Remembering Gene Elston

added 9/6/2015 by Bob Hulsey

Gene Elston
It's almost midnight on September 5th and, so far, ESPN knows nothing about a Ford Frick Award-winning broadcaster's passing. Neither does CBS, or NBC They're all as silent as when Craig Biggio hit his 3,000th hit and the entire East Coast yawned with disinterest.

True, there is the first Saturday of college football and the pennant races of baseball to cover, but there's still room to note David Ortiz had smacked his 496th homer and ponder whether he should make the Hall of Fame.

When you live until 93, few people remember who you were and fewer care which is a shame about Gene Elston, yet fitting in its way. A man who shunned the spotlight left us on Saturday and the baseball world hardly noticed.

Gene was 40 years old when he called his first regular-season game as announcer for the Houston Colt .45s in 1962 yet he managed to outlive many of the younger men he covered back then, not just the ones who died young tragically but those who went on to live into their 60s and 70s. That black suit has probably had quite a workout.

Gene was a friend and a gracious host to me. I had the privilege of transcribing some of his old game broadcasts (far too few of them) to compact disc and also to .mp3 format with the goal of preserving Houston's baseball history and to keep alive the talent of a man so many Astros fans remember fondly.

The Astros were not good historians. How the first game of the Colt .45s did not survive still amazes me but, thanks to Gene, we still have a few golden moments of those early years when tv broadcasts were rare and there was no internet, ESPN or Top 10 highlight videos. Many of the audio clips provided here of the first two decades were courtesy of Gene.

Gene brought home a box of reel-to-reel tapes the day Dick Wagner fired him as play-by-play man after the 1986 season, supposedly because he wasn't entertaining enough (defying a 25-year career as Houston's lead announcer). Several of those tapes were recreations made during the 1981 strike so, Gene felt, those broadcasts were his property, not the Astros' nor Major League Baseball's.

Want to know what you missed?

Some of it you'll be able to find right here, for a limited time.

Astros Daily has our own Gene Elston shrine as it were, full of columns Gene generously contributed to our site as well as video and text of his 2006 speech before the Baseball Hall of Fame as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for his lifetime career in baseball broadcasting.

When the news broke in late February of that year, I penned this column in tribute. I think it speaks better than anything I could add today so I will let those words speak on my behalf.

The Astros added a plaque for Gene just below the broadcast booth at Minute Maid Park. Houston has been blessed with three Frick Award winners: Gene, Milo Hamilton and Harry Kalas. Hopefully, there will be more in the future. Gene set the standard for Houston baseball announcers and I hope they will always remember him for his many contributions.

Astros Daily sends our condolences to the Elston family.