The end of the 2012 season signals the end of an era for the Houston Astros. I’m not talking about the “Killer B’s” (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Derek Bell, and Lance Berkman), who are about as far removed from Houston these days as Albert Pujols’ homerun against Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS. Judging by their roster, I’m not talking about losing. I’m not even talking about their switch from the National League to the American League next year.
I’m talking about Milo Hamilton, the longtime Astros broadcaster who decided earlier this year that 2012 would be his last season as the voice of the Astros.
Hamilton plans to stay with the Astros in a significantly reduced capacity and call a handful of games the next several years. He has said he wants to continue in some role until 2015, which would coincide with his 70th year as a broadcaster.
That career started when Hamilton was a marine at the tail end of WWII while he was stationed in Guam. There he broadcast a radio play and a baseball tournament on the Marine Radio station. However, Hamilton’s radio career really didn’t take off until he returned to his home state of Iowa.
After returning from the war, Hamilton went to Parsons College in his hometown of Fairfield. At Parsons, he worked at their radio station and at a station in nearby Ottumwa. After two years, a teacher gave Hamilton some advice that he remains thankful for and alluded to in his autobiography: Making Airwaves.
“She told me, ‘I think you need to go to Iowa rather than stay here and finish at Parsons. They’ve got a full-time radio station. I think it would really enhance your career.’
She was right. The University of Iowa had an AM and an FM station, and students were the broadcasters and were responsible for everything. It was a great station with a lot of history. I had a chance to spin some records in addition to being a sports broadcaster.”
Over the next two years, he worked on sports shows and dance broadcasts in Cedar Rapids with the likes of Lawrence Welk and Benny Goodman. After graduating from Iowa in 1950, he immediately began working in Moline, Illinois, broadcasting minor league baseball, high school sports and games for a new basketball league: The National Basketball Association.
By 1953, Hamilton was broadcasting Major League Baseball games for the St. Louis Browns. Over the next 60 years, the University of Iowa alum covered the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and finally the Astros in 1985. In 1992, he was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hamilton is known best for his trademark “Holy Toledo!” and also delivered one of the most famous calls of all time when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth. It’s only fitting that one of the baseball’s most accomplished announcers called the defining moment of one of baseball’s most accomplished players. “There’s a drive into left-center field! That ball is gonna be … outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron!”