In their 50 year history, the Houston Astros have had two announcers who have earned the coveted Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame for broadcasting. Neither of them was named Bill Brown (so far, at least. One day, Houston may have three names on that list).
Also in their 50 hear history, only one announcer has been here long enough to project as the Astros media person with the longest period of continuous service as a broadcaster beyond all others. And that man is neither Ford Frick Award winner Gene Elston (Astros, 1962-1986) or Ford Frick Award winner Milo Hamilton (Astros, 1986-2012).
It’s Bill Brown (Astros, 1987-2012 and counting).
Gene Elston has been gone from the Astros since the year prior to Bill Brown’s arrival in Houston and Milo Hamilton retires after the 2012 season. Of these three figures of quality service over time, only Bill Brown will remain on duty in this city after 2012 – and with no end in sight to his remaining years of tenured quality service in prospect as the television play-by-play voice of the Houston Astros.
Bill Brown was born in Sedalia, Missouri on September 20, 1947. After several years of early media service and sports broadcasting, but mainly in Cincinnati with the Reds and several college teams, Bill and family, wife Dianne and daughter Allison, moved to Houston as Brown went to work for the Astros as the voice of their telecast play-by-play announcing.
Through 2011, Bill Brown has now been an Astros employee for exactly 25 seasons – or exactly half the lifespan of Houston’s half century history as a major league club. That’s quite an accomplishment in itself, one that no one reaches by anything than less than being better than most, or all, at what he does so well – play-by-play baseball broadcasting on television.
Bill Brown is a broadcasting high achiever on that level. And he doesn’t do it by making himself the show ahead of the game – or the action on the field. He doesn’t do it by having a signature “call” phrase that sets him apart from other announcers. And, thank the Lord, he doesn’t do it by hanging a mindless, endless stream of unrequested silly nicknames upon the players.
Bill Brown does it being prepared for the game, accurate with his descriptions and game assessments, sensitive to the special needs of television, being always a pleasant voice and personality, and the kind of guy who brings out the very best in the entertainment value of each game – and the people who work with him.
Current color broadcaster TV mate Jim DeShaies is one of the wittiest, best informed people on the tube – and a good part of Jim’s success is due to the fact that partner Bill Brown brings out the very best in him.
My adult son Neal recently asked me, “Hey, Dad, do you know how I can tell that Jim DeShaies is having a really good night on the air when the game is on television and I’m not even in the room watching every minute of it?”
“I count the times I hear Bill Brown laugh per minute. That’s how,” Neal answered.
Bill Brown has had some great TV partners over the years – and every one of them has been better because Bill Brown’s healthy ego permits him to play straight man to the talents for humor in others. And that’s a rare gift. Not everyone can play Bud Abbott to all the Lou Costellos in this world. Sometimes the greater art is to allow the growth of humor from the storytelling of others. Although, make no mistake. Bill Brown is an excellent storyteller in his own right.
I can’t recall all the partners that have worked with Bill Brown on Astros telecasts over the years, but they include some good ones – super guys like Bill Worrell (I think), Larry Dierker (for sure), Greg Lucas, and current partner Jim DeShaies. Each has brought something good to the table; and each has been better due to the anchoring presence of Bill Brown.
I’ve gotten to know Bill Brown a little better personally over the bast decade through our shared membership in SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, and I’ve especially come to see him more too as a valued colleague on baseball research and writing. I also look forward to whatever Bill produces as a written publication in the future. Whatever it may be, count on it being a quality job.
Bill Brown was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004. Someday, there’s an even bigger Hall up the road in Cooperstown, New York that may be calling upon him too. The Ford Frick Award would be a nice fit for the longest running, good-as-or-better than any other play-by-play man to ever fill the bill in Houston too.
His name is Bill Brown. And he’s our guy to enjoy in Houston baseball on TV at the top of his game. How lucky can we be?