The Houston Astros have only had two play-by-play announcers in the last 50 years. That is pretty damn amazing.
For many, the Voice Of The Astros will always be Gene Elston, the first PBP man Houston had as a major league team. He was with the team from 1962 until 1986 when he exited the team.
That left room for the New Voice Of The Astros, Milo Hamilton, to join and enlist a host of new fans who remember the team through his signature calls. That's my situation, as I've only really known Milo.
What's more, both of the Astros two play-by-play guys have received the Ford C. Frick Award, which is the Baseball Hall of Fame equivalent of inducting broadcasters. Milo was given the award in 1992 and Elston received his in 2006. Both are more than deserving, but doesn't that set the bar pretty high for whoever follows Milo?
That question took on more relevance on Wednesday, when Hamilton announced at a press conference that he was retiring after the 2012 season. It's not entirely surprising, since the man is 85 years old and has been slowly cutting back his responsibilities for a while now.
However, as recently as Saturday at Astros FanFest, Milo was talking about "chasing the rabbit" with the start of spring training and how the new thing he wanted to chase was 70 years of broadcasting, something he claimed no one else had done. To get there, he'd have to work for three more years, but seemed ready to do that.
When the news broke Tuesday night, I talked to a friend of mine about it and he'd heard from a source that Jim Crane was going to announce a lifetime contract for Milo. Of course, that was supposed to be on Tuesday, and then the presser was pushed back a day, allowing time for stories to break that Milo is retiring.
I'm not sure what to make of the change. I do know Crane is smart enough not to push Milo out, because he doesn't need to antagonize fans any more than he as to at this point. I know we criticize Milo a lot now, but he's still an institution and his exit needed to be handled carefully.
The Astros appear to have done that, as Milo said he had planned all along that this would be his last season calling games. Do you think Milo was just being excited on Saturday or do you think Crane pushed for a decision and Milo decided to announce his retirement?
More importantly, who will fill his rather enormous shoes? The duo of Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan have been around a while now, have they grown on you any more? Do you think that one of them could receive a Frick Award down the line? Or, do the Astros go out and grab someone more established to fill that role?
I guess it all depends on how important radio remains to baseball fans. I'm traditional enough to love listening to a baseball game on the radio. There's something great about it. But, with GameTracker, MLB Extra Innings, DVRs and all the other technology we have these days, is there a place for radio to make someone the Voice of the Astros in the future? Or, will one of the TV guys take that title for people?