NEW YORK – Milo Hamilton may be gone but his legacy will never die.
The long-time broadcaster of the Houston Astros died Thursday at 88 but his voice and spirit survive at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Although he was working for Atlanta radio station WSB when Hank Aaron hit the home run that broke Babe Ruth’s record on April 8, 1974, Milo’s audio is invariably paired with the video of the famous home run — even though Vin Scully (Dodgers) and Curt Gowdy (NBC) called the same game on television.
Anyone who sees the multi-media presentation that precedes a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame will hear Milo’s call. The plaque he received in 1992 as the winner of the Ford C. Frick Broadcast Award is also in the Hall.
Like Scully, who plans to extend his career through 2016, Milo was a miracle of nature. As a Fairfield, Iowa schoolboy, he sang with the glee club — developing those golden vocal chords — and then was in the right place at the right time when the U.S. Navy needed a volunteer broadcaster in 1946. He’s been on the air ever since.
Milo worked his way up from the minors, surfacing in places like Quad Cities, before breaking into the big
leagues with the St. Louis Browns — remember them? — in 1953. When the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles a year later, Milo preferred to stay in St. Louis with his young family.
He wound up in the Cardinals broadcast booth with a kid named Jack Buck, then in his first year, and a grizzled egotist named Harry Caray. When they first met, Caray could have said, “Welcome to the Cardinals” but instead told Milo that the mike belonged to the veteran. Their relationship, which later put them in the same booth again with the Cubs, went downhill from there.
Milo did manage to get around. After leaving the uncomfortable situation in St. Louis, he worked for both Chicago teams (including the Cubs twice), the Braves, Pirates, and Astros. He was Atlanta’s first Voice of the Braves, from 1966-75, and had the good fortune to call Aaron’s shot.
He called many other historic moments, including a game in which six Astros combined to hold the Yankees hitless in New York. He was also being the mike when Sam Jones walked nine men while pitching a no-hitter and when Mike Scott pitched the no-hitter that clinched a title for the Astros.
Always prepared, Milo carried briefcases of notes wherever he went. An afficionado of fine food, he loved dining out, befriending restaurateurs around both leagues and occasionally serving as volunteer maitre d’.
Truluck’s in Houston was a particular favorite; he had his 80th birthday party there, cheered on by a bevy of beauties from the Astros front office.
Slowed by health issues for several years, Milo probably prolonged his life with his excitement over Houston’s sudden transformation into a contender this year. He was hoping the team would win its first World Series next month.
One of Milo’s best decisions was writing his memoirs. Making Airwaves: 60 Years at Milo’s Microphone was published in 2006 by Sports Publishing. In choosing a ghostwriter, he bypassed the Houston press corps and chose a writer he knew longer. I was flattered and humbled to be Milo’s co-author.
Working closely for many hours at a time, Milo supplied stories and anecdotes that most baseball fans did not know. After all, the perspective of a broadcaster is vastly different than the perspective of a player or an umpire (and I also co-authored books with Ron Blomberg, a player, and Al Clark, an umpire).
I loved learning that Stan Musial was Milo’s favorite player, that he once recited a Ronald Reagan commercial back to the sitting President, and that he loved lobster bisque — something I never tried until Milo insisted. He was a huge fan of Kissimmee Steak, a now-defunct restaurant not far from the Astros spring training facility, and created his own fans when he did his Astroline interview show live from the ESPN Club at the Disney World Boardwalk Resort.
He also knew how to win friends and influence people; I will never forget working an inning of a Houston spring training game with Milo. I will also never forget hearing him speak to me in Yiddish — hardly the native tongue for someone with Irish roots.
We disagreed on politics — he was a personal friend of George Bush — but we both loved baseball and loved life. He was one of a kind and will be missed.
Holy Toledo, Milo! You left us way too soon.
Elsewhere in baseball:
This weekend marks the first September meeting of the Yankees and Mets since interleague play began in 1997 . . .
Likely AL Comeback Player of the Year Alex Rodriguez, with 30+ home runs, will be reduced to pinch-hitting because the series is being played in a National League park where the DH is verboten . . .
Erstwhile Yankees starter Ivan Nova has been demoted to the bullpen after going 2-5 with a 7.46 ERA in seven starts since August 8 . . .
Speaking of the pen, former Yankees closer David Robertson, now with the White Sox, has seven blown saves in 36 chances . . .
Mets set-up man Tyler Clippard has been getting clippered regularly: seven runs in his last 6 2/3 innings pitched . . .
After going 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his first nine Toronto starts, David Price should get votes for Most Valuable Player as well as the Cy Young Award . . .
Jake Arrieta (Cubs) pitched well (eight innings, one earned run) in his first bid for his 20th win Wednesday but wound up with a no-decision as Chicago needed 12 innings to beat feisty Pittsburgh, 3-2 . . .
Now that he’s climbed over the 40-homer plateau, Bryce Harper (Nationals) still has designs on the National League’s MVP award . . .
Disgraced slugger Rafael Palmeiro, whose steroids abuse kept him from Cooperstown despite 3,000 hits and 500 homers, has signed to play alongside son Patrick with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters . . .
Injured Braves closer Jason Grilli will be 40 next year but still plans to return after rehabbing from a torn Achilles . . .
Pitch clocks used in the minors for the first time this year cut 12 minutes off average game-times . . .
Dump the DH: on September 18, 1930, Yankees pitcher Red Ruffing homered twice to beat the Browns 7-6 in 10 innings . . .
Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor will get more than a handful of votes for AL Rookie of the Year . . .
Believe-it-or-not dept.: Barry Zito, a one-time Cy Young Award winner who has not pitched in the
majors since 2013, has been recalled from the minors by his old team, the Oakland A’s . . .
San Diego pitcher Josh Johnson, out for the last two years, will miss at least one more now that he’s elected to have Tommy John surgery for the third time . . .
Kris Medlen is giving the Kansas City Royals an unexpected lift with his work as a starter who survived two Tommy John operations . . .
Although rookie first baseman Greg Bird has been singing a sweet tune with his bat, the Yankees will miss switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira, whose leg fracture will sideline him for the duration . . .
Jung Ho Kang, the Korean infielder who impressed the Pittsburgh Pirates with 15 homers in 126 games, will be idled for up to eight months after suffering an injury (torn MCL and fractured tibia) that resulted from a collision with base-runner Chris Coghlan of the Cubs . . .
Never expected the Astros would lose four straight to the red-hot Rangers, who now appear poised to win the A West title . . .
Veteran Kansas City infielder Omar Infante, given up for dead by most baseball observers, surprised the world with seven runs batted in — a career high — in a game against Cleveland . . .
Don’t count out the Angels or Twins in the American League wild-card derby . . .