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Joe Garagiola, Sr. (1926-2016), Major League Catcher, Popular Announcer, and Television Host


DonRocks
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People justifiably remember Joe Garagiola as an amiable announcer, but he was also a respected major-league player, spending his entire nine-year career in the National League - in game 4 of the 1946 World Series (*), Garagiola went 4-5 with 3 RBI's.

Garagiola coincidentally grew up across the street from Yogi Berra. How can you possibly not love someone who once said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!"

Likewise, on playing for four different teams in an eight-team league: "I felt like I was modeling uniforms for the National League."

After a decent, but somewhat underachieving, major-league career (Garagiola was initially thought to be better than Berra,, but never fully recovered from a separated shoulder), Garagiola made his mark in broadcasting, being a full- or part-time announcer for close to 50 years, 30 of them with NBC. He is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.

Garagiola was also often seen on both The Today Show as a panelist, and The Tonight Show as a guest host.

I think it's fitting to include the article about Garagiola's passing from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which features a nice photo with Berra:

"Catcher, Broadcaster, and Hill Icon Joe Garagiola Dies at 90" by Rick Hummel on stltoday.com

More than anything else, my strongest memory of Joe Garagiola was that he just seemed like a nice guy. Thanks for your time here, Mr. Garagiola, and say hello to Mr. Berra from all of us.

(*) In the 1946 World Series, the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in game 7 by the score of 4-3 - this, after being down 3 games to 2. Garagiola went 4-5 in one game; Ted Williams went 5-25 in the entire Series. This intense World Series is perhaps best remembered for (and appropriately symbolized by) Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash" to the plate from first base," which turned out to be the winning run (the 4th run) in game 7 (just as Abdul-Rauf was a pre-Curry, Slaughter was a pre-Rose, warts and all).

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I once saw Garagiola, in San Francisco.  We were staying the same hotel, ca. 1980, when he was there to do one of those NBC Saturday telecasts.  I knew who he was but was a bit timid about walking over to say something to him (someday ask me about the time a teenaged me called Richie Ashburn on the phone :ph34r:).

Then, as I stood not all that far away, he lit into his crew, who were with him in the hotel lobby.  I mean, he let loose.  So...I did not attempt to talk to him.

Over the years, it's really grown on me, the notion of how hard it has to be to be "on" 24/7, and not lose your temper or be in a bad mood, have a rotten day...or simply not feel like interacting on other people's terms.  I think about that whenever I see people complaining about someone not signing autographs. How many autographs did they sign or babies did they hold for that one that they declined?  Sure, it's disappointing when you are the person not getting an autograph (like the friend I was with in 1978 who didn't get Dusty Baker's autograph...another fun teenaged story!).  But, them's the breaks.

He probably was a nice enough guy but had bad days like everybody else.  RIP, Joe.

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