Milo Hamilton, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and the beloved voice of the Houston Astros, has died.
Known for his signature "Holy Toledo" call, the Iowa native arrived in Houston in the mid 1980s. He spent almost three decades behind the microphone here describing some of the team's biggest moments.
If you took the time to create a Mount Rushmore of iconic baseball moments, Hamilton's call of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run would surely be a part of it. Let's go back to 1974, when Hamilton called games for the Atlanta Braves.
“He’s sitting on 714. Here’s the pitch by Downing,” Hamilton said. “Swinging, there’s a drive to left centerfield. That ball is going to be outta here. It’s gone,” he said.
Hamilton had a number of big moments before he got to Houston, starting with the St. Louis Browns in 1953 and stints with the Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Braves and Pirates. He found a home in Houston in 1985 and it wasn't long until Hamilton was the primary voice of the Astros, a job he held until 2012.
At Hamilton's retirement gala that year, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said even as a player with the Astros, he got to hear Milo on the radio.
“The passion and the excitement that you had for the team, I’ll tell you what, the influence you had on this team for many years was very special,” Ryan said.
Hamilton was born in Fairfield, Iowa in 1927. He started his broadcast career in college, calling football and basketball games and then as a minor league baseball announcer. He would go on to spend parts of seven decades calling Major League games.
In 1992, he accepted the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick broadcasting award in Cooperstown, New York.
“I thank baseball, I thank my family, I thank the Hall of Famers who came today,” Hamilton said. “Larry Dierker says that I’m the only man who can make “holy” into a five syllable when I say “Holy Toledo” after a great play or a home run,” he said.
At Minute Maid Park, Astros television play-by-play man Bill Brown sits in a booth near the one Hamilton worked from. He's been a baseball broadcaster here in Houston since 1987 and was around for Hamilton's best years here.
“I think Milo will be remembered as one of the top broadcasters who has ever done Major League baseball,” Brown said. “He’ll be remembered for calling Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run and for having a great voice and building drama like few have ever done,” he said.
Former Major League pitcher Steve Sparks has been doing radio color and play-by-play for the Astros for a couple of seasons now. He says when he got the job, Hamilton took him out to dinner, and the two developed a friendship that included advice, both personal and professional.
“We spoke on the phone a lot. We probably spoke twice a week and a lot of times just about the team or life or whatever,” Sparks said. “About once every month I’d ask him to give me a couple of more things and he’d always have them ready. He was ready for me to ask, but I didn’t want to take on too much. As we went along, he’d always have two things for me to work on,” he said.
At Hamilton's retirement announcement in 2012, he couldn’t hide his enduring love for baseball.
“It’s been a great game for me. I did football for 25 years and basketball for over 40 years,” Hamilton said. “But baseball was the greatest game in the world when I started and it still is today.”
Hamilton lost his wife of more than 50 years, Arlene, in 2005. His daughter Patricia died in 2006. He's survived by his son Mark. Hamilton was 88 years old.