CINCINNATI -- Reds radio broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman never planned on having any big retirement announcement or a final lap around Major League ballparks to say goodbye.But Brennaman is sure to be showered with great affection from around Cincinnati and the nation now. He announced Wednesday at Great American Ball
CINCINNATI -- Reds radio broadcasting icon Marty Brennaman never planned on having any big retirement announcement or a final lap around Major League ballparks to say goodbye.
But Brennaman is sure to be showered with great affection from around Cincinnati and the nation now. He announced Wednesday at Great American Ball Park that the 2019 season -- his 46th year with the club -- will be his final one calling games before he retires. Talking about his decision made him emotional at times.
"I'm looking toward the season with great trepidation but affectionately so. It will be very tough. Today has been tough," Brennaman said. "I don't think the full impact of this thing will happen until maybe one year from now, when everybody is packing up and getting ready for Arizona because nobody loves Spring Training more than I do."
Brennaman, 76, is a legendary part of the fabric of Cincinnati sports, having been with the Reds since 1974. A 2000 Ford Frick Award winner at the Baseball Hall of Fame, he's been the voice covering three World Series championships in 1975-76 and 1990. Among many other big moments, he was behind the mic when Pete Rose became the all-time hits leader in 1985, when Tom Browning threw a perfect game in '88, and for Tom Seaver's no-hitter in 1978 and Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th and 600th career home runs in 2004 and '08.
For 31 of his seasons, Brennaman was joined at the hip with partner Joe Nuxhall, and the two were synonymous with one another for fans. Nuxhall retired after the 2004 season and died in '07.
"I just learned an awful lot from him about the game," Brennaman said. "I learned how to carry yourself -- in his case being one of the most beloved people who have ever come out of this city or this area. We were so connected that people would send cards and letters to us before the advent of social media and Twitter ... and they would address it 'Marty and Joe, Cincinnati, Ohio.' [The post office] would send it right to the ballpark."
Brennaman's partner since 2006 has been former reliever Jeff Brantley, and the two have formed another revered team for fans. Last season in Los Angeles, the pair found retired Dodgers radio great Vin Scully taking in a game at Chavez Ravine. Brennaman started asking Scully questions about life in retirement.
"I got the sense that this is happening much faster than you really thought," Brantley said. "Even though you knew it might be coming quickly, there's nothing that prepares you for the finality of him saying what he said today. You get a lump in your throat."
It would have been Brennaman's preference to keep his decision a secret until after the coming season. Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini let him know that was not the way to go.
"In his own unique way, he explained to me that it wasn't fair to the fans, it wasn't fair to the club," Brennaman said. "I'll use the line [Scully] used. 'I'm honored, but I'm also very uncomfortable,' because I don't feel that I need that."
Brennaman was calling American Basketball Association games for the Virginia Squires when he was tabbed to replace future broadcasting legend Al Michaels to call Reds games in 1974.
In the second Spring Training game with the Reds, Brennaman made an on-air faux pas by referring to Al Lopez Field as "Al Michaels Field" and was mortified. But he found redemption quickly. In the first inning of Opening Day vs. the Braves at Riverfront Stadium, Brennaman had the call when Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth as the all-time leader with 714 career home runs.
"Nuxhall said, 'What the hell do you do for an encore?' I said, 'I don't know but it's a pretty good way to start,'" Brennaman said. "It was one of the big thrills of my life because I never expected to be broadcasting big league baseball anyway."
A great career was started, and Brennaman was there to describe the on-field actions of many Reds greats like Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Jose Rijo, Dave Parker, George Foster, Joey Votto, Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. His son, Thom Brennaman, is entering his 13th season of doing Reds television play-by-play in addition to national duties calling baseball and NFL games.
Unlike his friend and respected colleague Scully, Brennaman did not want to call mostly home games toward the latter portion of his career.
"I just wanted to go from doing baseball on a full-time basis pretty much to not doing any at all," Brennaman said. "It's going to be a very emotional situation going into ballparks for the last time."
Brennaman plans to enjoy retirement by traveling with his wife, Amanda. The couple took a two-week vacation to Italy and France in October and want to see other countries. He will still remain affiliated with the club for non-broadcasting events, like his annual charity golf tournament and possibly Reds Caravans.
Until then, fans will get to savor one final season of Brennaman calling Reds games. In turn, he will get to hear from everyone what he's meant to them over the past 46 years.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.