A journeyman catcher for nine seasons with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs and Giants who in retirement became one of the game’s best-loved broadcasters.
“Being traded is like celebrating your 100th birthday. It’s not the happiest occasion in the world, but consider the alternative.” -Joe Garagiola
Joe Garagiola grew up with Yogi Berra in the Italian Hill Neighborhood in St. Louis, and at 16, entered the major leagues as a catcher for his hometown team (Berra, insulted by his comparatively lower signing bonus, ended up with the Yankees). A major league player for nine seasons with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs and Giants, Garagiola played with St. Louis in the World Series in 1946 and retired in 1954 with a .244 average.
His interest in broadcasting began in 1950, when he tuned in to his team’s radio broadcasts while convalescing from a shoulder separation. Following his retirement as a player after the 1954 season, he was offered a job with the Cardinals’ broadcast crew. He was a natural in the booth and endeared himself to audiences with his likable on-air persona, as well as his skill in calling games.
His progression behind the microphone included the Game of the Week, All-Star Game and World Series with NBC-TV throughout the 1960s, New York Yankee telecasts with Red Barber, Phil Rizzuto, and Jerry Coleman from 1965-66, the NBC Today Show, California Angels telecasts, and telecasts for the Diamondbacks.
Garagiola currently lives in Arizona and serves as President Emeritus of the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), a nonprofit organization that offers financial assistance to former professional baseball players and their families. He is also the National Chairman of Oral Health America’s National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP), and does a great deal of work with the Pima Indian Tribe of St. Peter’s Indian Mission in Bapchule, Arizona. Garagiola will often trade speaking fees (no in trade) for school buses, sports fields or other donations to St. Peter’s.
Joe Garagiola won the Peabody Award in 1973 for his pre-game broadcast, “Joe Garagiola’s World of Baseball,” and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Broadcast wing after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award in 1991. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.