankerous and grouchy? Yep but he is an original. I listen and watch to a ton of baseball: have XM Radio in both cars, MLB-TV and DirecTV’s MLB package and MB is one of the few originals left in the game. Along with Bob Uecker and Vin Scully, he is my favorite. I really put a lot of value on being unique. Someone above mentioned the National’s radio team. Not a bad lot but trust me they are very similar to the fare you hear with almost all other clubs. Most are homers. I don’t mind that the announcers pull for their team but I don’t care for overlooking the home team’s warts either – see Atlanta Braves announcers (both TV and radio).

        I admit I have very thick skin and so it is difficult for anyone to get underneath it, so I have a hard time relating to some of the folks here. But I do respect their opinions. This doesn’t mean I agree with everything MB says or that he even has an influence on my opinion. I’ll miss him when he hangs up the mic and I believe most here will too. They just don’t realize it, IMO.

    • @Sergeant2: I’ll see what I can do, Sarge. 56 turned out for today’s titanic comment struggle. 56.

    • @Sergeant2: I’m happy to see someone stand up for Marty. He can be annoying at times but I think this is a little harsh. Not everyone believes in sabermetrics. I respect his right to not believe in them just like I respect those who do believe in them.

      In my mind he and Joe will always be the sound of a Reds game. I can still hear Joe saying “This is the old lefthander rounding third and heading for home. Goodnight everybody”. And Marty will always be known for “And this one belongs to the Reds”. I don’t know, do any other TV or radio announcers have a signature phrase.

  29. I almost never read or post comments anymore as like Mwv, the constant negativity detracts greatly from my baseball enjoyment. I had to comment on this story though because it is just a lovely piece. Very, very nice work Richard.

  30. I agree with much that you say RF, but Marty is also talking to a huge audience and I’m not sure they all embrace sabermetrics the way that you do. I would also add that while the object is to get on base, Votto seems to be looking for walks more and more. With a 3-2 count he’s hitting .146 with 29 Ks.

  31. Somewhat ironic to see people complaining about the blog’s “negativity” in the middle of complimenting a very negative critique of a Reds’ icon.

    • @Baseclogger: I didn’t take it as a negative critique of Marty. I took it as a look back and then a comparison, full of fond memories. That’s how it read to me and furthermore that’s how it feels when I tune in to the radio broadcast. Negativity to me is when you look at something with both positive and negative potential you choose to go down the one rather than the other. If Richard had wanted to write a scathing critique of Marty he could have done so.. the ammunition is clearly there. Instead he decided to tell us a great story that compared the Marty of his youth to the present day Marty. That’s a positive way to approach the topic.

      I appreciate those types of efforts and when you read through the various threads on the site it’s easy to see who is going down which path generally. I understand why people walk down each side of that particular road but I don’t come here to wallow, I come here to exalt and sympathize with my fellow fans. So for me personally I try to stay positive in case there’s others out there who feel the same way about why they’re here in the first place.

      I love baseball and this site, even this newer darker toned site has some great things in it that express that love.

      • @Mwv: I don’t mean to bring you down, and I hope you continue feeling positive if that’s what works for you, but the main purpose of this essay is to complain about — or at least lament — Marty’s transition from Great Play-By-Play Man to Closed-Minded-Crank.


        “All I know is that this Marty seemed more strident, less forgiving. I would almost cringe listening to the beat reporters make their daily second inning sojourn to the radio booth, tip-toeing around the great man as if he might chew them up at any moment.”

        “His disdain for advanced metrics, the almost sneering tone whenever the subject came up, shocked and saddened me.”

        “Which is why the latest crusade against the manner with which Joey Votto chooses to go about the business of hitting a baseball is so breathtakingly wrongheaded.”

        • @Baseclogger: Well, a slightly negative-colored commentary is all right since it’s supported by insight. I think it’s a stretch to call it negative, though it’s certainly not the speech you’d give if you were inducting Marty into the Hall of Fame.

          I think the problem here is to insert the notion that the RLN blog itself is negative. I always looked at these blogs as beach-fests anyway. We already know what we like.

  32. Slightly off topic, but does anyone remember Joe’s interviews with Randy Myers? I always thought they were quite funny. Myers would do the whole interview with this tone of voice that sort of sounded like “who IS this old man I’m talking to?” and he’d begin a lot of his answers with “Well, Mr. Nuxhall…” (which came across as “I know I’m supposed to revere you for some reason, whoever you are, so I’ll play along….”) But Joe always seemed to enjoy talking to him, almost as if they had an understanding that this is how their interviews were supposed to go. It almost felt like a scripted sit-com. Or at least that’s my recollection.

    • @Baseclogger: At the end of the day, everybody knows who Nuxhall is. Myers tends a little toward a trivia question if you don’t remember 1990.

  33. I grew up listening to Marty and Joe on the radio with my dad, as I’m sure many of you did. There are tons of great memories of sitting in the car, hearing Joe yelling “Get out of here” in the background of the call.

    That said, if I hit the lottery and bought the Reds, my first moves would be to fire Dusty and the Brennamans. They stopped paying attention to the game they spend so much time around decades ago, and their negativity spills over to the fanbase. I don’t want or expect my announcers to be homers (like the CBJ… see Day, Jim), but it would be nice if they were EVER positive.

  34. some classic Marty and Joe… mostly Joe

  35. This is an interesting thread. I grew up with Marty. I am 48 and the prime of my fandom was during the BRM days. Marty and Joe were like family. I grew up in the hollers of WV and remember walking down the road and hearing echos of Marty and Joe as about every other house had the game on, while they sat on the porch.

    I still love listening to Marty. Yeah, he’s bitter. He sarcastic. He’s negative. I’d agree that he is not as good as he used to be. But like someone said earlier, he’s like me. I am a Reds fanatic and I’m usually frustrated, negative and sarcastic when I think about the Reds. I have said more than once in the past month, “I hate the Reds. Why do I even care.” On on on. Like Marty. Assuming that your heart will be broken is just part of being a Reds fan.

    Me and Marty….we’re soul brothers.

  36. At 26, I’ve mostly been spoiled by being able to watch most Reds games on television. I had always heard of the great Marty Brenneman, but I never really listened to the radio broadcasts because the TV was always there. I moved to Colorado a couple of years ago and was introduced to MLB.TV and it wasn’t until this year that I started to really listen to the radio broadcast everyday (I get off work at about 5 everyday, which is exactly what time most games start for me, and I have an hour long bus ride so listening to the radio is, or would be perfect). It has truly blown me away how negative Marty is about almost every aspect of the reds game. He seems to take on this *I told you so* attitude whenever any player strikes out which grinds at my very fiber. I am majorly disappointed that the hall-of-fame broadcaster, who I was utterly excited to start listening to on a daily basis at the beginning of this season, has essentially let me down as a listener. It is amazing, and refreshing, the difference in opinion that I get when I get home and come to this site to read commentary from opinions I actually respect. WIth that said, I will still listen day-in and day-out, for one because I can’t focus on reading books when I know the Reds are playing so listening is the only “productive” thing I can do on the bus those days, and for two, there are some redeeming qualities every now and again although generally non-baseball related (my favorite moment this year was the two or three innings that Marty and the Cowboy spent discussing Andy’s various and sundry girlfriends on the Andy Griffith show). I just want to thank you folks, editors and commenters, for keeping me sane while Marty tests my fandom. Lastly, I can’t wait to go to the game tomorrow and watch my boys in person. GO REDLEGS!

  37. Ii find it interesting that Scully, Harwell, Enberg, Uecker, and Coleman – all guys who worked into their late 70s and beyond – continued to be generous and patient. Marty got harder and more bitter.

  38. Sorry, Richard, highly incorrect. If we wanted a power hitter who walked a lot, we would have kept Dunn and saved some money.

    It is a double edge sword. The book is out that Votto will let a lot of initial pitches go by. Therefore, the other team will challenge him early, even throwing down the middle, knowing he is likely to let the pitches go by. Then, with 2 strikes, the other team knows all they need is to get one borderline pitch that he can’t reach or let’s go by that is called a strike to get Votto out. Thus, the reason why Votto is striking out at a higher rate than he ever has. As well as, given the same scenario, you have the reason why Votto is walking at the highest rate he ever has; that borderline pitch being called a strike. It is a double edge sword.

    This is the only thing I don’t like about Votto, though, his taking of so many pitches. I hope he doesn’t think, “Well, I’m in a hitting funk. So, I just need to take more pitches.” That’s not always the answer. It could just be his own hand-eye coordination, making contact with pitches when he does swing.

    I do believe he’s just swinging and missing more, myself. Anyone with more advanced stats out there? Because Votto just don’t let 4-6 pitches go by everytime. He will swing at many, a couple each AB. If he’s been hitting them, he wouldn’t be K’ing and walking at his record rates.

  39. Thank you for this essay, Richard.

    I grew up in Cincinnati in the 1980’s, and have many memories of Marty and Joe. I haven’t lived in the area since the mid-90’s, but have followed the Reds religiously the past few years. I was so excited to introduce my kids to Marty when we got, but now I find I can’t listen to him anymore (nor do I want my kids to either), for the same reasons you mention.

    I don’t get, however, the business side of the Reds allowing broadcasters to insult symmetrically-inclined fans, who are usually the most die-hard (i.e. income-generating) customers they have. What business goes out of their way to insult their paying customers? I get that Marty is a local icon and almost untouchable, but the Cowboy and Thom are not (Chris is, IMO, a good blend of respect for both the old and new schools).

    If I was running a company, I would have a simple rule: no insulting the people who pay your salary, or you don’t get that salary anymore.

    • @francisp: “sabermetrically-inclined fans” – stupid spell-check.

    • @francisp: I’d also like to think that the Reds organization simply believed in the stats enough to not want it’s public face to be so critical of what should be an essential business practice. Kind of like if Marty didn’t believe people should have anything but black coffee while working for Starbucks: “Those fancy types, you know, those latte mocha whatever you call it drinkers, they’re getting upset right now, but here’s what I think. A good cup of a joe is a good cup of joe…”

      Sadly, I think it would take a significant amount of withdrawal of dollars and viewer/listenership to move the needle against King Marty. People who like the stats may help pay his salary, but probably not enough to make an impact. I live away from the Cincy market, I listen on a lot. I don’t know if the club gets more $ if I listen to WLW or the away broadcast, or if all the teams just split the money for my subscription in the first place. Feels hard to find a place to make a voice heard. And the truth is, he’ll have to say something so far out of line, probably unassociated with stats, to get moved before he’s ready.

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2013 Reds, Editorials, Reds - General


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