ASA Sportscaster Profile:
The following is an interview of ASA Member and longtime Voice of the Houston Astros Milo Hamilton conducted by ASA President Lou Schwartz. The two attended a Memorial Service for legendary New York Mets announcer Bob Murphy at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on August 11, 2004.
LS: Do you remember how you first got started in broadcasting?
MH: I sure do. It was in 1945 and I was in the Navy on the Armed Forces Radio Service, WXLI Guam. They rehearsed me for 15 minutes for my first station break. They told me what to say at 2:45 and they said at 3:00 I was going to be on the air. It was a long station break and when I went on at 3:00 and gave the station break I gave the time as 2:45 and it was really 3:00.
LS: How much were you paid for your first broadcasting job?
MH: My first job when I got out of school at the University of Iowa was $42.50 a week. That was 1950. But I didn't care. I wanted my first job to be where I could get experience doing baseball, football, basketball, golden gloves boxing. And I always say that in those first two years I got my Masters, my Ph.D., and $50 a week, and after three years I was in the big leagues. I took the lessons well and the thought that I had was don't worry about that first job's pay. Just do it to see if you can do it.
LS: Do you remember the first mistake you made on the air?
MH: Oh sure. There were a lot of those along the way but most of those you can't print.
LS: Give me one you can print.
MH: Well, I remember how embarrassed I was when I was interviewing this college player at half-time and he had just lost a game to that school the week before and he said, ‘Boy, those son's of bitches can really play.' I just acted like he didn't say anything and I just kept on going.
LS: What is one of your fondest memories as a broadcaster?
MH: I think my most fondest memory was a build up of two years when I realized that I would do Hank Aaron's 715th home run that would beat Ruth's record of 714. I think that because it has stood the test of time. Curt Smith, who wrote Voices of the Game, once asked me, ‘Why do you think it stood the test of time?' I said, ‘Because the home run barely made it.' It wasn't one of those in the upper deck. You really had to wait to see if it went out. It's probably the most replayed broadcast of all-time. I hear it somewhere every week. As I say to Aaron sometimes when we do card shows together or when I see Al Downing out in Los Angeles, ‘We're all joined at the hip. You threw the pitch. He hit it. And I talked about it.'
LS: Who would you say is one of the finest ball players that you ever met or interviewed?
MH: My favorite ball player, because of the way he conducted himself and the way he played, was Stan Musial. I was there in the early 50's when he was still playing. I was on the air when he hit the five home runs in a double-header against the San Francisco Giants at old Sportsman's Park so I had a lot of things to remember about Stan. When you go into the baseball Hall of Fame, the bat company sends you a letter of congratulations and asks you to name your favorite player. I told them mine was Stan Musial and they sent me a fabulous plaque and a bat from Stan Musial. So that was very special to me.
LS: You've traveled all around the country. Tell me, what is your favorite city?
MH: Growing up in Iowa as I did, we all thought that Chicago was the epitome because it was the big city in the Midwest. I broadcast there for 17 years and have a lot of great memories of it. It's still a great city. I've kept track of a lot of people there. I have a God daughter there. I have friends in ownership with the White Sox. I really enjoy that city because I think once you're a Midwesterner, you think of Chicago as ‘it' in the Midwest.
LS: Speaking of Chicago, what are your recollections of Jack Brickhouse?
MH: He was just fabulous. He handpicked me to succeed him in Chicago. Not many people get to do that. I hope I can do that when I'm ready to hang it up. We had a common thread in the fact that he was brought to Chicago by Bob Elson and I later did White Sox games with Elson. So we always liked to tell stories about our doings with Bob, ‘The Commander', as he was known. He was a special man. And Jack never let me have lunch without telling an Elson story. Jack was truly a great broadcaster and a terrific person.
LS: What advice would you give a young sportscaster trying to make it in this business?
MH: If you really want it, and you know it in high school, take all the English classes you can. Learn how to write. Learn how to communicate. Go to a college where you can be on the air. You can tell everybody on paper what you did in the classroom but if you go to a school that has a station you can get tapes. Then, when you select that first job, make sure it's a job where you can develop your style and find out if you can make it as a big league sportscaster someday, if that is your goal. You can't find out without going on the air.
LS: What do you think about the fact that all these ex-athletes are being brought into the booth as broadcasters?
MH: If they're brought there in the right role as an analyst, they have a great place. I'm fortunate to have a terrific guy right now, Alan Ashby, who caught in the majors for 17 years. You have to have an analyst who's willing to work. Some people along the way thought that the ball club owed them a livelihood. They thought they could just show up in the booth and that was their contribution. You've got to really want it as an analyst and be a part of the broadcast. There was a day back in the 50's when I thought we were being invaded but now I realize after having some great partners that the analyst has a place in the booth and I enjoy having them there.