Father's influence heard in every broadcast
Marty and Thom Brennaman call Reds games on radio, TV
CINCINNATI -- The three hours came and went, one telecast uniting a father and son for what might have been the only time in their broadcasting careers.
For one day only in the mid-1990s, The Baseball Network brought Marty Brennaman and his son, Thom, into the same broadcast booth to call the Reds-Cubs game at Riverfront Stadium.
"It was a real kick. And for years, and years, and years, I thought that would be the only time we would ever work together -- ever," Marty said. "That, of course, all changed when he came home."
Thom is now home, in Cincinnati, for his fourth season with the Reds broadcast team. While the father and son combination rarely pairs up on radio anymore, because of Thom's commitment to TV after the departure of George Grande, each expressed a love for simply being around each other all the time again.
"That's been the best part," Thom said. "It's just being around one another, being able to laugh, and joke around about stuff, give each other a hard time about stuff."
Throughout Thom's career -- ever since he surprised his father, when he decided to go into broadcasting, while attending Ohio University -- he's had a veteran broadcaster in the family to go to for any kind of advice, particularly the day-to-day problems that can arise, when working with a team on a daily basis.
Thom chose to follow his father into the most public of businesses, where every word can be scrutinized, and someone always complains, no matter how well one does on a call. After years of letting criticism get to him, Thom has learned to shy away from it, and let it go. As for Marty, he's always had his son's back.
"I know that I would bleed if somebody was writing bad stuff about one of my kids, just like he bleeds when somebody writes bad stuff about me," Thom said. "And so he's taken it upon himself sometimes, I think, to reach out and make contact with those people. Whereas I'll read it, and you don't like it, and I finally decided about three or four years ago that I'm not doing myself any good at the end of the day."
No broadcaster is immune from criticism, and neither Brennaman is an exception. Given Marty's status as a Ford C. Frick Award winner, and a staple of Reds radio calls since 1974, there may be some out there who would chalk Thom's career up to nepotism.
Thom said that kind of talk doesn't bother him. He's confident in his own abilities, in a career that's seen him do play-by-play for the Cubs, Diamondbacks, and Reds, as well as FOX national broadcasts of the NFL, Major League Baseball, and college football.
Meanwhile, Marty's fondness for his son's accomplishments comes across clearly, and his opinion of those negative assumptions is strong.
"Pete Rose used to say he's got good bloodlines," Marty said. "I don't know about that, but I know that wherever he is in his profession today, he's there because of his ability. He's not there because he's Marty Brennaman's son."
Over time, Marty believes the accomplishments of his son have allowed him to move out of that shadow, and make his own name.
He said that growing up, Thom was always known as "Marty Brennaman's son." Now, Marty is thrilled that he can be known as "Thom Brennaman's dad."
"I'm thrilled that he's had the success that he's had, but more important than that, he's a good guy," Marty said. "This is a business that breeds egomaniacs, and guys think they're bigger than the business, and that's never affected him. He always treats everybody with incredible respect. He's polite to people. That's the most important thing to me: that he's a good person, and then he's a good broadcaster second."
While Thom began his career calling Reds games on TV in the late '80s, it wasn't until The Baseball Network brought their talent together that he joined his father for a call. And when he became the first lead voice of the Diamondbacks, and met his wife in Arizona, he figured he'd stay in Arizona for the long haul, leaving any chance of an in-booth reunion up to potential national pairings.
Thom said FOX had thoughts about getting them together for a national Reds game, but it never happened.
Instead, Reds owner Bob Castellini made a strong push to bring him to Cincinnati from Arizona, and now, it's possible that the Reds will continue to have a Brennaman on the broadcast team long into the future.
"I thought it was very important for our kids, if good Lord willing, they had the opportunity to come back, and grow up in the Midwest. And Cincinnati in particular would be a great thing," Thom said. "We had the opportunity thanks to Mr. Castellini a couple years ago to make it happen, and it's been an unbelievable move. It's been a great, great blessing for me, and for our family."
And that blessing includes Marty, who is just happy to be joining his son at the ballpark, while also getting to be around Thom's wife and two children.
Marty called he and Thom's relationship a unique one, saying that, inside, or outside, the broadcast booth, it's more like two brothers.
And for "Thom Brennaman's dad," that's more than OK.
"I can't believe it sometimes that he's my son, given who his old man is," Marty said with a laugh. "I have a hard time believing it sometimes. There's nothing that I would want from him that he hasn't given me in every facet of his lifestyle and his career."
Matt Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.