Nolan Ryan: HOF voice 'was a big part of my life' growing up
By Chandler Rome
HOUSTON -- Gene Elston, the longtime Astros radio broadcaster, Texas Baseball Hall of Famer and 2006 Ford C. Frick Award winner, died on Saturday. Elston was 93.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Gene Elston," Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan said in a statement. "Gene helped introduce baseball to Houston as a part of the original broadcast team of the Colt .45s when the franchise was born in 1962. For 25 seasons, he served as the lead voice of the Colt .45s and Astros and called many of the great moments in franchise history. The memories he helped create are cherished fondly by the generations of Astros fans that he touched.
Elston was the lead voice of the Astros from the beginning, starting in 1962 when the franchise was still called the Colt .45s and ending after the 1986 season, when the Astros captured a National League West Championship. He called 11 no-hitters, including one of Nolan Ryan's and Mike Scott's that clinched the National League West title on Sept. 25, 1986. Also among his broadcasting feats was Eddie Matthews' 500th home run.
"Gene worked in the era that radio brought the game into our cars and into our homes," said Nolan Ryan, who listened to Elston while growing up in Alvin. "As a kid growing up in Texas, my connection to Major League Baseball was through Gene and his radio partners. It was a big part of my life. It was a great experience for me to be around Gene when I came to Houston as a player. He had a real passion and commitment to baseball."
His career in broadcasting began in 1945 when, after serving in the Navy during World War II, he was a color commentator for the NFL's Cleveland Rams. A year later he began broadcasting baseball, calling games for the Waterloo White Hawks before moving to the Western League's Des Moines team three years later.
Elston broadcasted alongside Bob Feller in 1958 for Mutual's Game of the Day before joining the Astros as they became an expansion franchise. After leaving Houston, he worked the CBS Radio Game of the Week from 1987-1995 and CBS postseason games from 1995-97.
"Gene Elston brought a classic broadcasting approach to Houston as the first voice of Major League Baseball in Texas," current Astros broadcaster Bill Brown said. "His smooth style emphasized accuracy and depth of knowledge about the game's history. He was the perfect baseball teacher for the generation of fans who built their loyalty to the Colt .45s and Astros through his stewardship."
Elston was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Astros held a moment of silence for Elston in the middle of the eighth inning of Saturday night's game and had a pregame tribute scheduled for Sunday at Minute Maid Park.