Booth Review: Cincinnati Reds radio

From time to time, Fully Reconditioned will take a look at radio and television sportscasting.  The possibilities are endless.  This first installment reviews the radio team for the Cincinnati Reds.


The Cincinnati Reds employ three radio broadcasters, each of whom handles color and play-by-play, as well as a pair of regular substitutions.  

Marty Brennaman.

Look no further than Brennaman’s infamous tirade on Chicago Cub fans to find a perfect distillation of his style.  He’s approaching his fortieth year in the Reds’ broadcast booth, and proudly is beholden to no one.  Listening to Brennaman broadcast a ballgame is at times like listening to stand-up comedy.  He is quick to criticize when criticism is appropriate, and his hard-won love of the Reds never curbs what at times qualifies as an endless stream of scathing deconstruction.  Brennaman’s dry wit is so treasured by listeners that the team in recent years introduced “Ask Marty,” a once-a-game e-mail Q&A that tends to be the highlight of lousy games.

Brennaman’s a Hall Of Famer for a reason, though, and his talents are not restricted to withering asides.  He never wastes nor repeats a word.  His economy of emotion lends itself to spine-rippling calls when the Reds pull off something truly grand.  He’s got a great voice; it’s nasal, half-pinched, got those ragged tobacco edges.  He cuts the profile of an eternal professional.  He’s seen quite a share of all-time events: three no-hitters, a perfect game, three World Series championships.  His longtime partnership with Joe Nuxhall was the stuff of baseball melodrama, two best friends who couldn’t be more different on the air.  Since Nuxhall’s departure from the booth (and subsequent passing), Brennaman has been a little more unhinged in his mouthiness, but the spirited interplay of that team forever informs Marty’s romantic passion for the game.  Which is never less than evident.  Even when he’s talking about his golf game, or declaring of the Wrigley masses that “Y’simply root against ’em.”

Jeff Brantley.

Brantley replaced Nuxhall in the booth, a thankless assignment.  Nonetheless, guided by Brennaman, he has found a comfortable gait, all old-school insight and Southern lilt.  His voice is perfect for the medium.  He and Brennaman have a great rapport, which works to the advantage of both broadcasters.  Brantley (a Red from 1994 through 1997) didn’t show much promise in his days at ESPN, but his work for the Reds has been a pleasure.

Jim Kelch.

Kelch showed up for some fill-in work in 2010 and was so good that the Reds pushed out Ohio State announcer Paul Keels, who’d only been hired by the Reds that year.  Kelch spent twenty years broadcasting games for AAA Louisville (a Cincinnati affiliate since 2000) before getting the call, and his robust knowledge of the Reds’ system pairs well with a tidy no-nonsense style.  He’s no character, but he makes a fine straight man.

Thom Brennaman.

The younger Brennaman is primarily a television broadcaster, but calls a few games a year with his dad for the sake of novelty.  Their interaction is sublime.

Kent Mercker.

Mercker was a beat-man’s favorite when he pitched for the Reds (three stints: 1997, 2003 and 2005-2008), reliable for great quotes and unvarnished observations.  He only works a handful of games a year.  He’s good, but continues to work on style.

Choice Clip.

The Reds’ Ramon Hernandez hit a come-from-behind home run to end and win the game on Opening Day of the 2011 season.  This clip features calls of that play from Thom Brennaman (working TV) and his father.

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