Will Marty Brennaman retire when the Reds season ends Sunday, Sept. 30? Is this his final week in the Reds Radio Network booth after 45 seasons?
"No decision yet," Brennaman texted me in response to my question today. "Haven't made up my mind."
If Brennaman, 76, choses to retire, he won't announce it until after the season ends. That's what he's repeatedly said in recent years. Unlike Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, or former Reds Barry Larkin and Johnny Bench, he doesn't want any long goodbyes or farewell tours.
“When I walk away, I’ll let them know the day after the season ends," he told me in early 2015, before spring training. "I don’t want all the (farewell stuff) that goes along with it. I understand they could probably make a lot of money. But whatever they want to do, they’d have to do it the next year, because I’m just not interested in all that stuff. I don’t want to be bothered with it. I don’t need 'a night.' The club and the fans have been good enough to me. I don’t need all that stuff." He's said the same things to WLW-AM's Bill Cunningham in July 2015.
Brennaman, who received the National Baseball Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick Award in 2000, has been working in recent years on a string of one-year contracts, after four decades of three-year deals.
Last year, with less than two weeks to go in the season, I asked Brennaman in a text if he would be back in 2018. He said he would. "Just year to year. Wasn't a hard decision. I still enjoy what I do, so why quit now?"
To me, it's a coin toss if Brennaman returns or retires.
Doing Reds baseball for 45 years is a nice number to end on. But he could decide to come back for a 46th season to be part of the Cincinnati Reds' big 150th anniversary of the first professional team in 1869.
On the other hand, Brennaman has made it clear that watching these rebuilding Reds lose more than 90 games in four consecutive seasons has been tough on the guy who called the Big Red Machine and wire-to-wire 1990 championship season. Before the 2016 season, he told the Joe Nuxhall Sports Stag in Hamilton that while watching the 98-loss 2015 season he "would come home and tell (wife) Amanda, 'If I have to look at these guys again, I'll throw up.' And the next day I'd change my mind."
Yet the Hall of Fame announcer has been a total professional on the air again this season, being appropriately critical without being totally negative night after night. And he enjoys road trips, usually accompanied by his wife, and being a tourist with her during the day. (Have you noticed that Marty usually takes most of his time off during home games?)
Brennaman has refused to use the word "retire." Speaking to the Hamilton-Fairfield chapter of the Reds Hall of Fame in February, he made a reference to "that 'R' word I refuse to talk about." (He mentioned it while saying he was proud to have worked for only one Major League team, while most announcers bounced around to several teams. He said: "I'm in a pretty select class, of having been around for 40-plus years with the same team. And in regards to when I no longer go down to the ball park where they play – that 'R' word I refuse to talk about – I know that it will be the same team that I started with. And that means an awful lot to me.")
Brennaman also has said often that he's most proud of working 31 seasons (tying a MLB record) with the same partner, the late Joe Nuxhall. He's worked the past 12 seasons with Jeff Brantley.
Brennaman had never called a Major League Baseball game when hired by the Reds before the 1974 season. The Virginia native was broadcasting games for the Met's minor-league Tidewater Tides and the Virginia Squires of the old American Basketball Association.
In recent years, the Reds have lightened Brennaman's load. He now leaves when the game is over, instead of doing the half-hour postgame show for 162 games.
Will he retire? (If Brennaman does, the next statue in front of Great American Ball Park should be of Marty, as I wrote two years ago.)
The first sign is whether he'll host the weekly Reds Hot Stove League talk show which begins after the World Series. He's also committed to do a Reds cruise in early November.
We might not learn Marty's fate until Redsfest Dec. 1-2. The team might announce Marty will be back for the year-long 150th celebration…. Or just do a partial schedule in 2019…. Or announce a new radio team.
Stay tuned to see how much longer this one belongs to the Reds.