Milo Hamilton, a signature voice of Major League Baseball who roamed the big league map for three decades before finding in the Astros and in Houston the team and town for which he had been searching through a long, storied career in broadcasting, died Thursday. He was 88.
Hamilton’s son, Mark, said Hamilton, who had been in hospice care for several weeks, died at 10:53 a.m., a fan to the end of the Astros and of the sport that was his profession and his passion.
Hamilton, the 1992 recipient of the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, made his final visit to Minute Maid Park in June and spent his final days listening and watching from afar as the Astros made their long-awaited return to contention and as their most storied player, Craig Biggio, was installed in the Hall of Fame.
“He loved the organization, and he loved what was going on with the ballclub this year,” Mark Hamilton said. “Even with his health, the one thing that kept him going until the end was how great these kids were doing.”
Hamilton called Major League Baseball games on radio and television from the 1950s into the current decade, working 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 Astros, joining the team in 1985 and serving as its primary on-air voice from 1987 through 2012.
Former President George H.W. Bush remembered Hamilton as “his own Houston institution.”
“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.”
Hamilton’s most famous moment behind the microphone came in Atlanta, where he had the radio call of Henry Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in 1974.
In Houston, where he spent more than half of his years in the major leagues, he will be remembered as delivering the soundtrack for many of the team’s greatest moments, including a half-dozen playoff series and its first and only World Series appearance in 2005.
And it was in Houston that he finally was able to achieve the longevity, and the enduring connection to a city and its fans, that had escaped him in other stops along the way.
“He loved the city and was passionate about the ballclub. You saw that over the years,” Mark Hamilton said. “He wanted to be involved, and the ballclub was so good to him up to the end by letting him remain involved.”
Curt Smith, author of the book Voices of the Game, said Hamilton’s small-town roots and traditional ways were a perfect fit for Houston and the Southwest.
“In coming to Texas, he found a home and a region that liked him to an extraordinary degree,” Smith said. “He hearkened back to an era where for many people there was only one sport, and that sport was baseball. He called other sports and called them well, but to Milo, there was really only one game, and that was baseball.”
Smith in one of his books on broadcasting history ranked Hamilton at No. 27 among the great voices of the game, “and you can make the case he deserved to be higher,” he said, “He had every took that a broadcaster needed – a wonderful, soothing, wearable voice. And he felt he owed the listener the best that was within him.
“I hope it gave him a sense of satisfaction that there were millions of people who loved him,” Smith added.
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