John Clay

Through memories and tears, Reds’ Marty Brennaman prepares for his final broadcast

After Thursday, it won’t be the same.

There will be Cincinnati Reds baseball games on the radio. There will be wins and losses, homers and strikeouts. And who knows, maybe the Redlegs will once again win more than they lose and the games will be fun again. But even then, after Thursday, they won’t be quite as much fun.

That’s because Marty Brennaman won’t be on the radio.

After 46 years behind the microphone, the 77-year-old voice of the Reds from 1974 through 2019 will broadcast his final game at 12:35 p.m. Thursday when Cincinnati plays the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I have a feeling I’ll be doing it through a lot of tears,” Brennaman said Tuesday at a Great American Ball Park press conference marking his final homestand. For roughly 20-plus minutes, Brennaman sat on a stool in the franchise’s main interview room and fielded questions from his friends in the media.

On how he’d like to be remembered: “I guess I’d like to be remembered from a professional standpoint as being credible. I’ve been given the right to broadcast the games I want to broadcast them. The element of criticism comes into that approach and I like to think the fan knew if I said something, I truly believed it.”

On his partner Jeff Brantley: “I’m not a very religious person, but I truly believe that when God decided to take Joe (Nuxhall, his broadcast partner for 31 years), he gave me Jeff Brantley.”

On the state of baseball: “I’m not as big a fan of the game as I used to be. … It’s all about homers and strikeouts and I’m not a fan of that.”

On the gifts he’s received on a farewell tour: The No. 46 he received from the Cubs off the Wrigley Field scoreboard was special, but the best retirement gift was the replica 1950s jukebox his wife Amanda gave him on Monday. “In all my life I’ve never gotten a better gift than I got yesterday,” Brennaman said.

On his broadcast philosophy: “Nobody wants this team to win more than I do. I know there are players who would think otherwise, (but) it makes my job easier. At the same time, it’s not the most important thing in the world. There are other things far more important than whether the Cincinnati Reds win or lose a game.”

On whether he would ever come back and broadcast more baseball: “I can’t imagine any scenario that would ever have me do more baseball after Thursday because I think that means my retirement was a complete sham.”

I asked Marty if given the chance he’d broadcast basketball, a sport he has loved from his days at the University of North Carolina, and one he broadcast for the old ABA’s Virginia Squires, as well as NCAA Tournament games and even a couple of years for UK television.

“You tell them to call me,” Brennaman said. “I did two years of real bad Kentucky basketball. Obviously, the ain’t happening lately, but God Almighty that was a bad two years, Larry Conley and I. And they treated me royally down there. Cliff Hagan was the AD and Eddie Sutton, they were great to me. I often said if I did any basketball at all, I’d go back there and do that.”

Don’t expect me to be objective about Marty Brennaman. Not happening. Marty has been great to me over the years. That doesn’t make me special, by any means. Marty has been great to a lot of people over the years. Charismatic, controversial, outspoken and loyal, he is personality personified, someone who has always been fun to be around, and a broadcaster who made listening to Reds games fun.

After Thursday’s final out, however, Marty is out. He said he plans on playing golf Friday with two of his grandsons and his son-in-law, then attending a high school football game that night.

“Things that everybody else does,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

Truth is, there’s never been anyone quite like Marty Brennaman. And after Thursday, listening to the Reds won’t be quite the same.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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