Tag Archives: Golden Age of Baseball

Milo Hamilton’s Passing Leaves a Void

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).

One of Milo Hamilton's final appearances at Minute Maid Park occurred om April 18, 2015 when he honored the 50th Anniversary of the Astros partnering with NASA. Photo R. Anderson

One of Milo Hamilton’s final appearances at Minute Maid Park occurred om April 18, 2015 when he honored the 50th Anniversary of the Astros partnering with NASA.
Photo R. Anderson

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.

After retiring from the broadcast booth in 2012, Milo Hamilton served as the master of ceremonies for the 2013 Opening Day that marked the American League debut of the Houston Astros. Photo R. Anderson

After retiring from the broadcast booth in 2012, Milo Hamilton served as the master of ceremonies for the 2013 Opening Day that marked the American League debut of the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

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.

Milo Hamilton signs an autograph during the 2014 Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton signs an autograph during the 2014 Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

“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.

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. Photo R. Anderson

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.
Photo R. Anderson

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 recommend 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.

Although he is gone, Milo Hamilton, shown in bobblehead form will live on in the memories of generations of fans and in the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo R. Anderson

Although he is gone, Milo Hamilton, shown in bobblehead form will live on in the memories of generations of fans and in the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Photo R. Anderson

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

 

Time Traveling through Baseball’s Past

For fans of a certain British television show about a guy and his companions who travel around in a bigger on the inside blue police box, today marks the start of a very important week.

The week is important for fans of Doctor Who in that it marks the final countdown to the new season of time traveling adventures Saturday night.

In honor of the countdown to the new season of the show I thought it would be fun to focus on time travel here as well.

In particular the focus this week will be on time travel as it relates to baseball in the past, present and future.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

Today we will start our journey through baseball time and space in the past.

Consider if you will, all of the historic moments that have occurred in baseball.

From Babe Ruth, to Shoeless Joe Jackson, to Jackie Robinson, and every player in between, baseball is full of larger than life players who for many baseball fans exist only as black and white news reel images or statistics on a page.

With Babe Ruth having made his professional debut 100 years ago, there are few people still around who were alive then, let alone old enough to have been there to witness it.

Now consider that time travel was possible and you had the means to visit any past moment in baseball history, including the Bambino’s first game. What moments would you visit?

I have often pondered that very question and have come up with some definitive moments that given the chance I would love to see in person.

The moments are divided up into the categories of Ballparks, Ballplayers, and Ballgames.

First let us focus on the Ballparks.

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards? Photo R. Anderson

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards?
Photo R. Anderson

While I have had the pleasure and opportunity to visit many Ballparks, including several that have since been torn down, there are a few of the classic Ballparks that were torn down before I had the chance to see them that I would have loved to catch a game in.

With the ability to travel back to the golden age of baseball and visit any Ballpark I would visit the Polo Grounds, Ebbett’s Field, and the first Yankee Stadium.

While many new Ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards have brought back a piece of that classic Ballpark feel, there would be nothing quite like traveling to see the ones that started it all.

It would also be fun to travel to an era where people dressed up in their Sunday best to catch a game although I could probably go without the grandstands full of cigarette smoke since I am allergic.

While visiting Ballparks from the golden age would be fun, another Ballpark that I would love to visit is technically still standing but no longer hosts baseball, or much of anything else for that matter. That Ballpark is the Astrodome.

Although I covered a high school football game in the Astrodome, by the time I moved to Houston the Astros had moved to Minute Maid Park (technically Enron Field at the time) and the days of baseball in the Dome were done.

Granted the Astrodome begat many carbon copy domed stadiums that hosted baseball in Seattle, Minnesota, and St. Petersburg but there would be something hard to miss about being at the very first indoor baseball game under a dome.

Whenever I find myself at Tropicana Field I often try to picture what a culture shock it most have been for those first Houston fans to see a game without knowing what the weather was like outside or being able to see the sky.

After Ballparks the next item to travel through time to see would be Ballplayers.

I would need to use my time machine to travel to see Babe Ruth play a game along with Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Shoeless Joe Jackson to name a few.

Speaking of Shoeless Joe, an interesting time traveler’s paradox comes into play. Would one warn Shoeless Joe and his Black Sox teammates about being banned for life for the World Series fixing scandal, or just let history go on as predicated.

While time travel in science fiction books and films often show negative results to the future through the butterfly effect whenever the past is changed it does pose an interesting question of what one would do in that situation.

There are of course people who would use time travel to their benefit through betting on games when they know the outcome but for our purposes here let us go with the belief that all who travel back are merely going as fly on the wall observers to soak in the events without altering the outcomes or fattening their wallets.

So with that philosophy of observe, but don’t interfere in mind, the Chicago White Sox would still throw the World Series just as Pete Rose decades later would still be banned from baseball.

As a certain British time traveler would say, some points in history are fixed points in time.

The third area of our journey to baseball’s past would be specific Ballgames.

From the first World Series game, to Lou Gehrig’s luckiest man alive speech, there are countless moments in Ballgames that would be worth traveling to.

For me some of the games I would need to see in person would be when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and when Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. played their first games.

To see the start of the two longest consecutive games played streaks and to see a home run record fall would be truly historic events.

There are of course more Ballparks, Ballplayers and Ballgames that could be revisited given the ability to travel to any point in time. Each historic moment in baseball would be at the time traveler’s disposal to visit time and time again.

While realistically time travel to that degree will remain a mere wish and the stuff of film, television and literature, it is certainly fun to consider the big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for travels through the present.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson