Last year, I took the family on a trip to Chicago. I was looking forward to the trip since I was able to arrange a meeting with one of my favorite talk radio hosts, John Williams of WGN-AM. Mr. Williams was extremely gracious and even took the time to allow my family and I to sit in on the first segment of his show. There we were sitting at the console as we watched Mr. Williams talk into a microphone.
It was at that moment, where I truly begin to realize how hard the medium of radio truly is. For as many as three hours a day, this guy we were sitting in front of has to communicate with complete strangers. And as much as a master storyteller he is, he practices craft with no idea of how his words are being perceived out there in listener land.
With that story in mind, it was with a sense of sadness that we learned that Marty Brennaman will retire at the end of this Reds season. Every year since 1974, Mr. Brennaman has provided a narration to our summer here in Reds Country. Barely a day goes by where we don’t hear his voice on the radio as he meticulously paints a picture of the runs, the hits and the errors of our home team.
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Brennaman a few years ago in Dayton. He gave a nice luncheon talk about the Reds. And in his own fashion, gave his blunt opinions about the state of the team. I was able to have a short conversation with Mr. Brennaman and stated that I remember his voice was the last voice I heard before I went to sleep every night. And he wryly replied, “You won’t believe how many times I have been told that.”
And as I remember that moment, paired with the announcement of his retirement, I began to feel sad. I was realizing that after 2019, summers just aren’t going to be the same.
The people who work in radio are more than just a voice and I believe the ones that are good in radio instinctively know that. They share stories of their lives, they relate to their listeners, they know that they are beyond blessed to do what they do and they let us it on the ride. If you ever listened to Mr. Brennaman, not only did you get the feeling that you were at the ballpark, but you also got the feeling that one of your favorite uncles was telling you what was happening.
And all of this happened in places where it didn’t matter where you were. Maybe you were a dozing off to sleep. Maybe you were driving the highway one night and needed something to keep you alert. Maybe you were just sitting on the back porch enjoying a cold beverage.
And of course, we literally grew up with him. There are many a person that can remember the first voice they heard on an AM radio was that of Mr. Brennaman. He was with us from our school age days where we admired the Big Red Machine, through high school, through those tough years of figuring out our lives, to those years where we have kids of our own. Even at times where the combination of the world and life didn’t make sense, he’d always be there, every summer.
It’s far too easy to describe Mr. Brennaman as just another voice on the radio. His voice, his persona is as much a part of the culture of our community as nearly anyone or anything. He has been with us to celebrate huge wins and to commiserate disappointing seasons. And we loved him for it. We loved his enthusiasm for the dazzling defensive play or a long home run. We admired him for his bluntness and plain spoken nature when we were disappointed.
And while I am sure this going to be a special year around Reds Country, let’s not be sad that Mr. Brennaman is leaving, let’s just be happy we had him as long as we did.
In the words of another pretty good Reds announcer, “Thank you, Marty.”
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.