I turned 25 the summer that Marty Brennaman came to Cincinnati. Waite Hoyt was the guy I listened to calling Reds games as I grew up. His voice filled the air  at backyard family gatherings, in the car on the way there and back, or whispering from the small table radio in the bedroom late at night in those pre-transistor days. When Hoyt left the radio booth after the 1965 season due to a change in the sponsorship contract, I experienced many of the same emotions expressed about Marty’s retirement this week.

However, in the interim between Hoyt and Marty Brennaman I came to very much enjoy the work first of Jim McIntyre then Al Michaels as the Reds primary radio voices even as I occasionally missed Waite’s rainy day stories. And of course somewhere along the way the Ol’ Left hander had switched from the mound to radio booth to add his opinions.

Recall we didn’t see more than a maybe a couple of games a week on TV in those times. We couldn’t tell for ourselves who was hustling or dogging. We couldn’t tell who made a great play or failed to make a play they probably should have made. The radio guys were our eyes reinforced overnight by what the beat writers said in the papers the next day.

From the games that were on TV and few games I was able to attend in person, I’d decided the calls of the radio guys felt right. I  trusted their “words eye view” as McIntyre would announce he was on hand to give us as he signed on for each game. So, when Al Michaels left, the new guy, Marty Brennaman, arrived with several very big pairs of shoes to fill for me. Fortunately it turned out he was or soon would become one of the very best at painting those words eye views.

Listening to Marty I would literally picture the game in my mind as he described the action:

“Geronimo cuts it off  at the track. Relay coming to Davey. Runner around 3rd, coming home. Concepción sending the ball on to Bench. They’ve got a play aaand…. OUT!  THEY GOT HIM! They got him! What a play! That’s 8-6-2 if you are scoring along” (which I often was).

Then everyone in the room, backyard, or car would erupt and discuss the play as if we had been there ourselves. Because we’d seen it our minds as surely as if we had been there. Oh, for those days and the people they were shared with.

Thanks Marty. Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten quite as cranky as you did at times in latter years; but every day I age myself, I understand that more. And I really wish you would have been more open to some of the insights of emerging analytics. But as a story teller of baseball games, you stand alone above the crowd. Thanks again and godspeed in retirement.

16 Responses

  1. Eric

    Thanks, Jim.

    I don’t really *know* another play-by-play voice for Reds games on the radio, as I was only three when Marty took over for Al. So all of my formative years were spent listening to Marty & Joe. No telling how many lawns were cut, dirt hauled, trees planted…with their two voices wafting across the aural ether.

    2020’s going to be strange for me. But…y’know who it’s probably going to be the weirdest for? Marty! Imagine…you’re at the Brenneman house on a Sunday afternoon, with the Reds in Philadelphia, and Marty decides to…switch on WLW…and listen…to the game! Surreal.

  2. Sliotar

    Nice piece, Jim and a fitting description of Marty.

    As someone who watches multiple games at night and can also listen to day games while working, Marty’s passion for being a story teller of baseball games always stood out, to his final broadcast, and will be missed.

    The last of his kind. IMO.

  3. AirborneJayJay

    Very nice Jim. Very nice.
    This time of year I always reflect back on the times of sneaking a transistor radio into the classroom to listen to Marty do the post-season games of the BRM in ’75 and ’76. Trying to hide the earphone was always a problem. But there always seemed to be one teacher who would let you listen in as long as you got your work done and gave an update or 2.
    The one RLN staffer who would routinely go into his Brennaman bash was gone most of this year and it was refreshing indeed not to have to read his tripe and hateful vitriol in Marty’s last year swan song.

  4. Matt WI

    I really identify with the picturing the game as it’s called, Jim. I genuinely enjoy the process of holding the game in my mind as I listen while I mow, run, drive, do dishes, whatever.

    It’s also what gets me mad at Brantley sometimes! Uh, Cowboy, I can’t move this runner over from second in my brain yet, because you haven’t gotten around to describing the whole field of play yet. 🙂

  5. RedNat

    Thank you Jim. I really think Marty became a true reds fan at the end of his career, not just the play by play guy. of course he is cranky. we are all cranky. if you are not cranky after 6 terrible season then you probably are not a true fan.

  6. Daytonnati

    Nice job, Jim. I am a little younger than you but can still recall the Waite Hoyt – Burger Beer days. Wasn’t Claude Sullivan in there somewhere? I also like Jim McIntire and really fell hard for Al Michaels. He and Joe had great chemistry and the Big Red Machine was just coming together. I was crushed when he left and thought he was irreplaceable. I was wrong. Marty’s transition was seamless. Many a night I sat in my driveway in Atlanta and listened to Marty and Joe on the Big One. Just feel fortunate that I was able to move back to SW Ohio and be here for the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

    • jim walker

      Claude Sullivan was Waite Hoyt’s final sidekick for 1 or 2 seasons, depending which research source is correct. He took the lead (in 1966) after Hoyt left the radio booth. Jim McIntyre came on board in 1966 as the Sullivan’s second.

      Sullivan was soon beset by throat cancer and passed in December 1967. I don’t recall and haven’t found via research how much (if any) of the ’67 season Sullivan actually worked but my best recollection is that he had to stop working during the season.

      At the point when Sullivan had to step down, McIntyre assumed the lead teaming with Joe Nuxhall who had been brought to the booth in the spring of 1967.

  7. Daytonnati

    Not sure about the rules here, but youtube has Waite Hoyt’s last call for the Reds, October 3, 1965 – Reds at Giants.

  8. Terry

    I grew up listening to Joe and Marty. My grandmother purchased me a little radio so I could listen while in bed, and not sleeping like I was supposed to be doing. I have become an old gray hair man now. But the memories keep me youthful. I have moved around this great country of ours and have never really been able to listen to baseball on the radio as Marty could not be replaced. To Marty, thanks for allowing us to share your talent on the airwaves.

  9. Bill J

    Jim don’t know how old you are, but I remember listening to Waite do the away games and hearing the ticker in the background. Do you have a copy of the “Waite Hoyt in the Rain” album?

    • jim walker

      You must be a little older than me. My memories start with Hoyt travelling to all the games except during the first number of years the Dodgers and Giants were on the west coast.

      I’ve heard the album but don’t have a copy of it in any format.

      I was so into listening to Hoyt that my first memory of being at Crosley field involves him and not a player or any action in the game.

      As soon as we got seated I started looking around for the radio booth. Once I found it, I was crestfallen. The man talking into the microphone just did not fit my mental picture, based on hours of listening, of what Waite would like. I confirmed with my dad the person I was seeing was indeed Hoyt. And here nearly 65 years or so later, here I am still relating this as a most memorable ballpark moment of my first visit to an MLB park

      • Bill J

        Was at Crowley Field for a game against the Pirates when OSU football great Vic Janowicz was catching for Pittsburgh. Also in the game Big Klu hit a ball over the centerfield fence that hit factory across the street then bounced off the top of a passing semi and back into the park. I guess when you get older the memories are better.

  10. vegastypo

    It’s kinda fun to hear that I’m not the only one who remembers “Jim and Joe on Reds Radio!” … Jim McIntyre was the first Reds radio play-by-play man I can recall. I don’t know why he left after the 1969 season, but I remember people saying that nobody could replace Al Michaels and succeed. Marty Brennaman proved them wrong.

    • jim walker

      I’m thinking Jimmy Mac was around for the 1970 season. Al arrived in 1971, a down season. Joe kept telling him he missed a lot of fun in 1970. Then when Marty arrived in 1974 and Joe kept telling him it was too bad he had missed out on 1973 😉

      I did some memory and cross checking after I did my first draft of my Marty recollections. I couldn’t find out much about Mac after he left the Reds. Unfortunately, like his one time partner in the Reds booth, Claude Sullivan, Mac was not blessed with a particularly long life. He passed in the Indianapolis area at age 58 in 1983 per this obit


  11. Bill J

    Was at Crosley Field for a game against the Pirates when OSU football great Vic Janowicz was catching for Pittsburgh. Also in the game Big Klu hit a ball over the centerfield fence that hit factory across the street then bounced off the top of a passing semi and back into the park. I guess when you get older the memories are better.

    • TR

      The memories of Crosley in the crowded West End are unique.