A broadcasting legend, Marty Brennaman called his final game for the Cincinnati Reds last Thursday, retiring after 46 seasons as their play-by-play voice. Replacing Brennaman in the radio booth for the 2020 season will be Tommy Thrall.
Thrall was informed of the decision last Thursday, but he never expected Brennaman to mention it on-air amid all the celebrations for his final day as the Reds radio voice. Brennaman wanted his last game with the Reds to be a home game, which is why he concluded his 46-year tenure with the team on Thursday.
“As big of a deal as that was for Marty (Thursday), it was an incredible day for him, I didn’t even dream my name would even be brought up,” Thrall told Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “As far as Marty is concerned in his career, I feel like I’m insignificant for him in the grand picture of everything that he’s accomplished. There are so many people that have been around him longer. It was pretty crazy. Hard to wrap your head around it.”
Thrall joined the Reds radio team for the 2019 season, with many people viewing him as the leading candidate to succeed Brennaman. Thrall was added as the team’s pre and postgame host, also working as a fill-in play-by-play announcer. Prior to joining the Reds radio team in 2019, Thrall served as the play-by-play voice of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Blue Wahoos were the Reds Double-A affiliate for the last decade, but entered a two-year deal with the Minnesota Twins beginning in 2019.
“You don’t replace somebody like Marty Brennaman,” Thrall told Nightengale. “You may follow him. You may be the next guy. But you can’t replace him. He is going to be synonymous with this organization forever. The sheer volume of iconic calls and moments that he’s been a part of and he’s voiced, those moments live on with the team forever.
“All you can do is show up and do the best job you can do day in and day out. Be the best version of yourself and see where that leads.”
Thrall will partner with Jeff Brantley in the booth, who remains the lead analyst for the Cincinnati Reds Radio Network. Brantley, a former MLB All-Star and Reds reliever, joined their radio team in 2007.
“To have somebody like Jeff that is comforting and uplifting like he is, he is always very positive and encouraging, extremely helpful, kind of helps show you the ropes on the road a little bit,” Thrall said. “On the air, as a broadcast partner, as good as they come. It’s invaluable really. You can’t put into words how important that is.”
Thrall’s predecessor, the 77-year old Marty Brennaman will be the sole inductee for the class of 2020 into the Reds Hall of Fame which will take place with an on-field ceremony Saturday, April 25, prior to a home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Marty Brennaman joined the Reds radio booth in 1974 replacing Al Michaels, having never called a Major League Baseball game when he was hired, launching a 46-year Hall-of-Fame career.
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.