Longtime Astros PA announcer Bob Ford's booming voice inspires fans, players

Bob Ford with a fan before the first World Series game at Minute Maid Park. Courtesy of Bob Ford

Here is an in depth look into the life of Bob Ford and the journey to the Astros’ first championship. He begins with reflecting on his childhood and how it impacted the work he does today.  He then talks about his work and tells us why he values his position at the ball park. We even get to learn about what he does for fun.

Bob Ford loves to fly airplanes. He’s been a pilot for almost 40 years. As a kid, living 2 miles away from an airport, he was always enamored with flying.

But he is probably best known for working around a train. The one at Minute Maid Park, where he is the Public Address announcer for the Houston Astros, a job he has held for more than two decades.

“It’s been a fun 24 years,” said Ford. The voice of the Astros is one of the longest tenured in the MLB. Ford has evolved into a tradition unique to the Astros, because he has crafted up a talent more than just announcing an at bat.

Astros fans walk into the ball park, get their beer and grab some peanuts as they make their way to the seats. It isn’t until we hear the starting line-up from Bob Ford, that you feel the game is under way.  Ford is a monumental piece of the overall game day experience at Minute Maid Park. In the past few decades, the Astros have seen an array of change on and off the field, from the Dome to the “Juice Box,” to the logo, even the colors. This is the story of the voice that you have been hearing over the PA since 1993.

“I’ve never really thought about it like that, with all the transitions in the organization, players, logos, and uniforms, time flies,” said Ford. He feels lucky to call this a job and recognizes he is one of the few, (1 in 30) in the MLB.  To him every fan matters. Whether it was a grueling 100 loss season or a sold out crowd, Ford brings the same intensity to every game over the microphone. As Ford reads off his starting lineup and players at bat, the crowd goes wild in anticipation of his signature announcement. Now batting JOS-SEEEE Allll-tuvvveeeeee.

The players and skipper, A.J. Hinch, have all agreed they feed off of the fan’s energy. The fans get this energy from Ford. It is a domino effect, starting with the PA. As he reads the next player in the lineup, the crowd gets pumped chanting the name. The entire team feels the electricity, not just the batter in the on deck circle. Dallas Keuchel respectfully said “He’s been a staple of the Astros and we are glad to have his voice representing us.”

Two things you know you will hear when you walk into Minute Maid, the voice of Bob Ford and the train run by Bobby Dynamite, aka Astros’ Train guy. “It’s always great to hear Bob’s voice welcoming fans to the ball park,” Dynamite shared. “I feel like when Houston area kids play ball in their backyards, they imagine his voice announcing them when they come up to bat. How cool is that if and when it comes true?”

“I can’t really say it’s sunk in yet,” said Ford about winning the World Series. He reminisced about the past few years and how it reminded him of the ’97, ’98, ’99 seasons. How those seasons were the beginning of the nucleus of a winning team. This was during the “Killer B’s” (Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman) era. At this time Ford was just learning the ropes for the first couple of years and he felt like any other fan, but was just given a microphone. During those 1990’s glory years, “there would be times of a sold out crowd in the dome, and I would think, wow I can’t believe I’m really doing this,” said Ford.  

When asked what goes down in the books as his most memorable moment with the Astros? Ford took a deep breath and said “Game 5…talk about a range of emotions.” This was the last home field advantage our team had. In a 2-2 series, it was a must win game for the Astros. As he recalls the game, he stated “you blinked, and we were down 4-0.” At the top of the 4th, generations of Astros fans began to see their championship dream slip away. Fans who waited a lifetime began to lose hope on what could have been a 2017 World Series Championship.

Down 4-0, Ford explained how he tempered his tone while maintaining his intensity to keep the crowd involved. It took a couple of innings for the Astros to get the engines running. “Anything was possible,” said Ford. For most fans the back and forth through 7 innings was a roller coaster of emotions, nervousness, anger, and excitement. “That has got to be the  ultimate of all the games I’ve ever done, the most exciting,” said Ford on game 5. Over the last few years Ford has enjoyed watching the team develop. Right before his eyes it has all come to fruition. He credits Astros GM Jeff Lunhow. “He has done a tremendous job putting this team together.”

Lunhow brought the team together, Harvey tried to tear things  apart, but the Astros Championship brought the city of Houston as one. Harvey took the city of Houston by surprise.  The games became a distraction from it all. On any given day at the ball park, there were people from all walks of life. Some lost everything and others got out to volunteer in record numbers. Harvey was a big part of the Astros season, but for the MLB post season, that all went away. When you have a disaster like Harvey, Ford recalls “it was so neat to see everyone come together no matter what background you come from.”

As a fan you get to enjoy the moment during a great play, run, or hit. You can’t help but wonder if the Astros staff gets to truly enjoy great moment, or do they have to let it sink in later? Ford answers this question for us by taking us through his experiences. He began his career in the press box abiding by the rules. No cheering, no clapping, not even a high five. When the Astros would get a big hit or home run, Ford was basically limited to a golf clap while the crowd would go wild. He eventually moved out of the press box after the first 11 years. He is now in the control room free to cheer and shout, as there are no rules to his excitement.

Ford was born and raised in Galveston, a city he still calls home to this day. Some would say he started training to be the voice of the Astros back in 1963 where he attended school at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. In the first grade his teacher, which they called “mothers” (nun), would call on him often to read books in front of the class. Ford said, “even in first grade, I could do it with ease.” He started to get ribbons and awards for reading and thought “wow, this is easy.”

It was then he realized he had something special. Ford and his voice landed their first gig at the age of 13 announcing pony league games. He had a special affinity to microphones and worked in radio for over 20 years. Today Ford pulls up to work at Minute Maid, but his career began at the Astrodome, a place he entered for the first time at 8 years old. As a young boy walking into the Dome for the first time, he could never imagine one day he would return to be the Astros PA announcer. Some would say he is living a dream calling the games, a tradition “deep in the heart of Texas.” Now his voice creates lifetime memories for families at the ballpark: 2017 marked Ford’s 24th season with the Astros.

Not only does Ford have 81 Astros games to handle, he is also the voice for the University of Houston Football program. Ford has been with UH Cougars since 2014, the inaugural season at TDECU. He also wears the hat as business owner of a recording company where he does voice overs and special projects. Outside of being on the microphone, besides flying, he also enjoys greasing up to work on cars. Ford and his wife have been married for 34 years and have three sons together, Chris (26), Charlie (24), and Colton (22).

Ford experienced making it to the World Series in 2005. However, it was short lived, as the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox. This time it was an amazing seven-game series, and Ford was a big part of it all.  He plans to be the voice of the Astros for as long as he can and went on to say “well,  as long as I can still do it without becoming an embarrassment.”  Ford’s voice will continue to live on at MMP for the Astros. It will be a few months until we can hear him again, but he may be calling another World Series game soon enough.

Either way, he will be flying high.

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