Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sports Announcers I Grew Up With: Joe Garagiola


There is a special place in my heart for the radio and TV sports announcers I grew up with. From ABC's Wide World of Sports to roller derby and wrestling, and everything in between, sports was a big part of my life growing up. At my house, we watched on TV whatever sport was 'in season,' especially on Saturday's. If there was a sports event on radio, we listened to it. I was very blessed to grow up with many now- legendary voices and characters. Today, I want to pay tribute to Joe Garagiola.


Joseph Henry Garagiola, Sr. was born February 12, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up across the street from his childhood friend, Yogi Berra. 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. 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!"

Garagiola was signed at age 16 by the St. Louis Cardinals organization. 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. 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. Garagiola observed, "It's not a record, but being traded four times when there are only eight teams in the league tells you something. I thought I was modeling uniforms for the National League."

Garagiola turned to broadcasting following his retirement as a player, first calling Cardinals radio broadcasts on KMOX from 1955 to 1962. He began doing national baseball broadcasts for NBC in 1961. His association with that network lasted almost 30-years. Garagiola called several World Series on NBC Radio in the 1960s. After a stint doing New York Yankees games from 1965 to 1967 that saw him call Mickey Mantle's 500th home run, Garagiola returned to broadcasting NBC baseball, initially as the host of the pre-game show The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola and then as a play-by-play announcer beginning in 1974.

Garagiola alternated play-by-play duties with Curt Gowdy on NBC until 1976, when he assumed the role full-time. He teamed with color commentator Tony Kubek from 1976 to 1982; in 1983, he shifted to color commentary as Vin Scully joined the network as lead play-by-play announcer. 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, which was on the verge of losing the television rights to cover Major League Baseball to CBS.

After leaving NBC Sports, Garagiola spent one season as commentator for the California Angels. From 1998 to 2012, he performed part-time color commentary duties for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where his son, Joe Garagiola, Jr., served as general manager. Garagiola officially announced his retirement from broadcasting on February 22, 2013.

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 the only live appearances of any members of The Beatles on the program while still a group.



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