It has been said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes with each leaving a void in both wallets and hearts.
Yesterday the world of baseball grew a little dimmer and hearts grew a little heavier with the passing of Hall of Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton whose calls of “Holy Toledo” echoed from a record 59 Major League Baseball Ballparks during a 60-year career.
As one of the last of the golden era of announcers, Milo Hamilton, who was 88 when he died, worked for the St. Louis Browns (1953), St. Louis Cardinals (1954), Chicago Cubs (1956-57, 1980-84), Chicago White Sox (1962-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-75), Pittsburgh Pirates (1976-79) and the Houston Astros (1985-2012).
Milo’s 60 years broadcasting Major League Baseball games is second only to Los Angeles Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully who has 66 years in the booth.
Although retiring from full time broadcasting work in 2012 Milo remained a special ambassador for the Astros and made several on field appearances up until June of this year.
Milo received the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.
While Milo’s career encompassed half of the 20th Century, I did not discover him until 2000 when I moved to Houston and listened to him regularly until his last broadcast in 2012.
Those 12 seasons of listening to Milo helped me feel a connection to a forgotten era of broadcasting.
Although I read many books on Red Barber, Vin Scully and other great broadcasters of the Golden Age of Baseball, until listening to Milo I never had the opportunity to hear one of them call a game live.
Milo had a relaxed style that captured the action on the field with a conversational ease that few broadcasters can get right.
Milo understood that the action on the field was what people were listening to catch as opposed to many of today’s announcers who seem to forget that a game is going on.
With his Blue Star light shining whenever a player did something spectacular Milo was Houston’s version of Vin Scully, an announcer who had seen decades of changes within the game of baseball from behind his microphone and had entertained generation upon generation of fans with his Midwestern style.
One of those long time fans was former President George H.W. Bush who issued a statement on the passing of his friend.
“Barbara and I mourn the loss of Milo Hamilton, a genuine baseball icon, a Hall of Fame sportscaster — and, happily for us, a good friend,” Bush said in a statement. “In time, Milo was so endeared he became his own Houston institution, and the countless good causes he helped made him one of the brightest Points of Light we knew. It was hard for him, and indeed all Astros fans, when he stepped away from the booth in 2012 after his legendary career, but from this day forward we can take comfort that he will always have the best seat in the house. Holy Toledo, what a good man he was — and we were fortunate to know him.”
While Milo Hamilton was known by generations of fans in Houston, one of his most famous calls took place in Atlanta. That memorable moment, which is forever housed in the Baseball Hall of Fame archives, is the radio call of Henry “Hank” Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in 1974.
“Here’s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. There’s a drive into left-center field. That ball is going to be … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all-time! And it’s Henry Aaron!”
Ironically Milo Hamilton was behind the microphone capturing history in Houston when Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron’s record in 2001.
Other memorable calls made by Milo Hamilton included calling 11 no hitters as well as being on the call for Nolan Ryan’s 4,000th strike out in 1985.
Milo Hamilton was also there to cover the only trip the Houston Astros made to the World Series in 2005.
Milo Hamilton spent more years with the Astros than with any other team and was honored with a street outside of Minute Maid Park being named in his honor as Milo Hamilton Way.
With the death of Milo Hamilton and the pending retirement of Vin Scully next season the world of baseball is losing more and more of the connections to the past.
Milo Hamilton’s autobiography Making Airwaves is highly recommended for anyone who is fascinated by the way announcing used to be.
I have had the chance to listen to Vin Scully call a few games over the past couple of years and know that there will likely never be a pair of announcers like them again.
It is inevitable that the game of baseball continues to move on but it is also important to take time to remember those shoulders that the game is built upon.
A decade after their last trip to the postseason the Astros are once again a playoff caliber team, although they recently saw the Texas Rangers take over the top spot in the division.
While only time will tell if this is the year that the Astros return to the World Series one can be assured that whenever they do return to the October Classic there will be a blue star shining in the heavens for them that can be seen all the way in Toledo.
Thanks for the memories, Milo.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel like listening to some historic Milo Hamilton calls.
Copyright 2015 R. Anderson