The Men Behind The Mic
Astros broadcasters through the years
by Bob Hulsey

The broadcast team of 1962: (L to R) Gene Elston, Loel Passe, Al Helfer,
Rene Cardenas, Orlando Sanchez, Bob Green, Bob Boyne, Skipper Johnson.

The Houston franchise has been fortunate to have had a talented crew of broadcasters throughout their history, including four that have received their profession's highest honor, the Ford C. Frick Award given by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. (click on linked names to see their HOF bios). These are the men who primarily have provided in-game coverage of the Colt .45s and Astros since the franchise began:

Al Helfer - 1962

Helfer was already a household name when he arrived in Houston, having worked nationally for Mutual and NBC as well as regionally for the Reds, Dodgers, Yankees and Giants. He covered six World Series and 10 All-Star games and was a postseason fixture during much of the 1950s.

Differences led to a parting of ways after one season. Helfer was back in the big leagues in the late '60s with the Oakland A's. He passed away in 1975.
Hear a clip of Al Helfer.

Gene Elston - 1962-1986

The original "Voice of the Astros", Elston had previously called games for the Cubs and for the Mutual Network before coming to Houston where he spent 25 seasons, mostly as the lead play-by-play announcer. He was the first to call a major league game played indoors and the first to call a major league contest played on artificial turf.

No-hitters were his specialty - calling eight such gems while with the Astros, each one unique in their own way. After his tenure in Houston ended, Elston called games for CBS Radio until he retired and began writing books. Gene passed away in 2015 at age 93. His writing is featured on
Hear a clip of Gene Elston.

Loel Passe - 1962-1976

The first big league team in the Southern U.S. needed a voice with a Southern accent to help attract fans. That man was Loel Passe whose Alabama one-liners like "Hot ziggity dog and sassafras tea" and "Now you chuckin' in there" were soon catchphrases for Houston baseball fans.

Already a favorite of Judge Roy Hofheinz from his work with the minor league Houston Buffs, Passe worked the middle innings with the Astros for 15 years. He passed away in 1997 but was honored by the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2004.
Hear a clip of Loel Passe.

Harry Kalas - 1965-1970

Before he became the nationally-known voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films, Kalas spent six years working with the Astros, describing Houston home runs as "Astro Orbits". Perhaps his most memorable call while in Houston was describing the 500th career home run of Eddie Mathews.

From there, the Illinois native moved to Philadelphia where his distinctive vocal style made him an icon to baseball and football fans alike. Kalas passed away during the 2009 season. His son, Todd, (see below) currently works as an Astros broadcaster.
Hear a clip of Harry Kalas.

Bob Prince - 1976

Known to Pittsburgh baseball fans as "The Gunner", Prince was exiled to Houston after being fired as the lead play-by-play announcer of the Pirates after 20 years. His gravel voice, litany of phrases and staccato delivery had made him a legend in Pittsburgh. Brash, colorful and opinionated, Prince was an ultimate "homer" who one quickly could tell bled his team's colors.

He lasted in Houston just one season though. Unable to find steady work and ultimately afflicted with cancer, Prince was hired again by the Pirates' cable affiliate in 1985 and called some innings for his beloved Bucs before dying later that year.
Hear a clip of Bob Prince.

Dewayne Staats - 1977-1984

Staats had been the voice of the Oklahoma City minor league team before getting his first big league assignment with Houston. From there, he has worked for the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Major League Baseball and ESPN before becoming the lead play-by-play man for the Tampa Bay team in 1997 where he continues to work.

After a decade of covering woebegone teams in Tampa, Staats was able to enjoy calling the cinderella run of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays all the way to the World Series.
Hear a clip of Dewayne Staats.

Larry Dierker - 1979-1996

If anyone can be considered "Mr. Astro", it is probably Dierker who played for the team as an 18-year-old in 1964 and stayed through 1976 when he pitched a no-hitter. Always a fan favorite, he found a home in the broadcast booth once his playing days were through, mixing his insights on baseball with a quirky sense of humor.

That might have been the extent of Larry's post-playing career had he not been asked to manage the Astros after Terry Collins was fired in 1996. He led Houston to four division titles in five years (1997-2001) but was criticized for not leading his team to postseason success. After managing, he has taken to writing books and making occasional visits back to the broadcasting booth. The Astros retired his number 49 jersey in 2005.

During the 2015 season, Dierker recounted the 50 amazing years of the Astros for radio and shared those shows with as Dierker's Dugout Reflections which you can relive here.
Hear a clip of Larry Dierker.

Bill Worrell - 1984-2005

Known for over 20 years as the television voice of the NBA Houston Rockets, the former KPRC-TV sports anchor's career changed when he was signed to launch Home Sports Entertainment, a fledgling cable sports channel in the early 1980s. When the Astros became part of the cable channel's package in 1984, the former University of Houston pitcher became a jack-of-all-trades on Astros home telecasts, doing everything from hosting to color commentary to play-by-play.

While Home Sports Entertainment has changed to Prime Sports and later Fox Sports Houston, Bill Worrell has been a constant and dependable presence on the Houston sports scene for 30 years.
Hear a clip of Bill Worrell.

Milo Hamilton - 1985-2012

With a booming voice and great enthusiasm, Iowa-born Hamilton di major league broadcasts into his sixth decade, starting with the St. Louis Browns in 1953. He called games for the crosstown Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago White Sox, the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates before finding a home with the Astros in 1985.

His most enduring call was the 715th career home run of Hank Aaron that broke Babe Ruth's "unbreakable" mark. Insiders admire how well he delivered post-game highlights without the aid of a script. Milo continued to make appearances for the Astros even after he retired following the 2012 season. Hamilton passed away in 2015 at age 88. The Astros honored him with a jersey patch after his death and named the Minute Maid pressbox after him.
Hear a clip of Milo Hamilton.

Jerry Trupiano - 1985-1986

A familiar radio voice for two decades in Houston, the St. Louis-born Trupiano was Sports Director for KTRH-AM radio while doing play-by-play for the WHA Houston Aeros (1974-1978), NBA Houston Rockets (1978-1980), NFL Houston Oilers (1980-1989) and, for two seasons, with the Houston Astros. Jerry also did radio play-by-play for the Southwest Conference.

He worked briefly with CBS Radio before landing a job with the Boston Red Sox in 1993 where he lasted through 2004, the year the Sox finally solved the "Curse of the Bambino".
Hear a clip of Jerry Trupiano.

Bill Brown - 1987-2016

The lead broadcaster of the Astros television team for over 20 years, Brown worked seven years with the Cincinnati Reds then hosted a show for a cable network in Los Angeles before joining the Astros.

Brown fit into his role so comfortably that many overlook his timely recital of facts as the game plays out before him. "Brownie" was the constant tv voice through Home Sports Entertainment, Prime Sports, Fox Sports Net, Comcast Sports - Houston and Root Sports Southwest. Fans know that when his normally smooth delivery turns into a growl, that something good has happened for Houston. He was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall Of Fame in 2004.
Hear a clip of Bill Brown.

Jim Deshaies - 1997-2012

After a distinguished pitching career with the Astros (61-59, 3.67 ERA over seven seasons), the tall lefthander moved into the broadcast booth where he mixed a healthy dose of baseball analysis and clever quips to become one of Houston's favorite voices.

Seeking a wider audience, Deshaies joined the Chicago Cubs' broadcast team in 2013 and was able to witness their Worlds Championship in 2016, snapping a drought that lasted over 100 years.

The native New Yorker staged a mock campaign to get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Deshaies received one vote - that of a Houston Chronicle sportswriter. "J.D." wears well over a long season, seemingly never getting too high or too low about the day's event, reflecting the "one-day-at-a-time" mindset of the modern ballplayer.
Hear a clip of Jim Deshaies.

Alan Ashby - 1998-2005, 2013-2016

Another fan favorite as an Astros player, the former catcher teamed with Milo Hamilton on radio broadcasts for eight seasons, some of the most memorable years in team history. Sometimes awkward in the beginning, Ashby showed the same grit and determination in the broadcast booth that he showed on the playing field, gradually becoming a dependable analyst.

His contract was not renewed for 2006 but he quickly found work with the Toronto Blue Jays broadcast team. When Jim Deshaies left for Chicago, Ashby returned to do both play-by-play and color analyst duties for the Astros for four seasons.
Hear a clip of Alan Ashby.

Brett Dolan - 2006-2012

A 13-year veteran of minor league baseball, including six with Tucson of the Pacific Coast League, Dolan moved up to the Astros and served as radio play-by-play man and analyst through 2012.

Brett had some big league experience before coming to Houston, calling Montreal Expos games during parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Dismissed by new ownership after the 2012 season, Dolan has done freelance work as well as work with Root Sports in Houston. The Iowa native also covers college football and basketball during the off-season.
Hear a clip of Brett Dolan.

Dave Raymond - 2006-2012

Like Dolan, Raymond also cut his teeth in the minors before coming to Houston. Some Astro fans refered to Dolan and Raymond as "The Twins", not only because they started with the Astros at the same time but because of their similar announcing styles. Raymond also did radio play-by-play and analysis duties for the Astros through the 2012 season when he was dismissed by the new ownership.

Before coming to Houston, Dave had called games for the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants as well as doing football and basketball broadcasts for Drake University. He now works as an announcer for the Texas Rangers.
Hear a clip of Dave Raymond.

Steve Sparks and Robert Ford - 2013-present

Talk about a shotgun wedding, Sparks and Ford had never worked together until three days before they were to start calling Astros radio broadcasts together. That was the result of the talent search held leading up to the 2013 season.

Sparks was a known entity to Houston fans as a former knuckleball pitcher from Sam Houston State with six major league organizations before becoming part of a rotation of pre-game and post-game analysts for the Astros. He had never done play-by-play work before being paired with Ford in 2013 and it showed when he had to substitute for Ford during relief innings. He has, however, shown some keen insight as a color analyst.

Ford had risen from minor league broadcasts in Binghamton, Yakima and Kalamazoo to become the radio pre-game and post-game host for the Kansas City Royals from 2009-2012. He's a graduate of Syracuse University. With a rich voice and a calm demeanor, Ford is a regular presence on social media as he connects with the younger demongraphic the Astros seek.

Geoff Blum and Todd Kalas - present

"Blummer" was a former infielder with the Astros from 2002-03 and 2008-10 as part of a 14-year big league career, however Astro fans may know him best as the man who broke their hearts when he smacked the game-winning home run for the Chicago White Sox against the Astros in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, the first World Series game played on Texas soil.

Coming off the bench was a specialty of his as a player so it seemed to fit when he became the third member of a tv crew that included Bill Brown and Alan Ashby. For many road games during that time, Brown remained in Houston while Ashby and Blum covered the action at the ballpark. In 2017, he became the full-time color analyst as he was paired on Root Sports Southwest with Todd Kalas.

If Todd's name sounds familiar, he is the son of Harry Kalas (see above) who called Astros games before starting a long career in Philadelphia. Todd joined the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998 and worked there for 19 seasons, mixing hosting duties with play-by play appearances. Previously, he had also worked for the Mets and Phillies broadcast teams. Like Ford, Todd is a graduate of Syracuse University.

From the beginning, the Astros have also had Spanish-language announcers calling their games. Some have won awards and honors in their own right:

Rene Cardenas
Orlando Sanchez Diago
Arturo Mendoza
Ernesto Baez
Rolando Becerra
Francisco Ruiz
Alex Trevino
Raul Saenz
Francisco Romero

Trevino and Romero are the current broadcast team. Trevino was a catcher for the Astros from 1988-1990 as part of a 13-year big league career that included stops with the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Photos for this page courtesy of the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, internet sources and private collections. The list is not exhaustive as others ranging from Mickey Herskowitz to Enos Cabell have, at times, provided play-by-play or color commentary for the Astros over the years. If you have comments or additional information (including some better photos), write me at