Joe Garagiola, Sr.

Joe Garagiola, Sr.

:"For this person's son, the baseball executive, see Joe Garagiola, Jr."Infobox MLB retired
name=Joe Garagiola

caption=Joe Garagiola as host of "To Tell the Truth"
birthdate=birth date and age|1926|2|12
debutdate=May 26
debutteam=St. Louis Cardinals
finaldate=September 26
finalteam=New York Giants
St. Louis Cardinals (by|1946-by|1951)
Pittsburgh Pirates (by|1951-by|1953)
Chicago Cubs (by|1953-by|1954)
New York Giants (by|1954)
highlights=1946 World Series champion

Joseph Henry "Joe" Garagiola, Sr. (born February 12, 1926) is an American former catcher in Major League Baseball who later became an announcer and television host, popular for his colorful personality. In by|1991, he was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting accomplishments. He has also been given his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.


Early life

Garagiola was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up on Elizabeth Avenue in an Italian-American neighborhood in St. Louis known as The Hill, just a few doors down from his childhood friend and competitor, Yogi Berra. (That block was subsequently renamed "Hall of Fame Place".)

When Berra and Garagiola were both teenagers, almost all pro scouts rated Garagiola as the better baseball prospect, although Berra had a Hall of Fame career, and Garagiola has always respected Berra's ability. About growing up living next to Berra, Garagiola once said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!"

Baseball playing career

Garagiola was signed at age 16 by the St. Louis Cardinals organization and made his major league debut in by|1946.

As a rookie in 1946, in his only World Series appearance, Garagiola batted a 6-for-19 in five games, including a Game 4 where he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs. By contrast, Ted Williams went only 5-for-25 in the same series, which was also Williams' only World Series appearance.

But Garagiola never quite lived up to the promise of his youth, appearing in only 676 games over 9 seasons for St. Louis, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants. He was a mediocre hitter in the majors and featured that in his self-deprecating humor. He once told this story on himself: He knew that it was time to retire, when he was catching and his ex-teammate Stan Musial stepped into the batter's box, turned to Joe, and said, "When are you gonna quit?"


After his retirement from baseball, Garagiola lent his name to a 1960 book, "Baseball is a Funny Game", which sold well upon release and helped establish Garagiola as a "personality." The (largely ghostwritten) book was a collection of humorous anecdotes surrounding his upbringing and his playing career, and showcased the folksy, humorous style that became his trademark as a broadcaster.

Garagiola also wrote "It's Anybody's Ballgame" (1980) and "Just Play Ball" (2007).

Broadcasting career

Garagiola turned to broadcasting following his retirement as a player, first calling Cardinals radio broadcasts on KMOX from by|1955 to by|1962.As an announcer, Garagiola is best known for his almost 30 year association with NBC. He began doing national baseball broadcasts for NBC in by|1961 (teaming with Bob Wolff). Additionally, in the 1960s, Garagiola called some World Series on NBC Radio. Partners included By Saam and George Kell. After a stint doing New York Yankees games from by|1965 to by|1967 that saw him call Mickey Mantle's 500th home run, Garagiola returned to broadcasting NBC baseball in by|1974.

Garagiola alternated play-by-play duties with Curt Gowdy on NBC until by|1976, when he assumed the role full-time. He teamed with color commentator Tony Kubek from 1976 to by|1982; in by|1983, he shifted to color commentary as Vin Scully joined the network as lead play-by-play announcer. (Kubek joined Bob Costas to form NBC's #2 baseball announcing duo in this era.) Besides working on the Saturday "Game of the Week" for NBC, the team of Scully and Garagiola would call three All-Star Games (1983, 1985, and 1987), three National League Championship Series (1983, 1985, and 1987) and three World Series (1984, 1986, and 1988).

After calling the 1988 World Series with Scully, Garagiola resigned from NBC Sports. NBC was on the verge of losing the television rights to cover Major League Baseball to CBS. Garagiola claimed that NBC left him "twisting" while he was trying to renegotiate his deal. Garagiola was replaced on the NBC telecasts by Tom Seaver.

After leaving NBC Sports, Garagiola had a brief stint as a television commentator for the California Angels. In recent years, he has performed some color commentary duties for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where his son, Joe Garagiola Jr., served as general manager.

Other ventures

Besides calling baseball games for NBC, Garagiola served as a panelist on "The Today Show" from 1967 to 1973 and again from 1990 to 1992. He also occasionally guest-hosted "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", including for the only live appearances of any members of The Beatles on the program while still a group (John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the guests).

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Garagiola also hosted the game shows "He Said, She Said"; "Joe Garagiola's Memory Game"; "Sale of the Century"; "To Tell the Truth"; and "Strike it Rich"; as well as the "Monday Night Baseball" pre-game show "The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola". He also hosted the St. Louis area professional wrestling show, titled "Wrestling at the Chase". Garagiola also gained a new form of fame thanks to his stints as host of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.


In the 1976 presidential election, Garagiola strongly supported the candidacy of President Gerald Ford. In the fall campaign the Republican National Committee hired Garagiola to do a series of television ads with Ford; the ads consisted of Garagiola talking to Ford in a relaxed, informal setting. Derided as "The Joe and Jerry Show," the ads only reinforced the perception that Ford was inept and inarticulate, and were considered by most a net negative to the Ford campaign. The two men became close friends; on Election Night 1976, President Ford invited Garagiola to be one of his guests at the White House to watch the results on television.

pit tobacco

Garagiola has also become an advocate in recent years against the use of spit tobacco. He visits major league teams every year during spring training alongside players from his generation who have suffered cancer injuries due to chewing tobacco use.

ociety for American Baseball Research

Garagiola was the keynote luncheon speaker July 28 at the 2007 convention of the Society for American Baseball Research held in St. Louis, Missouri.


Garagiola's son, Joe Jr., went on to become the general manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks and later, senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. His other son, Steve, is a broadcast journalist as well, serving as a reporter and anchor for WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit. [ [ News Team - WDIV Detroit] ] His daughter, Gina, has also worked in TV news, as a field reporter for Arizona station KTVK, and now writes free-lance for multiple publications such as "Guideposts" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul". Garagiola, Sr. has eight grandchildren, one of whom is an outstanding student at Georgetown Law.Fact|date=March 2008


External links

* [ Baseball Hall of Fame - Frick Award recipient]
* [ St. Louis Walk of Fame]

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