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No ordinary day as Milo makes last call

HOUSTON -- He was a professional to the end, thanking the fans and the sponsors while trying to keep his emotions in check. Milo Hamilton's last game as the Astros' full-time radio play-by-play announcer resulted in a win, which was the one thing he wanted more than anything else.

Hamilton, who is stepping aside after 28 years calling Astros games and nearly 60 years announcing Major League games, was behind the microphone for all nine innings of the Astros' 2-0 win over the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night, and exhibited the kind of passion fans have come to expect in his swan song.

"Whoa, baby, put a blue star all over that!" Hamilton said when the Astros turned a 6-4-3 double play in the ninth.

And when Allen Craig grounded out to Jose Altuve for the last out of the game -- and the final out of Hamilton's career -- the excitement was still there at age 85.

"Astros win the final game at home!" he said.

As fireworks shot off beyond the outfield and team president and CEO George Postolos popped the cork on a bottle of champagne in the radio booth, an era in Houston baseball came to a close.

"Whether it's next year or five years from now or 10 years, we hope to have you back in this booth because this will always be your booth," broadcast partner Brett Dolan said on-air. "Thanks for the memories, and don't be a stranger."

Hamilton, 85, announced in February that this season would be his last behind the microphone for the Astros. He has been in broadcasting for 67 years, including Major League stops in St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Houston.

Dave Raymond, who called the game alongside Hamilton on Wednesday, took time on the air after the game to tell one of his favorite Milo stories. Raymond said it was 2006, the year after the Astros went to the World Series, and Hamilton was "ticked" because the team lost a close game.

"The game ends and you do the post-game show and you wrapped up the overnight stuff and took the headphones off and started putting papers in your briefcase," Raymond said to Hamilton. "You latched the briefcase and sat there and looked out. The guys were working on the field, and you looked out there, and after this tough loss, after the frustration and anxiety, you stood up with that briefcase and you sang. You said, 'I love this game!'"

Hamilton won't travel with the team on its road trip through Milwaukee and Chicago to end the season, but he'll sign off the final broadcast of the season on Oct. 3. After the game is over, Raymond and Dolan will throw the broadcast to Hamilton, who will be mingling with fans and signing autographs at Gallery Furniture in Houston.

Wednesday's in-game broadcast made occasional references to the end of Hamilton's career. Gallery Furniture owner and TV pitchman Jim McIngvale made an appearance in the booth, as did Astros legend Craig Biggio, whose 3,000th hit in 2007 was one of Hamilton's career highlights.

"I'm very grateful for our relationship and grateful for the opportunity to get to know you," Biggio told Hamilton on-air. "You've had the opportunity to do so many special things in this booth and behind the mic, and to be able to deliver that to the fans if Houston, we've been very lucky and blessed."

Hamilton soaked it all in.

"Is this a fun night or what?" he said.

During the seventh-inning stretch, Hamilton took the public address microphone and had the crowd on its feet while he addressed them. He thanked them for their support.

"You've backed me all the time since I've been here," he said. "I've been through a lot of things, losses in my family and health problems, but I heard from a lot of you and I can't thank you enough. Thank you, Astros fans. If you aren't the best in the world, I don't know who is! Thank you! Thank you! Thank You! And you really want to know what kind of fans you are? Holy Toledo, great fans!"

Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who threw a season high 7 1/3 scoreless innings to beat the Cardinals, took a moment to acknowledge Hamilton while talking to reporters after the game.

"Congratulations to Milo," Norris said. "Hell of a career. He's a Hall of Famer. I've known him for 3 1/2 years now and he's been quite a character coming in here. He means a lot to the organization and the franchise. I know we're really happy for him. We're sad to see him leave and we wish him well on his ways. We thank him for everything."

A group of about two dozen fans chanted Milo's name as they looked into his booth after the game was long completed.

In his closing remarks, Hamilton reminded listeners he plans to be on the airwaves next year, hosting the off-season Astroline show and making other public appearances. He might even come out of retirement and return to the booth for a guest appearance behind the microphone.

He was fighting his emotions when he thanked the friends, family and co-workers who have crossed his path throughout his career before signing off in his distinctive tone.

"For all of them, I'm Milo Hamilton thanking all of you and the great fans I had a chance to salute in the seventh inning. For now, I'm not saying goodbye, just so long for a little while. And the final score tonight -- I got what I wanted, I wanted a win -- and the Astros beat the Cardinals, 2-0, on the Astros radio network."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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