The upcoming season will mark the 50th year of Major League Baseball in Houston. For more than half of those seasons, Astros fans have heard a familiar voice in the broadcast booth—the voice of Milo Hamilton, who announced on Wednesday that the 2012 campaign would be his last in the booth.
Hamilton came to Houston in 1986, and took over for Gene Elston as the team’s lead radio announcer in 1987. Since then, he has become as synonymous with Astros baseball as Craig Biggio, bringing to life moments like Mike Scott’s no-hitter to clinch the NL West division in 1986 and Biggio’s 3000th career hit in 2007.
The 84-year-old Hamilton is one of the game’s few legendary broadcasters who can also be called a journeyman. His career as a Major League broadcaster began in 1953, during the first year of the Eisenhower administration and as the Korean War came to an end. He debuted with the then-St. Louis Browns that year, but jumped ship to the crosstown Cardinals when the Browns moved to Baltimore. He called games for both Chicago franchises over the following decade, and then joined the Braves as they left Milwaukee and set up shop in Atlanta. Rough stints in Pittsburgh and Chicago—in his second go-round with the Cubs—finally paved Hamilton’s way to Houston.
Though Hamilton referred to the aforementioned Scott and Biggio snapshots as his “most memorable” moments in the booth, baseball fans beyond Houston may remember him best for a call made during the Braves’ home opener in 1974.
Nonetheless, when Hamilton finally leaves the booth after the coming season, he will go down in history as “the voice of the Astros.” Among active broadcasters, only Vin Scully has been in the business longer than Hamilton. The latter’s impending retirement is a reminder that we must savor those early-generation broadcasters while we can, because baseball on the radio will not be the same once they are gone.