Baseball for me has always been more than just a game. Baseball taught me the value of fair play, a love of statistical data, the importance of everyday consistency and the impact of language, storytelling and the spoken word.
Almost daily, during the summers of my youth, I played baseball. Hitting, fielding, and running under the hot southern sky was what I lived for. With school out for the summer, the sandlot fields of Georgia became my classroom for life lessons and so much more.
At night my classroom shifted from the sandlot fields to the fields and stadiums of the big cities of the major leagues. As almost every night during those summers, I listened to baseball.
The radio would take me to far-a-way fields like Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Wrigley Field in Chicago. My teacher for these baseball lessons was Milo Hamilton.
Milo Hamilton was the lead announcer for my Atlanta Braves. His descriptions of the accounts of the game produced word pictures that brought alive for me the skill and exploits of players like Clete Boyer, Ralph Garr, Dusty Baker, Rico Carty, Phil Niekro, Orlando Cepeda and Hank Aaron.
However, it is was Hamilton’s style of calling a game and his use of language that made an everlasting impression on me.
One summer, I broke my arm and was unable to play the game I love. Instead of playing I spent the summers in the “press box” of the little league field keeping score and acting as the public address announcer. Soon, those public addresses turned from just announcing the names of the players to full-fledged play-by-play.
And what announcing style did I emulate? You guessed it…Milo Hamilton. Surprisingly my announcing became popular and I gained a new nick-name that summer as folks starting calling me “Milo”.
Milo Hamilton, died last week at age 88. He was a sports casting legend. His broadcast career included stints with the Browns, Cardinals, Cubs, White Sox, Braves, and Pirates.
He spent 27 years as the voice of the Houston Astros. During that time, he was at the microphone for 11 no-hitters, Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit in 2007, and the 2005 World Series where Astros played the Chicago White Sox.
Milo, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. At his retirement in 2012, Milo held the record for the number of major league baseball stadiums broadcasted from at 59 different parks.
Most famously, Milo was known for calling Hank Aaron’s record breaking 715th career home run in 1974.
However, for me Milo Hamilton was my baseball teacher. He not only expanded my knowledge of the game. But he also taught me how the effective use of language can inform, excite, and inspire.
Milo Hamilton and the power of his the radio calls greatly increased my knowledge, love and passion for the game. And for this baseball fan — I will be forever grateful.