Astros Broadcaster Milo Hamilton to Retire, Finally

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So long, Milo.
Milo Hamilton's announcing his retirement today. It's a day I never thought would come, and the only thing I'm upset about is that he'll still do the games this season.

I've never understood his appeal to listeners. Then again, I grew up with Gene Elston as the voice of the Astros, and those two couldn't have been more opposite in style. Elston came out of the Vin Scully school of baseball broadcasting. A matter-of-fact storytelling approach of painting a picture, placing the listener inside the stadium.

The Scully style involves constantly giving the score and the inning of the game. The listener knows who is at bat, the pitcher and the number of outs. The listener always knows the ball/strike count. If there's a runner on base, one would know what base the runner was on. If there was a detail of the game that needed to be known, then Gene Elston made sure the listener knew that detail.

Hamilton's style is approximate to that of the late Harry Caray. It's loud and obnoxious. The game is secondary to Hamilton because to Hamilton, the listener's not tuning in for the game, the listener's tuning in to hear him. So you hear about lunch, and about that day's golf game. There are details about breakfast, and what dinner will be. You'll hear about people in the stands, and there will be a lot of stories about guys who played baseball 50 years ago. What you won't get are any actual details of the game. And if you're stuck listening to the game in your car, then it can be 15-20 minutes to hear the score or what inning the game's in.

Hamilton's booth partners used to be able to steer him back to the game, or get out the details themselves. But Larry Dierker became the manager. Jim Deshaies got pushed out of the radio booth. Alan Ashby was great about slipping in what actually just happened on the field, and then he got forced out. Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond do good jobs when they're on their own, but when they're working with Hamilton, it's like they've figured out that they won't keep their jobs if they dare to correct him on air.

I'll admit I'm going to miss Hamilton welcoming fake people or corporations to the game. I've heard him welcome Ari Gold and Associates to the game, and the Vincent Chase Group. He's welcomed Ron Burgundy in the past. He's got no clue that they're not real, and it makes for some fun listening. But frankly, I'd rather know what's happening in the game.

I'm not going to miss the sexual harassment seminar that goes on in the booth whenever a female guest has to sit in and talk about whatever product or group is the big sponsor that night. And I could never figure out why the Astros kept sending in that woman from the sales department to talk about the giveaways, because all he would do would be to hit on her like he was hanging out in some singles bar.

Who knows what happens after this season? I can only assume that Raymond and Dolan will keep on in their roles. Here's hoping the team brings in an analyst like Dierker or Ashby who has played the game and knows what's going through the heads of the players.

But no matter what happens, of this I'm hopeful: The focus of the radio broadcast will return to the actual baseball game. I never want to hear about a broadcaster's lunch again, or about a game he called in 1923 that's not relevant to anything happening in the game being played on the field.

And remember one thing. No matter what you'll hear this season, Milo Hamilton is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's a recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, which is presented by the Hall of Fame to members of the media for their contributions to baseball. They are not, however, actually inducted into the Hall of Fame, and they do not receive a plaque inside the actual Hall.

So there are now two reasons to look forward to the 2013 season: Carlos Lee's contract will have expired, and Milo Hamilton will no longer be calling the games on the radio. We've just got to make it through the 2012 first. And no matter what, the true voice of the Houston Astros will always be Gene Elston.

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