At 8:27 p.m. on Friday night at Great American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds started the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for radio play-by-play broadcaster Marty Brennaman.
The ceremony was delayed by more than an hour due to rain and moved from the field into the club level of the stadium. But for the 5,000-plus fans in attendance, it was worth the wait.
Brennaman was the radio broadcaster for the Reds for 46 years and was the “voice of summer.” When Brennaman addressed the crowd in his induction speech, the first thing he did was thank the fans for waiting through the rain.
“Of all the Hall of Fames you could possibly go into, this is No. 1 for me,” Brennaman told the crowd. “The obvious question is Why? It’s better than (the MLB Hall of Fame) because I’m here tonight talking to my people. I’m talking to Cincinnatians.”
Brennaman became the 90th person and the first broadcaster to be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. The franchise honored him on Friday night with a ceremony followed by an alumni softball game.
Brennaman delivered his speech on the third level of Great American Ball Park, speaking from a right-field club facing toward the rest of the stadium where Reds fans huddled under cover and under ponchos.
With Reds Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench, Eric Davis and Barry Larkin sitting beside him, Brennaman thanked Cincinnati for accepting him in 1974.
“If you come from the outside, (Cincinnati) will not withhold judgment on you,” Brennaman said. “If you're lucky at some point, they will determine you are one of them … I appreciate your acceptance.”
Brennaman said he first felt at home after calling a walk-off hit by Tony Pérez. After that game, Reds fans called the 700 WLW radio station “all night long” to hear Brennaman’s call.
Every time another team came calling, Brennaman declined the opportunity. The closest he came was an offer from the Boston Red Sox, but Brennaman ultimately wasn’t willing to leave Cincinnati.
Brennaman came to Cincinnati in 1974 with no ties to the Reds. He stayed as the Reds radio broadcaster until he retired in 2019.
“I just think over a period of time when you’ve been around Marty, you come to love him,” said Jeff Brantley, a former Reds reliever and current Reds radio broadcaster who called Reds games on radio with Brennaman for 13 seasons.
“I think that’s true from the fans that are not only here tonight, but were here on his last day in the broadcast booth. I think it also tells you a tremendous amount (by the level) of respect from the players that come all the way back and take time out of their schedules to be here on such a great night for him.”
On Friday, Brennaman thanked the Big Red Machine for being the most talented team he has ever been associated with. He also called the 1990 World Series team his favorite team of all time. Then he reflected on the Reds’ late-season losses in 1999 and their defeat in the NL Wild Card tiebreaker game.
Over 46 years, Brennaman covered every Reds player from Pete Rose to Luis Castillo. Among all of the Reds alumni at Great American Ball Park on Friday, Brennaman was the play-by-play broadcaster for all but one of their careers.
“What I love about Marty is he’s a lot like myself; he tells it like he feels,” Reds Hall of Famer and Cincinnati native Ron Oester said. “He has his opinions. Whether they’re right or wrong, he’ll tell you the way that he thinks. I respect that. He’s not going to say what you want him to say; he’ll say how he feels.”
About 50 Reds alumni returned to Cincinnati for the ceremony, and they all had a story about themselves and their former play-by-play broadcaster.
“With Marty, there are good times and bad times,” former Reds reliever Randy Myers said. “He said it the way it was. I never had a problem with him. I don’t think anyone did that I know, because as long as you tried your hardest, if you did something wrong, he would tell you.”
Former Reds first baseman Dan Driessen, who played on the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, remembered sprinting for an extra-base hit on a line drive off the center field wall. Brennaman said it looked like Driessen “had a piano on his back.”
Reds Hall of Fame left fielder George Foster remembered hitting two home runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Brennaman’s call of the game was, “Foster 5, Pirates 2.”
Outfielder Davis remembered Brennaman’s honesty, especially when Davis was struggling.
“If I struck out four times and he said I (stunk), I did (stink),” Davis said. “After he said what he said, it was nothing that would carry over. He would see me the next day and we’d laugh and talk. Then he’d tell me to give him something to talk about.”
Former Reds closer David Weathers had a similar story. When Weathers returned to the team in 2005 and had a rocky start, Brennaman said, “Bringing this guy back to the team was a titanic failure.”
“I thought about what he said and I agreed with it,” Weathers said. “It made me go back to work and try to have a better year. He and I still laugh about it.”
Brennaman called Friday “one of the greatest nights of my life,” and he said Waite Hoyt, longtime radio partner Joe Nuxhall and Brantley deserve to join him as broadcasters in the Reds Hall of Fame. The Reds Hall of Fame changed its bylaws to allow broadcasters to be inducted.
Reds owner Bob Castellini presented Brennaman with his red jacket. After the ceremony, Bench and Larkin coached rival softball teams in an alumni game, where former Reds greats like Chris Sabo, Sean Casey and Adam Dunn made standout plays.
Brennaman watched the game with his wife, Amanda, in a front row seat on the field. Most of the 5,000 fans in attendance stayed all the way through, and the Reds alumni thanked them after the game.
They all were there for Brennaman.
“Almost in the blink of an eye,” Brennaman said, “46 years have gone by and you’re retired. It just went by so quickly that it’s hard to fathom."