Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 7/2/12
For 12-year old Zach Hamm, the disease with which he is afflicted is a bump in the road, a slight abnormality which can be conquered. Hamm is a student at Houston's Doerre Middle School who suffers from Ectodermal Dysplasias. Due to the disorder Hamm lacks sweat glands, meaning he and his parents must take special precautions as he goes about the normal, active life of a 12 year old. For example, Zach must be cooled by an external source such as water since his body does not produce a natural cooling agent-sweat. "It doesn't slow me down a bit," said Hamm. "It doesn't even change who I am. It just changes who I am on the outside but not the inside. You're just like any other human being alive. We're doing well with finding a cure. We're almost there." This is where a new book by Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown comes in. "My Baseball Journey, A Sportscaster's Story" is a project by Brown intended to help support the fight against the disease. The publication is a recollection of Brown's long and impressive career, including his stint as a Cincinnati Reds broadcaster during the 70's glory days of the "Big Red Machine." Purchase of the book helps the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias. "Just having met the young man, Zach, and knowing his parents and knowing what's involved," said Brown. "It's something people have not generally heard of. They're not aware of children inheriting these disorders and growing up with these problems. It was more to bring it to public awareness." Brown and Zach's father, Paul, became acquainted at golf tournaments and a friendship developed. Simultaneously, former Astro Craig Biggio became aware of Zach's situation. Biggio invited the young man to become a "bench coach" on the St. Thomas High School baseball team, where Biggio is the head coach. The foreword of the book is written by Biggio. "Bill's motivation to write this book goes beyond wins, losses, averages and spinning a few good yarns," Biggio wrote in the foreword. "People matter a lot to Bill, and some of the stories about people you'll find in the pages to follow will inspire you." Indeed, the book is chalk-full of anecdotes about the iconic baseball figures which have crossed Brown's life including Tom Seaver, Sparky Anderson and closer to home, folks such as Larry Dierker, Jim Deshaies, and the late Ken Caminti. Brown said he considers covering the Reds teams which won the World Series in 1975 and 76 the highlight of his broadcast career. He relayed a story about Tony Perez, the Cincinnati first baseman in the 70's: "After the '75 season, the World Series rings were handed out to the players in April or May of '76. Tony was noticing that I didn't have a ring. He said, 'You don't have a ring.' I said, 'I didn't get one.' I really didn't do the games in '75. I did some pre-game shows but I wasn't a game announcer. He said, 'We'll get you one this year. I didn't forget it and they did (win the World Series in '76)." Brown said the 2005 season, when the Astros started 15-30 yet won the National League, is the most memorable period of his tenure in Houston. Brown was on the air On June 28, 2007 when Craig Biggio became the first Astros player ever to collect 3,000 hits. In the book, Brown discussed his preparation for calling such an important moment: "On the flight from Milwaukee home to Houston and with Biggio's 3000th hit an impending certainty, I pondered my responsibility in the scheme of things. My call of Biggio's historic moment would matter" Brown goes on to recall that particular moment in the booth which also included Deshaies and Jeff Bagwell. "Bagwell had said right before that, 'You can bet that he's going to try to make number 3,000 a double if he gets a chance,' Brown said. "So it was not a surprise at all when he went to second base and then he got thrown out." "My Baseball Journey" is a fine, quick read and especially interesting for anyone that has a curiosity about the workings of a television play-by-play booth. Brown's recollections of special moments behind the mike and his discussion of the relationship with partners Deshaies and Dierker offer a cool peek inside the booth. Check out excerpts from the book at mybaseballjourney.com. Purchasing the book from this site automatically links the purchaser to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, benefiting the cause even more. Alternative ways to purchase the book include Amazon.com or outlets such as the Brazos Bookstore in Rice Village.
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