Hamilton lauded for energy, professionalism
Legendary broadcaster retiring after 2012, his 59th in Majors
HOUSTON -- The news delivered Wednesday by Astros legendary announcer Milo Hamilton, that he plans to step down following the 2012 season, was met with part sadness and part satisfaction by those who were close to him.
While his former colleagues, and the former Astros players whose games he called, were pleased to see Hamilton getting to finish his career on his terms, they were disappointed the voice of the Astros was retiring after what will be 28 years calling the action in Houston.
"It's sad when things come to an end for us older guys, but, boy, what a run he's had," said former Astros player and manager Phil Garner, who played with the Pirates when Hamilton was behind the microphone for Pittsburgh's 1979 World Series championship. "He's got a great voice, was great fun to be around and he's done a lot of good for the community."
Hamilton, 84, announced during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park that 2012 would be his final season as the full-time radio play-by-play voice of the Astros, but he still plans to do some games on occasion and remain in the public eye.
"He's done an amazing job to represent baseball and represent our community, and the way that he's been here for so long," Astros all-time hits leader Craig Biggio said. "I'm proud to have him as a friend."
Hamilton began his radio career in 1945 and began calling Major League games with the St. Louis Browns in 1953, the first of seven teams for which he worked. He joined the Astros in 1985 and it didn't take long for his signature "Holy Toledo!" to become one of the most recognizable phrases on Houston radio.
Hamilton worked on both television and radio broadcasts in his early days in Houston, before deciding to focus on radio broadcasting. Larry Dierker shared the booth with Hamilton for 12 years, before the former Astros pitcher was surprisingly thrust into the managerial role in 1997.
"I think it's the appropriate time, and I'm happy that he's come to this decision because it's not that easy to retire, and I can speak from experience," Dierker said. "You don't know what you are going to do when you've done something all your life. He's certainly had a great career, and the thing I would definitely want to emphasize is that he's got more energy than any broadcaster I've been around. It comes through on the air, and that's why a lot of people like him."
Dierker was pleased Astros owner Jim Crane and president and CEO George Postolos worked out a deal to keep Hamilton involved with the team even after he retired as a full-time broadcaster.
"I'm very happy that the team has come to an agreement with him, that he can continue to do things and stay involved with Astros baseball," Dierker said.
Hamilton was responsible for giving Garner one of baseball's best nicknames: "Scrap Iron." When Garner was traded to the Pirates from the A's in 1977, Hamilton asked Pirates slugger Willie Stargell about the new kid the team received.
"Stargell said, 'He's a little guy, but he's a tough guy,'" Garner said. "He said, 'You can bend him and beat on him but you can't break him. Just like a piece of scrap metal.' Milo picked up on that and started calling me 'Scrap Iron.'"
The friendship between Garner and Hamilton started in Pittsburgh and continued in Houston, where Garner played in the 1980s and managed from 2004-07.
"It's been a phenomenal career," Garner said. "He's been a fabulous voice and a professional man. Milo kept such impeccable stats -- and this was before we had all these stat guys running the office -- that Milo's stats were the go-to for Art Howe when he first started managing the Astros. That's a pretty good statement on how professional he's been his whole career."
Garner helped provide one of Hamilton's greatest thrills by leading the team to the World Series in 2005. But Hamilton said his two favorite calls with the Astros were announcing Mike Scott's division-clinching no-hitter in 1986 and Biggio becoming the first player in franchise history to reach 3,000 hits in 2007.
"I'm honored, I'm humbled," Biggio said. "Just from a standpoint of as many things as the man's seen on the baseball field that he considers the 3,000-hit achievement as one of his highlights."
One of Hamilton's most indelible calls came when Chris Burke hit a walk-off home run to win Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series against the Braves, ending a mesmerizing 18-inning affair at Minute Maid Park. Burke fondly remembers Hamilton's call of "It's gone! It's gone! It's gone!'"
"It's etched in my memory," Burke said. "I can still hear him saying it. I hear it right now. Milo is a legend in the world of broadcasting and certainly has brought tremendous value to that organization, and it was an honor to have him call that. He's a legend in his field, and to have played for a team with a legendary announcer and be linked together, it's an honor."