Milo made Aaron's homer itself star of 715th HR call
Spontaneity led to perfect play-by-play of an iconic moment 40 years ago
Broadcaster Milo Hamilton had an entire offseason before the 1974 baseball season to think about how he would capture an event that figured to live forever in the hearts and minds of baseball fans. He knew broadcasters sometimes have their entire careers defined by moments such as these, and how's that for pressure?
Hamilton's career spanned almost 70 years and included doing play-by-play of everything from Golden Gloves boxing to high school sports to being the voice of six Major League teams. He also received his industry's highest honor -- the Ford C. Frick Award in conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In the end, though, Hamilton will be remembered as the guy who 40 years ago today described -- and magnificently captured -- Hank Aaron's 715th home run. He did it with brevity and emotion, and four decades later, it's still the background track for one of baseball's greatest accomplishments.
Henry Aaron, in the second inning walked and score. He's sittin' on 714. Here's the pitch by Downing. Swinging.
There's a drive into left-center field. That is ball is gonna be-eee ... Outta here! It's gone! It's 715!
There's a new home run champion of all-time, and it's Henry Aaron.
In the end, it was absolutely perfect. Hamilton had prepared nothing for the moment even though he'd had months to think about what he wanted to say.
Instead, Hamilton wanted it to be about the home run itself. He would be the reporter describing what he saw and felt.
As Aaron told him a couple of years ago, "Your voice goes with me all over the world. 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."
Interestingly, Hamilton's only real plan was not to use his signature phrase -- "Holy Toledo!" -- because he didn't want anything he said to smack of self-promotion. This was only about Henry Aaron.
Hamilton would end up doing 11 no-hitters and a long string of huge games before he retired as voice of the Astros two years ago. When people think of him, though, Aaron's 715th home run will always be atop the list.
Given that Aaron began the 1974 season with 713 home runs, Hamilton had plenty of time to plan for it. And fans kept asking.
"I had all winter to think about what I was going to say," he said.
Hamilton's decision was to be spontaneous.
"Plus, the fact that the home run barely made it," he said. "Aaron did not hit Ruthian home runs. [Dodgers left fielder Bill] Buckner almost caught the damn thing, you know. Anything I would have prepared would have gone out the window anyway. I always felt spontaneity was my strong suit anyway."
Now two years retired from his last job as voice of the Astros, Hamilton hears the call now and thinks of another place and time.
"It takes me back," he said. "I go on a lot of talk shows around the country, and I think the guys feel obligated to introduce me with the Aaron call. I still enjoy it when I hear it."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.