Tuesday, February 21, 2006

There IS Joy In Mudville

Here's a blog entry that is guaranteed to interest absolutely, positively no one outside the city of Houston. But it's my blog, and darn it, this story needs to be told.

For the first time in its 45-year history, a Houston major-league baseball team finally has a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to call its very own. That's right, folks: of all the Hall of Famers who have worn the uniform of the Colt .45s or the Astros, none of them ever went into the Hall wearing the Houston cap. They all went in as honored members of other teams.

The Astros finally have their first home-grown Hall of Famer, and he doesn't even get to wear a cap.

Gene Elston was the first voice of the Houston Colts back in 1962. His last season with the Astros, 1986, drew to a close with his call of Mike Scott's division-clinching no-hitter. In between, Elston called a lot of history.

Elston probably never screamed into a microphone in his life. He was one of those from the era of Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell and, yes, even Harry Caray (back when Caray was really good, before he started getting sloshed on ballpark beer behind the mike). Elston's job was to paint verbal pictures and report the game, and he did it as well as anyone in baseball history.

Good thing, too, because for most of Elston's tenure as the team's lead broadcaster, the Astros were known by other names. "Lastros" was one. "Disastros" was another. And, when the team moved its spring training home to Kissimmee, Florida, you can understand why the local farm team quickly changed its name to the "Osceola County Astros".

Anyone who listens to a lot of baseball on the radio knows who the Astros' current lead announcer is: Hall of Famer Milo Hamilton. But even with his legendary career in Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta, Milo came to Houston as the number-two guy, backing up Gene Elston. Other Hall of Famers who were second-in-command to Elston include (legendary Pirates voice) Bob Prince and (legendary Phillies and NFL voice) Harry Kalas. They got into the Hall, while Elston quietly kept to himself.

Elston saw his job to be that of reporter, not cheerleader. That sense of integrity to the listener ultimately got him fired by moronic then-owner John McMullen. Finally, 20 years after he was forced out of the Astros' booth, Elston has been elected to receive the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And who were two of the committee members who voted him in? Why, Milo Hamilton and Harry Kalas, of course. It's about damn time.

Way to go, Gene.

(Note: Bob Prince did not vote for Gene Elston. Of course, he's dead, so his excuse is somewhat valid ...)

posted by Gary @ 9:31 PM


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Location: Houston, Texas

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