Astros News

Astros: Bill Brown Retires From Broadcast Booth

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Jun 19, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (left) presents a jersey to broadcaster Bill Brown before a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (left) presents a jersey to broadcaster Bill Brown before a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Astros play-by-play veteran Bill Brown retires from broadcasting on September 28.

A significant era in Houston Astros history ends on Wednesday, September 28, as Bill Brown retires from a long run as a television announcer. The man known as “Brownie,” handled play-by-play duties for 30 years, and was one of the best we have ever seen.

Brown began with Houston in 1987 in the Astrodome, working the booth alongside Larry Dierker and then Enos Cabell. In 1997, former pitcher Jim Deshaies became the color analyst. The two would work together for the next fifteen years.

A perfect match.

Brownie and J.D maintained the perfect balance between describing the action, injecting humor when appropriate, and discussing technical aspects of baseball. They kept it lively and fun, while sustaining a brand of professionalism second to none. It is a rare ability that some do not possess, even among those who call MLB games.

Brown and Deshaies displayed remarkable talent. Brownie often set up J.D.’s humor, although regular viewers knew that Brown could reverse the role, eliciting laughter from his broadcast partner.

The upshot was that these two, the play-by-play veteran and the former pitcher, became an outstanding team of announcers. Even when the Astros were not playing well, Brown and Deshaies kept viewers in the game even if the team on the field was not.

Hall of Famer and former Astros great Craig Biggio said in a Jake Kaplan/Houston Chronicle story: “Brownie had a special way of talking about the game, being judgmental and being critical and yet also being positive all at the same time. He was special at what he did. He was magical at what he did, and he’s truly going to be missed.”

“This is one of the best play-by-play jobs in the country,” said Brown in this Ryan Dunsmore, SB Nation/Crawfish Boxes story from earlier in September.

My Bill Brown memories.

My introduction to Brown happened early in the 2001 season. We had recently moved to Central Texas. I discovered that we would see both the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers television broadcasts. For a life long baseball fan, it doesn’t get any better than that, with access to teams in both leagues.

The first night, I randomly chose a Rangers game. After a few innings, their broadcast team of Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve did not impress me. Lewin seemed a bit frantic and overdone, while Grieve was the opposite – almost deadpan. No disrespect intended towards those gentlemen, however, I did not enjoy their combination of broadcasting styles.

A few nights later, I tuned into an Astros game, and it didn’t take five minutes before I knew that Brown and Deshaies were outstanding. I was immediately hooked, although the Astros back then were not such a good team, Brownie and JD made the games enjoyable and entertaining.

Deshaies left after the 2012 season, replaced by Alan Ashby, with Geoff Blum occasionally sitting in. Brown reduced his schedule in recent years, a prelude to the day when he would step down.

Brown told Kaplan, “It’s a very hard job to leave, but it is the right thing to do.”

He was a 2004 inductee into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2011 was added to Minute Maid Park’s Media Wall of Honor. Brown received a community service award from the Texas Italian-American Sports Foundation, as well as the 2012 Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious service from the Houston media.

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“Bill Brown’s unwavering commitment and passion for the Houston Astros has inspired fans for many years,” said Astros owner Jim Crane in an Astros press release.

The Astros are expected to name Brown’s successor in the next few months.

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