Joe Garagiola has passed away. The legendary broadcaster was 90 years old.
Garagiola was a catcher for nine seasons in Major League Baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants. He won a World Series as a member of the Cardinals in 1946, but is most famous for his post-baseball career.
Garagiola started broadcasting after his retirement from baseball. He called Cardinals radio broadcasts from 1955 to 1962, and was the play-by-play man for baseball on NBC for almost 30 years starting in 1961. He called the “Game of the Week” for NBC, three All-Star Games (1983, 1985 and 1987), three National League Championship Series (1983, 1985, 1987) and three World Series (1984, 1986, 1988). He left NBC after the 1988 World Series. Garagiola later became the voice of the California Angels for one season in 1990 and Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998 to 2012, while his son was the team’s general manager. He retired from broadcasting in 2013.
In 1991, Garagiola was awarded the Ford Frick Award, which is given by the Baseball Hall of Fame annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.”
My dad was a surgeon in the Navy when I was growing up and for three years we lived in Okinawa, Japan. When we moved there I was about to turn four years old, and was developing a love of sports that would endure to today. For those that aren’t aware, in the 1980s when you were a military family living in the Far East you got one English language channel: FEN, the Far East Network (or as my dad called it, “Forced Entertainment Network”). The only baseball the channel carried was NBC’s “Game of the Week” and I was allowed to stay up and watch.
The first broadcast team I encountered as a young sports fan was Vin Scully on play-by-play and Joe Garagiola as the color man, and I am so glad that’s the case. Both men had a way of relating to the audience that served both long-time fans and people new to the game. Garagiola’s humor and personality sucked me in and made me love America’s game.
Baseball lost one of its best ambassadors with Garagiola’s passing. He had a quick wit, an engaging personality and his love for the game jumped out of television sets. He will be missed.