Craig Calcaterra

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Obama names Fernando Valenzuela “Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization”

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Leave it to Obama to give an eyeball-breathing, screwball-loving LEFTY a job! Liberal bias, man. Liberal bias! He must be overcome by some insidious, euphoria-inducing disease like . . . Fernandomania!

President Obama launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign and appointed the Dodger broadcaster and legendary lefty a Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization. In this role, Valenzuela will work with the White House and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in promoting the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship among eligible lawful permanent residents and help the “Stand Stronger” Campaign break down the barriers for eligible immigrants and refugees to become U.S. citizens.

Valenzuela just became a U.S. citizen himself, by the way. He signed with the Dodgers in July of 1979 and has lived in the United States ever since, spending the past 36 years as a ballplayer and a Dodgers broadcaster.

And if you’re a guy of a certain age — say, 42 — he was one of the first big time pitchers who you thought of as being one of YOUR guys. Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer and all of those huge names of the 60s and 70 were all big deals to us, of course, but they all started pitching before we were born. They were our dad’s or older brothers’ pitchers. For me, Fernando was the first big all-star type starter who seemed 100% modern to me when he made his splash, probably because I vividly remember him making his splash. Everything before him belonged to people older than me. Everything after him was mine.

Congrats, Fernando.

Long time Astros announcer Milo Hamilton passes away at 88

Milo Hamilton
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Sad news for long time Astros fans: broadcaster Milo Hamilton has passed away at age 88.

Hamilton, the Ford Frick Award winner in 1992, got his start in the majors in 1953, calling St. Louis Browns games. He didn’t go to Baltimore in 1954, but stayed in St. Louis. He had short stints calling games for the Cardinals, the Cubs and then the White Sox.

He then moved on to Atlanta, where he lasted a decade. He called Hank Aaron’s 715th homer, but was fired a year later after criticizing the team’s poor attendance. The man didn’t lie, but then as now, teams don’t much like honesty about such things from their announcers. Which is a shame, but that’s the business. He’d move on to the Pirates and then back to the Cubs for a spell. 

His longest and most successful tenure in the business came in Houston, where he called games from 1984 through 2012. A generation of fans who came of age with those nice mid-80s Astros and on through the Biggio-Bagwell years came to think of Hamilton as the voice of the Astros in ways he was never truly the top guy with his previous employers. He spent 59 seasons behind the microphone at Major League games, 28 of those with the Astros.

Every team has “their guy” in the broadcast booth. Hamilton was the Astros’ guy. Good travels, Milo, wherever it is you go from here.

UPDATE: Rob Manfred just released a statement regarding the death of Milo Hamilton:

“During his 60 years covering our game, Milo became one of the National Pastime’s most distinguished announcers, serving seven different Major League Clubs.  He chronicled some of our game’s most historic moments during the era of Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Ernie Banks.  As ‘The Voice of the Astros’ since 1985, he ushered into the homes of fans Houston’s first World Series appearance, the Hall of Fame careers of Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio, and countless other memories. 

“I enjoyed spending time with Milo during my trip to Houston earlier in this resurgent season for the Astros, and it was a pleasure to correspond with him in recent months.  On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Milo’s family, friends, admirers throughout the game and to all Astros fans.”

Rafael Palmeiro signs with the Sugar Land Skeeters to play ball with his son

Rafael Palmeiro
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This is fun. The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League have signed 50-year-old Rafael Palmeiro to a contract. He’s doing it to join his oldest son, Patrick, for the final three games of the Skeeters’ season.

Palmeiro’s last appearance in Major League Baseball was on August 30, 2005 for the Baltimore Orioles. Before that all he did was hit 569 homers and notch 3,020 hits, making him only the fourth 500/3,000 player in history along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray (A-Rod joined the club this year). Until Palmeiro tested positive for PEDs during the 2005 season and became something of a disgraced figure due to that and his controversial congressional testimony earlier that summer, he was considered an almost certain Hall of Famer.

I presume that most of you will mock this or trash this news somehow because of the way Palmeiro’s career ended. I get that. But it’s times like these that I prefer to remember that the guy was a great ballplayer. And, more importantly, that he is a human being who loves his family. Kudos to the Skeeters for giving him the opportunity to do something a lot of fathers dream about. And kudos to them for giving fans — way fewer of whom give a rip about the PED stuff than people think — a chance to see something neat.

Which, in a lot of ways is the purpose of independent baseball in the first place.