Hamilton to call final game Wednesday

Hamilton to call final game Wednesday
HOUSTON -- The words will reverberate with as much passion and vigor as they did when Milo Hamilton's voice first hit the airwaves more than 65 years ago. He'll be just as excited at first pitch as he ever was, and his disappointment will run deep if the Astros don't win.

The "Voice of the Astros" will settle into his chair in the radio broadcast booth for one final time in a full-time role when the Astros play the Cardinals on Wednesday night in the final home game of the season, which will also be the last National League game at Minute Maid Park.

Hamilton announced in February that this season would be his last behind the microphone for the Astros, the team he's worked for longer than any other in his Hall of Fame career. He spent 28 years calling games for the Astros, and has become as much a part of the team's fabric as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

"I think Milo is certainly inextricably linked to this organization," said longtime Astros player Lance Berkman, who currently plays for the Cardinals. "I think [Astros] fans for a long time have gotten used to hearing him, and they appreciate his broadcasts.

"I know [Hamilton] has a big following here, so in a lot of ways it's kind of a sad time to think that this is his last deal. He's been there an awful long time, and an awful lot of people know the Astros via his voice, and I think that's something that's pretty neat."

Hamilton, 85, has been in the broadcast business for 67 years, including more than 50 in the Major Leagues, with stops in St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Houston. He's been with the Astros since 1985, and plans to remain active in the community even if he's not at the ballpark daily.

Hamilton has prepared for this moment all season, but still gets emotional knowing the day is here. And who could blame him? Sitting in the booth and calling baseball games is all Hamilton has known for most of his life.

"It's always better when you do it on your own terms," Hamilton said. "It's not like I'm fading away into the sunset, either. It's not like I'm moving south, going to Florida to retire. I'm going to still live here. I have a lot of family and friends here and a lot of business things here."

Hamilton, who has been calling primarily home games since 2006 and gave up television earlier in his Astros career, still plans to make occasional guest on-air and public appearances, as well as emceeing baseball events around Houston. He wants to broadcast the team's series next year at Detroit's Comerica Park, which would be his 60th ballpark from which to call a game.

"The main reason I want to stay on at least three more years to be in front of a microphone somewhere [is because it] will give me 70 years on the air," Hamilton said. "It will give these kids something to shoot for."

Hamilton was given the industry's highest honor in 1992 when he was presented with the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in broadcasting. That was 20 years ago, and Hamilton's fire for calling games hasn't waned.

"It was good to work with him because of his energy," said Larry Dierker, a longtime broadcast partner and former Astros manager and player. "During the course of 162 games and all the travel -- and you might get into a rain delay and get in late somewhere -- it would be easy to let your guard down and go on the air, and not have quite the energy or enthusiasm you should have. But he never let down. If you were working with him, you couldn't let down, either."

The Astros will also honor Hamilton with a Blue Star Gala, which will be held on the field at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 16. The night will be a gathering of many former Major League players, including baseball legend and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, whose record-breaking 715th home run was called by Hamilton in 1974.

Many former Astros players -- including Biggio, Dierker, Enos Cabell, Jimmy Wynn, Phil Garner and Billy Doran -- will be in attendance, along with Astros owner Jim Crane. The night will also include special video tributes from former President George H.W. Bush with wife Barbara, Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Bob Costas and Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully, Bob Uecker and Marty Brennaman.

"It's sad to think that a man that's been doing it for as long as he has ... is not going to be on the air anymore," Biggio said. "Milo just had a great away about him. Probably the most unique thing is when you to hear him in the car and you're driving somewhere and you don't pick up the game in the first inning, you can pick it up in the third, and he lets you know exactly what the score is, the situation, what's been going on. That's a unique thing, and not everybody can do that."

Hamilton began his Major League career in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns, and later worked for the Cardinals ('54), Cubs ('55-57, '80-84), White Sox ('61-65), Braves ('66-74) and Pirates ('75-79).

Along the way, Hamilton called some of baseball's most memorable moments, and he served as play-by-play announcer for the 1979 World Series champion Pirates. He also called 11 no-hitters, Nolan Ryan's 4,000th strikeout in '85, Barry Bonds' 70th home run in 2001 and Biggio's 3,000th hit in '07.

Hamilton said Biggio's 3,000th hit and Mike Scott's division-clinching no-hitter in 1986 are his two most memorable Astros calls.

"I've done 11 no-hitters and [I am] lucky enough to have several since I've been here, including that oddity of the six-pitcher no-hitter at Yankee Stadium [in 2003]," Hamilton said.

Garner -- who was on the 1979 Pirates team and later played for and managed the Astros -- earned the nickname "Scrap Iron" from Hamilton while they were in Pittsburgh, and the two have remained friends since.

"He's golden," Garner said. "He's done everything in the world he can, and everybody reaches a point in their life when it's time. He's had a remarkable career and has done a lot of good for the game, a lot good in every city he's been in. He loves to be involved and loves charities, and I don't think he's ever turned anybody down when they asked him to do something regarding charity.

"It's an era that's passing, and I hate to see it, but I understand and I certainly wish him the absolute best."

In addition to receiving the Frick Award, Hamilton is a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame (1994), Radio Hall of Fame (2000), Texas Radio Hall of Fame ('02) and the Iowa Baseball Coaches' Hall of Fame ('11).

A native of Fairfield, Iowa, Hamilton graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in radio speech, and began his radio career with the Naval Academy in 1945. He later called basketball and football games for Iowa, Minor League games for the Quad City Tigers as well as Quad City Black Hawks basketball games.

Longtime Astros television play-by-play voice Bill Brown, who has shared the booth with Hamilton, marvels at the energy Hamilton brings to the ballpark on a daily basis.

"He's always had such passion," Brown said. "That's what he transmits through the airwaves, the passion he has for the game. He really gets involved. That comes through in his work, and I think he's created a lot of fans for baseball."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.