When Milo Hamilton met Ronald Reagan…
When Milo Hamilton learned that President Reagan would be at Dodger Stadium that day, he began looking for someone to introduce him to his boyhood hero. He found that someone in Dodgers GM Fred Claire and was escorted downstairs, past security and in front of the President of the United States.
“Look for the blue pack with the red-coated rider,” Hamilton said loudly as he shook Reagan’s hand. Reagan smiled, clearly pleased.
“How do you remember that?” he said. Milo explained that he’d grown up in Iowa listening to Reagan’s radio show on WHO and that he’d forever memorized the closing line of the show, an advertisement for Kentucky Club Pipe Tobacco.
Milo, who will announce his retirement on Wednesday, has lived a long and wonderful life. He’s 85 years old and has done major league baseball for 58 years, including the last 27 for the Astros. He got his start in broadcasting on Okinawa while in the Army. Upon returning to the states and graduating from the University of Iowa, he did a bit of everything, spinning records, doing the news, conducting interviews.
He was having lunch at a waterfront restaurant in Philadelphia a few years ago when, suddenly, he was struck by a sight that took his breath away.
“There was the ship I served on in World War II,” he said.
His first baseball play-by-play was a minor league team 66 years ago. He had found his calling. In the years since, he has become the background music of our summers, his booming voice as rich as ever. He’ll be forever known as the guy who called Hank Aaron’s 715th, but that’s just one small moment compared to the thousands who feel as if they know him intimately.
There’s nothing like baseball on the radio, nothing like the gifted men who pain the pictures, from Vin Scully and Russ Hodges to Mel Allen and and Red Barber. I grew up in Waxahachie, Texas, falling asleep to the sound of Gene Elston doing Astros’ games. Later, I became close friends with Jon Miller. Baseball’s best broadcasters are perfectionists, and many of them don’t suffer fools.
In recent years, as the Astros tumbled out of contention, Milo’s unhappiness came through in his voice and words. He had cut back on his travel in recent years, a concession to an assortment of health problems. He’ll discuss his plans during a news conference on Wednesday.