HOUSTON | Milo Hamilton, a Hall of Fame broadcaster whose radio calls over six decades included 11 no-hitters and Hank Aaron’s historic 715th home run in 1974, died on Thursday. He was 88.
The Houston Astros announced the death of their longtime play-by-play man, well known for using the phrase “Holy Toledo.” A cause of death was not immediately released for Hamilton, who worked for seven teams.
Hamilton spent 60 years broadcasting major league games, and was working for WSB radio in Atlanta when Aaron became the all-time home run leader on April 8, 1974. Hamilton later said he didn’t rehearse the call, but it went off without a hitch.
“There’s a drive into left-center field,” he said as the Braves slugger started running the bases. “That ball is going to be … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all-time! And it’s Henry Aaron!”
As Aaron crossed home plate and was greeted by jubilant teammates, Hamilton continued with: “Henry Aaron, the home run king of all time.”
Hammerin’ Hank joined Hamilton at his retirement party in 2012 and discussed his famous call, which the broadcaster considered the highlight of his career.
“Your voice goes with me all over the world,” he told Hamilton. “Everywhere I go when people start talking about that home run, your voice comes back, and I want to say how much I appreciate that.”
Hamilton and Aaron were forever linked because of that call.
“We’re kind of joined at the hip with home run No. 715,” Hamilton said in 2012.
Leland Milo Hamilton had already called games for the St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, the Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates when he joined the Astros in 1985. He retired following the 2012 season and since 2013 had served as a guest radio commentator for select Houston home games.
Earlier this month, longtime Astros announcer Gene Elston died at 93. He left the team after the 1986 season.
There was a moment of silence for Hamilton on Thursday night before the Texas Rangers hosted the Astros, with his picture on the video board.
“Milo had a classic radio voice. When he arrived in Houston, he raised the broadcast to another level,” former Astros ace Nolan Ryan said. “Milo was also a friend that I enjoyed hunting with in the offseason.”
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan — Nolan’s son — called Hamilton a “true icon.” Hamilton was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Radio Hall of Fame in 2000.
Among the other highlights of his career were calling Ryan’s 4,000th strikeout in 1985 and Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit in 2007. He also broadcast the Pirates’ 1979 championship season and the day Stan Musial hit five home runs in a doubleheader.
He had said his most memorable no-hitter was the division-clinching performance by Mike Scott in 1986.
“For me, Milo was part poet and part P.T. Barnum. He was a great ringmaster and he loved painting the prose of baseball,” former Astros player and manager Phil Garner said.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he enjoyed spending time with Hamilton when he visited Houston earlier this season.
“During his 60 years covering our game, Milo became one of the national pastime’s most distinguished announcers,” Manfred said.
Hamilton counted former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, as longtime friends. They called Hamilton “one of the brightest Points of Light we knew.”
“It was hard for him, and indeed all Astros fans, when he stepped away from the booth in 2012 after his legendary career, but from this day forward we can take comfort that he will always have the best seat in the house,” the Bush statement said. “Holy Toledo, what a good man he was — and we were fortunate to know him.”