Happy Sunday friends! The Astros are within spitting distance of a .500 record, but who cares about that anymore? Six months ago, .500 + 2 or 3 would have been a success story. Now, it would likely be considered somewhat of a disappointment by many, including the Astros’ leadership.
The Astros lost a legend this weekend. Gene Elston, the original voice of the Astros — and Colt 45s — died Saturday at 93. Whether you remember listening to him live or you simply have heard of him through history, you know that the Hall of Fame announcer has a special place in Astros’ lore. He was the voice from 1962 until 1986, which means, yes, that he covered those two famous ’80s teams. For me, he was my first introduction to baseball radio announcers. Still remember snuggling under my covers with that little transistor radio crackling while I listened to Astros’ games on KWKH in Shreveport. Why under the covers? Well, as most little kids do, I had a bed time and I had to try to be quiet so mom and dad didn’t know I was still awake…sometimes at midnight if the team was on the West Coast.
There were many of those nights since television had only a game of the week back in the day. Radio was the way to go. Of course, he made the transition to television smoothly, even for a guy who wasn’t born into the television era. He introduced me to J.R. Richard, Terry Puhl, Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub and even Joe Morgan among others.
He didn’t have the opportunity to introduce me to Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Ken Caminiti and I can only imagine if he’d been able to call the games of this current team with Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Altuve and George Springer.
Elston had a way of bringing the game to life before television was prominent in baseball. His partner, Loel Passe, was actually the color guy and, yes, he was colorful with popular catch phrases like: “Now you chunkin’ in there J.R.!” and “He breezed him, one more time!”
I met Gene Elston at a Cotton Bowl game around 1980. Had a chance to tell him of my late nights with the transistor radio and got some pictures (which I’ll need to find).
Yes, there have been plenty of great announcers over the years for Houston. But none outshine Gene Elston.
We’ll leave it there for today. I’m guessing you have memories of Gene yourself or those first 25 years of Astros’ baseball. Leave your thoughts here this morning and of those glorious early years of the Astros.